Sony VAIO FJ review: Sony VAIO FJ

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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.

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6.4 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 6
  • Support 5


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.

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.

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