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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.
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.
(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.
|Batman: Arkham Asylum|
|1600x900, 4x AA, Detail level: Medium, PhysX off.|
|1366x768, DirectX 9, 0x AA, Quality: Low, PhysX: Off.|
|The Witcher 2|
|1366x768, low spec.|
|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.
(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.
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.