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Sony Vaio E Series (SVE14A15FGB) review: Sony Vaio E Series (SVE14A15FGB)

Sony's managed to produce a laptop under AU$1000 that not only doesn't sacrifice on quality, but manages to trickle down some premium features like a backlit keyboard. Within its means, this is one of the best budget laptops you can get.

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Craig Simms
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Craig Simms

Special to CNET News

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.

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For AU$999, Sony's 14-inch Vaio E brings a tonne of value, something we wouldn't typically expect from a company that prides itself on premium.

sony-vaio-e-series_1.jpg
8.5

Sony Vaio E Series (SVE14A15FGB)

The Good

Higher resolution screen than usual. Good battery life. Backlit keyboard. Good specs for the price.

The Bad

GPU underperforming in Skyrim and Witcher 2. Screen isn't as vibrant as it could be.

The Bottom Line

Sony's managed to produce a laptop under AU$1000 that not only doesn't sacrifice on quality, but manages to trickle down some premium features like a backlit keyboard. Within its means, this is one of the best budget laptops you can get.

Connectivity

  • USB 3.0: 2
  • USB 2.0: 2
  • Optical: DVD±RW
  • Video: VGA, HDMI
  • Ethernet: Gigabit
  • Wireless: 2.4GHz 802.11n

You get a backlit keyboard, for one. An external Bluetooth mouse is also bundled in, and the screen, although not as vibrant as we would like that is slightly warm in colour temperature, comes in at 1600x900, instead of the usual 1366x768. Correcting the overly-brown screen is as easy as opening Vaio Control Center, heading to Display, then Color Mode Setting and telling the software to not apply any modes.

In our review model, the SVE14A15FGB, a Core i5 2450M could be found inside, with a 640GB 5400RPM hard drive, 4GB RAM and a Radeon HD 7670M. You can get a SVE14A16FGH with Core i7 3612QM for the same price, but you do sacrifice on screen (1366x768) and graphics (Radeon HD 7550M) to get there. If you want to maintain both and just get a faster processor, expect to shell out AU$1499.

There's a pair of USB 3.0 ports, another two USB 2.0 ports, VGA, HDMI, gigabit Ethernet, headphone and microphone jacks, along with Bluetooth and 2.4GHz 802.11n. A tray-loading DVD&plusm;RW drive sits on the right.

For the price involved, it's also just a little bit stylish, with the laptop available in pink, black with red trim, silver with light blue trim, white with light blue trim and black with gold trim. The lid, itself, is slightly shorter than the base, so you can see status indicators, and the laptop possesses enough curves and design nouse that you can't help but feel it should be in a price tier above its current station.

Choose a benchmark: Handbrake | iTunes | Photoshop | Multimedia

Handbrake encoding (in seconds)

  • 352
    HP dm4 3114TX (Core i5 3210M, 4GB RAM, 640GB HDD, AMD Radeon HD 7570M)
  • 353
    Asus K55V (Core i5 3210M, 4GB RAM, 750GB HDD, Nvidia GeForce 610M)
  • 378
    Acer Aspire V3-571G (Core i5 2450M, 8GB RAM, 750GB HDD, GeForce GT 630M)
  • 380
    Toshiba Satellite C850/02D (Core i5 2450M, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, AMD Radeon HD 7610M)
  • 386
    Sony Vaio E SVE14A15FGB (Core i5 2450M, 4GB RAM, 640GB HDD, AMD Radeon HD 7670M)
  • 541
    HP Envy 6 1010TU (Core i5 2467M, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD + 4GB SSD cache)
  • 763
    Dell Inspiron 13z 5323 (Core i3 2367M, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD)
  • 766
    Dell Inspiron 14z 5423 (Core i3 2367M, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD + 8GB SSD cache)

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)


Although it's generally not in the top three of the sub-AU$1000 category, the Sony still performs quite well for the price involved, the biggest gain being acquired by the third generation Core laptops.

Gaming performance

Batman: Arkham Asylum
Playable on:
MEDIUM
settings
FPS
MaxAvgMin
715434
1600x900, 4x AA, Detail level: Medium, PhysX off.
Metro 2033
Playable on:
VERY LOW
settings
FPS
MaxAvgMin
793915
1366x768, DirectX 9, 0x AA, Quality: Low, PhysX: Off.
"="">NOT
PLAYABLE
The Witcher 2
FPS
MaxAvgMin
1485
1366x768, low spec.
"="">NOT
PLAYABLE
Skyrim
FPS
MaxAvgMin
302010
1366x768, low detail.

Despite featuring a Radeon HD 7670M, the Vaio E suffers gaming-wise in Skyrim and Witcher 2. The latter barely runs on most laptops, but the former is usually more forgiving. Sony's Vaio Z features the same graphics card and nearly doubles the frame rate at the same detail settings and resolution. It's not a CPU issue, either — Acer's V3 571G, which features the same CPU, but a GeForce 630M (approximately on the same performance tier as the 7670M), also manages to double the Vaio E's performance in these benchmarks.

The card didn't appear to be factory underclocked, and we even tried third party drivers from leshcat to resolve the issue. Without ripping the laptop open, we're not sure what's going on here.

Battery life (time)

  • Heavy battery test
  • Light battery test
  • 4h 15m6h 11m
  • HP dm4 3114TX (Core i5 3210M, 4GB RAM, 640GB HDD, AMD Radeon HD 7570M)
  • 3h 34m5h 10m
  • HP Envy 6 1010TU (Core i5 2467M, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD + 4GB SSD cache)
  • 3h 25m5h 0m
  • Sony Vaio E SVE14A15FGB (Core i5 2450M, 4GB RAM, 640GB HDD, AMD Radeon HD 7670M)
  • 2h 37m4h 9m
  • Acer Aspire V3-571G (Core i5 2450M, 8GB RAM, 750GB HDD, GeForce GT 630M)
  • 3h 13m4h 7m
  • Dell Inspiron 13z 5323 (Core i3 2367M, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD)
  • 2h 51m4h 3m
  • Asus K55V (Core i5 3210M, 4GB RAM, 750GB HDD, Nvidia GeForce 610M)
  • 2h 54m3h 49m
  • Dell Inspiron 14z 5423 (Core i3 2367M, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD + 8GB SSD cache)
  • 2h 36m3h 32m
  • Toshiba Satellite C850/02D (Core i5 2450M, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, AMD Radeon HD 7610M)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


Sony's done really quite well to pull up in third place here — once upon a time, going sub-AU$1000 meant sacrificing on battery life; these days, the machines are keeping pace with the premium models.

Conclusion

Sony's managed to produce a laptop under AU$1000 that not only doesn't sacrifice on quality, but manages to trickle down some premium features, like a backlit keyboard. While there are some odd performance issues in our Skyrim and Witcher 2 benchmarks, the Vaio E couldn't be considered a gaming laptop, anyway. Within its means, this is one of the best budget laptops you can get.