Sony VAIO FE
With the VAIO FE, Sony offers a slightly higher-end alternative to its FS series. The VAIO FE can be configured with advanced components, including Intel's new Core Duo processor. Its multimedia features include Windows XP Media Center, an integrated digital video camera, and a solid software bundle. That said, we were able to build better-equipped configurations of the HP Pavilion dv5000t (CNET tested the similar dv5000z) and the for about the same price.
The silver-and-black VAIO FE has a rather minimal design that's similar to that of the VAIO FS series. A few external buttons launch applications and control the volume, but the VAIO FE lacks the dedicated multimedia controls and the high-end speakers found on the Pavilion dv5000t and the Inspiron E1505. We did find, however, that the VAIO FE's speakers emit clear, if not multidimensional, sound. The keyboard and the touch pad are plenty broad, but the mouse buttons are annoyingly small.
The 15.4-inch wide-screen display has a standard 1,280x800 native resolution and looks brighter and crisper than most any display you're going to get from Dell or HP. There's a 1.3-megapixel camera integrated above the screen--a handy feature for snapping quick shots and video clips. Our test unit came loaded with operating system, a great bundle of Sony multimedia applications, and the Microsoft Works 8.5 basic productivity suite.
The VAIO FE has a decent array of standard ports and connections: you get S-Video out, VGA, and three USB 2.0 ports (compared to the dv5000t's four); FireWire, 56K modem, Ethernet, headphone, and microphone jacks; and one Type II PC Card slot, one ExpressCard/34 slot, and one Memory Stick flash-media slot (compared to four-in-one and five-in-one media-card readers on the Pavilion dv5000t and the Inspiron E1505).
Our VAIO FE570G test unit came with a decent mix of components for the price: a 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo T2300 processor; a goliath 160GB, 4,200rpm hard drive (the Pavilion dv5000t and Inspiron E1505 max out at 100GB and 120GB, respectively); 1GB of 533MHz memory; a double-layer DVD burner; and integrated Intel 945GM graphics, which borrow up to 128MB of main memory. At $1,730, this configuration is a bit more expensive than competitors with similar--or superior--components. A $1,610 configuration of the Inspiron E1505 brought together the same processor, memory, graphics solution, and DVD burner, albeit with a smaller hard drive and less multimedia software. We built a $1,700 Pavilion dv5000t that had roughly the same components plus an ExpressCard TV tuner and an Nvidia GeForce Go 7400 graphics card, though again a smaller hard drive (100GB).