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Sony Vaio FW270J review: Sony Vaio FW270J

Sony Vaio FW270J

Michelle Thatcher
Michelle Thatcher Former Senior Associate Editor, Laptops

Tech expert Michelle Thatcher grew up surrounded by gadgets and sustained by Tex-Mex cuisine. Life in two major cities--first Chicago, then San Francisco--broadened her culinary horizons beyond meat and cheese, and she's since enjoyed nearly a decade of wining, dining, and cooking up and down the California coast. Though her gadget lust remains, the practicalities of her small kitchen dictate that single-function geegaws never stay around for long.

5 min read

Editors' note: This review initially misstated the type of optical drive in the Vaio FW270J/W. The laptop includes a DVD burner that reads Blu-ray discs.

8.1

Sony Vaio FW270J

The Good

Attractive, minimalist design; 16:9 screen perfect for HD movies; excellent keyboard; reads Blu-ray Discs; solid performance and lengthy battery life.

The Bad

Screen not really true 1080p, despite the sticker on the system that says so; built-in speakers produce treble sound.

The Bottom Line

With a sleek design, HD-friendly display, and a Blu-ray drive, the 16-inch Sony Vaio FW270 is a near-ideal portable entertainment center.

When we reviewed the 16-inch Gateway MC7801u earlier this month, we bemoaned its lack of a Blu-ray drive and the absence of Centrino 2 components. The Sony Vaio FW270, which incorporates a similarly HD-friendly 16.4-inch display, does not have these shortcomings. Its optical drive reads Blu-ray discs, and its latest-generation Core 2 Duo P8400 processor produced solid performance and battery scores on our benchmarks. Add to that the Vaio FW270's lengthier battery life, lighter weight, and sleek, minimalist design, and you can easily rationalize paying $350 more for it than the Gateway.

While other models in the Vaio FW270 series feature a silver lid, this retail version offers a matte-finish, yet pearlescent, white lid with a large silver Vaio logo in the center. Opening the laptop reveals a silver interior and a sleek, minimalist design, both of which make the Sony Vaio FW270 the closest to a MacBook Pro you can get in the Windows world. Despite its 16.4-inch screen, the Vaio FW270 manages to keep both its weight and its footprint closer to a 15-inch system (such as the Vaio FZ180) than a 17-inch one. We felt unencumbered with it in tow on a trip to a coffee shop down the street.

Another way in which the Vaio FW270 reminds us of Apple's laptops is the keyboard. Featuring the same widely spaced pebble design found on the MacBook (and, admittedly, earlier Vaio laptops), the Vaio FW270's keyboard makes for very comfortable typing. The touch pad, too, glides smoothly and is easy to use. The only other element on the keyboard deck is a row of media control buttons above the board. (Unlike the recent trend of touch-sensitive media control buttons, these are of the old-fashioned click variety, which feels almost retro.) The button on the right, labeled AV Mode, launches an onscreen toolbar, which sits at the top of the screen and provides quick access to Sony's proprietary media playing software.

In our review of an earlier FW series laptop, we criticized Sony for placing a "Full HD 1080p" sticker on the wrist rest. To our dismay, the sticker is still in place, even though the 1,600x900 native resolution on the 16.4-inch wide-screen LCD display isn't truly 1080p. (Sony has explained the 1080p sticker by saying the system offers "full 1080 HD content when connected to a compatible HDTV.") Nevertheless, the FW270's 16:9 display is great for playing HD content (at 720p), provided you don't mind the screen's glossy and somewhat reflective finish.

With the Vaio FW270's high-def drive and HDMI output, you can use the laptop as a Blu-ray player for your HDTV, and the included ExpressCard/34 slot lets you add a TV tuner if you wish. Given this raft of entertainment-friendly features, we were a bit disappointed in the Vaio FW270's speakers, which produced somewhat treble sound. The included Dolby Sound Room software lets us boost the bass for more balanced sound quality, but music and movies still sounded best when the laptop was plugged into stereo speakers.

We tested the Sony Vaio FW270J/W, a retail-only fixed configuration based on the 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 processor, 4GB of 800MHz RAM (with 64-bit Windows Vista to take advantage of it) and integrated Intel graphics. When it came to our Multitasking benchmark, the Vaio FW270J/W trailed the Asus X83VM-X1 ($850), but fell in line with the similarly configured Toshiba Satellite E105-S1402 ($1,199) as well as the HP Pavilion dv3510 ($1,199), which is built on a previous-generation 2.0GHz Intel processor and slower RAM. On the other benchmarks, the Sony, Asus, and Toshiba systems posted nearly identical scores, with the HP trailing slightly behind. Numbers aside, the Sony Vaio FW270J/W offers solid performance for everyday computing and HD media consumption.

The Vaio FW140 ran for 3 hours and 4 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, which is longer than most of the recent 17-inch laptops we've looked at and 32 minutes longer than another recent 16-inch model, the Gateway MC7801u.

Sony backs the Vaio FW140 with an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty, even when purchased at a retail store. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base, and driver downloads.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio VGN-FW270J/W
949 

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio VGN-FW270J/W
142 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio VGN-FW270J/W
160 

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio VGN-FW270J/W
184 

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Asus X83VM-X1
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce 9600M GS; 320GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite E105-S1402
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; Mobile Intel 4500MHD; 320GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

HP Pavilion dv3510nr
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7350; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9600M GS; 320GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Sony Vaio VGN-FW270J/W
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; Mobile Intel 4500MHD; 320GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

8.1

Sony Vaio FW270J

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 8Battery 8Support 7
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