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Sony VAIO FJ review: Sony VAIO FJ

Sony's solid new thin-and-light comes in five colors.

Stephanie Bruzzese
4 min read

Sony's new thin-and-light, the VAIO FJ170/B, satisfies on several levels. Its light, full-featured case will appeal to travelers and style hounds, and its solid performance and battery life will attract anyone who engages in both basic productivity work and more intensive tasks, such as graphic design and low-end gaming.



The Good

Light case; integrated camera; double-layer DVD burner; wide-aspect display; useful multimedia software bundle.

The Bad

Lacks multimedia buttons; has a heavy AC adapter.

The Bottom Line

The thin-and-light Sony VAIO FJ170/B's well-built case, solid features, and decent performance and battery life are well suited to the work of typical home and small-business users.

Though the black VAIO FJ170/B looks more subdued than its colorful counterparts in the VAIO FJ series, we still like its light, 5.3-pound case that measures 13.4 inches wide, 10 inches deep, and 1.3 inches thick. Its sibling in the VAIO line, the $2,049 VAIO FS680, is slightly larger and weighs nearly a pound more. The $1,399 Toshiba Satellite M55, which also comes in several colors, weighs 5.2 pounds, while the $2,040 Dell XPS M140 tips the scales at 5.9 pounds. The VAIO FJ170/B's heavy AC adapter adds another pound to the package.

The system's wide keyboard offers a comfortable typing experience; its touch pad and mouse buttons also provide adequate room for your fingers. Like the VAIO FS680, the VAIO FJ170/B lacks multimedia controls but incorporates two quick-launch application buttons above the keyboard. A strip of speakers also spreads out above the board, producing typically mediocre laptop sound.

The VAIO FJ170/B's 14.1-inch wide screen, with a respectable 1,280x800 native resolution, lets you look at two side-by-side windows at once. The display's Xbrite-ECO technology makes colors pop, but its antireflective coating creates a somewhat distracting, mirrorlike surface. Sony integrated its classic Motion Eye camera above the screen, yet unlike the cameras in prior-generation VAIOs, the FJ170/B's doesn't rotate, so you can capture only what's directly in front of the display.

A satisfying helping of ports, jacks, and slots is included on the VAIO FJ170/B. Ethernet, 56Kbps modem, four-pin FireWire, VGA, and a single USB 2.0 port are on the left edge, along with one Type II PC Card slot. The opposite edge includes headphone, microphone, and A/V-out jacks, plus two more USB 2.0 ports and an integrated, double-layer DVD burner. Finally, the front edge offers a handy on/off switch for the wireless radio and a slot for Sony's Memory Stick flash media cards (the VAIO FJ170/B does not recognize any other flash formats).

The VAIO FJ170/B runs on Windows XP Home Edition. Sony includes a bunch of its useful multimedia applications, including DVgate for video editing and SonicStage for audio tasks. The company throws in several additional apps, such as Intuit Quicken 2005 New User Edition, InterVideo WinDVD, and the Microsoft Works 8 mini office suite.

The VAIO FJ170/B offers some nice components for its reasonable $1,499 price: a 1.73GHz Pentium M processor; a mammoth 100GB hard drive spinning at a speedy 5,400rpm; and 512MB of quick 400MHz memory. Its more-average specs include the Intel Pro Wireless 802.11b/g card and the Intel 915GM chipset, which sponges up to 128MB of main RAM to use as video memory.

The VAIO FJ170/B exploited its speedy parts in CNET Labs' mobile benchmarks, finishing a negligible 4 percent behind the Toshiba Satellite M55 and only 15 percent behind the extrafast Dell XPS M140. The VAIO FJ170/B also achieved decent scores in our Labs' battery-drain tests. It lasted 3 hours, 48 minutes, compared to the Satellite M55's 3 hours, 22 minutes--though neither proved any match for the XPS M140's huge battery, which held out for 5 hours, 54 minutes.

The VAIO FJ170/B ships with a standard one-year warranty that includes toll-free, 24/7 phone support for a year as well. Sony's support Web site offers the typical FAQ database and downloads, though it lacks helpful features such as a user forum and real-time chatting with a tech-support rep. For more detailed information about warranties and service plans, check out Computer Shopper's overview of 37 major computer vendors.

Mobile application performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2005 performance rating  

Battery life
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2005 battery life in minutes  

Find out more about how we test Windows notebooks.

System configurations:
Dell XPS M140
Windows XP Media Center; 2.13GHz Intel Pentium M 770; 1024MB PC3200 DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; Mobile Intel 915GM/GMS, 910GML Express 128MB; Hitachi Travelstar 5K100 80GB 5,400rpm
Windows XP Home; 1.73GHz Intel Pentium M 740; 512MB PC3200 DDR2 SDRAM 400MHz; Intel 915GM/GMS, 910GML Express 128MB; Hitachi Travelstar 5K100 100GB 5,400rpm
Toshiba Satellite M55
Windows XP Home; 1.73GHz Intel Pentium M 740; 512MB PC2700 DDR2 SDRAM 333MHz; Intel 915GM/GMS, 910GML Express 128MB; Toshiba MK1032GAX 100GB 5,400rpm



Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 7Battery 6Support 5