Sony's Vaio E series VPCEA3S1E is designed to be an all-round 14-inch laptop that's as suited to playing movies at home as it is to word processing on the go. It's available for £650 or thereabouts from Laptops Direct and other vendors. Let's see if it's up to scratch.
Down the rabbit hole
It's hard to find much to fault with the EA3's appearance. Our model's lid and wrist rest were finished in an attractive translucent white, with a Matrix-style dripping-dots pattern managing to look futuristic without coming across as tacky. This goes well with the matte silver used around the speaker grilles and the white keyboard inlay. The overall feel is of a fun and funky machine you'd be happy to whip out on the train.
Like many of today's laptops, this model has an isolated keyboard. The keys are wide and flat, and, although many of them feel shallow, they have plenty of travel. This, combined with their springy action and solid feel, makes them fast and comfortable to type on.
The trackpad is also ace. A dimpled texture on the surface helps your finger glide effortlessly across it, and indicates its boundaries too. The two buttons are responsive and the trackpad supports multi-touch, so you can pinch your fingers to zoom in and out on pictures and Web pages.
Above the keyboard are three buttons marked 'assist', 'Web' and 'Vaio'. Hitting the assist button launches the laptop into the Vaio Care Rescue mode, which offers tools for repairing or restoring Windows.
The Web button boots up a quick-start Internet browser that takes around 24 seconds to load when the laptop is switched off. It's designed to let you quickly check something on the Internet or log into webmail when you're on the move. It's a full browser and includes Flash support, so you can even use it to watch videos on BBC iPlayer or YouTube.
The Vaio button starts the Vaio Media Gallery from within Windows. This is a pretty pointless piece of software -- Windows' own gallery software is easier to use and has more features.
In living colour
The VPCEA3S1E's 14-inch screen has a resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is pretty much par for the course on a laptop of this size, but text still looks pretty crisp. The screen's viewing angles are fairly wide too, and, although it uses a glossy coating, it isn't as reflective as some other displays.