Sony VAIO FS600 review: Sony VAIO FS600

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The Good Bright, crisp wide-aspect display; comfortable keyboard and touch pad; includes excellent external speakers and TV/DVR docking station; double-layer DVD burner; one-year warranty and good support.

The Bad Expensive; inferior performance; poor battery life; relies on accessories for sound output and advanced connectivity.

The Bottom Line Though we love its bright display, the Sony VAIO VGN-FS680/W doesn't offer enough performance, battery life, or built-in features to justify its high price.

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5.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 3
  • Battery 2
  • Support 5

Review Sections


Like its predecessor, the $2,049 Sony VAIO VGN-FS680/W falls somewhere between a desktop replacement and a mainstream laptop. It measures approximately 14.5 inches wide, 10.4 inches deep, and 1.5 inches thick at the hinge. At 6.32 pounds, it's a bit too heavy for regular travel. In fact, with its huge 1.7-pound AC adapter, it's too heavy to move any further than room to room, and with its set of external speakers and TV/DVR dock, it's too much to carry without an assistant. We also prefer the smaller, business-class VAIO VGN-S470P/S's silver aesthetic to the VAIO VGN-FS680/W's putty-and-black color scheme.

The VAIO VGN-FS680/W's full-size keyboard is comfortable to type on, and its touch pad and mouse buttons are adequately sized. The laptop doesn't have many multimedia controls; besides two tiny programmable buttons that sit above the keyboard, it makes do with key-combination shortcuts for volume and brightness adjustments.

Sony's laptop displays are usually as crisp and bright as they come, and the VAIO VGN-FS680/W's is no exception. The 15.4-inch wide-screen's 1,280x800 native resolution offers a typical degree of detail for the size of the display, but the screen is considerably brighter than those on the Dell Inspiron 6000 and the HP Compaq Presario V4000. Audio was less impressive: the VAIO VGN-FS680/W's built-in stereo speakers sounded weak and soft, especially compared with the Dell's booming set.

Like Sony's enormous desktop replacement, the VAIO VGN-A690, the VAIO VGN-FS680/W comes with a number of accessories: a TV/DVR (digital video recorder) docking station and a set of external speakers. The speakers definitely make up for what the built-in set lacks. They go loud and sound crisp and full, and the docking station provides considerably more connectivity--most importantly, a TV tuner, which you can use with the included VAIO Zone software to watch and record programs. You can add the A/V dock to less expensive configurations for a whopping $300 on Sony's site.

Although the VAIO VGN-FS680/W has considerably fewer built-in multimedia features than other comparable systems, it still provides the minimum you'll need for basic connectivity and productivity: four-pin FireWire, VGA out, LAN, and modem connectors, along with three USB 2.0 ports (all on the right edge), a PC Card slot, and a memory-card reader that supports only Sony's own Memory Stick format. You also get microphone and headphone jacks, a handy wireless on/off switch, and an optical drive (in our case, a cutting-edge double-layer DVD burner). Sony throws in a decent software package, including Microsoft Windows XP Home, a few commonplace disc-burning apps, and the aforementioned VAIO Zone multimedia utility.

We think that at $2,049, the VAIO VGN-FS680/W deserves better components than it has. Built around a 1.86GHz Pentium M processor, our test unit came with 1,024MB of slow 300MHz RAM and an Nvidia GeForce Go 6200 graphics card with 128MB of video RAM. We like the big 100GB hard drive, though it's a slower 4,200rpm model. Nevertheless, the VAIO VGN-FS680/W performed below expectations in CNET Labs' benchmark tests, falling considerably behind the far less expensive Presario V4000 and Inspiron 6000. It didn't fare much better on our battery-life tests, mustering only a poor 2 hours, compared with the Compaq's more typical 3 hours and the Dell's amazing 5.3 hours. Sure, the Sony is powerful enough for surfing the Web, sending e-mail, and even watching a DVD or two, but we don't recommend it for power users of any stripe.

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