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Sony Vaio VGN-AR51SU review: Sony Vaio VGN-AR51SU

The Sony Vaio VGN-AR51SU is a large yet sleek-looking laptop that has the processing power to rival a desktop machine. Its great 17-inch glossy HD screen offers intense colours and contrast, while games performance is amazing, plus you get two 250GB hard drives

Will Head

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3 min read

Desktop replacements don't need to be ugly or unstylish, as Sony elegantly demonstrates with the Vaio VGN-AR51SU.

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8.3

Sony Vaio VGN-AR51SU

The Good

Sleek looks; large, HD display; extreme performance.

The Bad

Heavy; poor battery life; expensive.

The Bottom Line

The Sony Vaio VGN-AR51SU isn't cheap, but provided you're not planning on transporting it too far, it won't disappoint. Its performance, even with 3D gaming, rivals that of some desktop machines

It may be big, but it's not ungainly and it makes the most of its increased footprint by packing in a full HD display, an immense amount of storage and a fast processor. All this will cost you though -- around £2,000.

Strengths
Despite its colossal size, Sony has managed to prevent the AR51SU looking like some uncouth heaving brute by adding a sleek silver band around its middle, that pleasantly tapers away at the back and means your eyes aren't drawn to its sheer size.

It also makes incredibly good use of the increased surface area to pack in a gorgeous 17-inch glossy X-black screen which offers intense colours and great contrast, although at the expense of reflectivity, so you'll need to position it where there are no bright lights behind you. The screen has a native resolution of 1,920x1,200 pixels, giving it enough pixels to display full 1080p video, so you'll get the full benefit of watching movies from the Blu-ray drive. Or at least you will in theory as the bundled WinDVD BD software proved a little unstable under Vista, but this should be fixable with an update.

Its dimensions aren't the only thing big about the AR51SU, either. Inside, there are two 250GB drives, giving you half a terabyte of storage space accessible as a single volume thanks to built-in RAID support.

Performance is another area where it asserts its stature -- its 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700 processor and 2GB of RAM managed to tot up a final score of 5,398 in PCMark05, which is nothing short of amazing for a laptop.

Games performance was equally impressive with a 3DMark06 score of 4,689 that could rival a desktop system. On top of this you also get a built-in TV tuner, so you can make the most of Windows Media Center and both PC Card and ExpressCard slots for expansion. If you fancy hooking it up to a large screen telly to enjoy HD content, then there's an HDMI port making it a lounge-friendly companion.

Weaknesses
With all the technology under the hood, the AR51SU comes in at a hernia-inducing 3.9kg. It's certainly not a laptop you'd want to transport very far. This is just as well as you won't get much life out of it when it's separated from a mains power supply.

It only managed to stick it out for one hour 22 minutes with Batter Eater's intensive test. Switching to the less strenuous reader test offered little respite -- it only managed to put in an extra 21 minutes.

Finally, there's the price -- there's no other way of looking at it: £2,000 is a lot of money to spend on a laptop.

Conclusion
If you've got some extra cash and the space to accommodate the AR51SU, then you won't be disappointed by it. If you're prepared to cut a corner or two, though, there are cheaper models available in the same range. It's not designed for life on the road, but it's more compact than a desktop machine, but with performance that rivals a big box computer.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire