We rather liked the last vast Sony Vaio laptop that we reviewed, the 18.4-inch , but its specification fell rather short for the price. Now there's a new monster model to up the ante, the cheaper and more balanced, 18.4-inch Sony Vaio VGN-AW41MF/H. It will set you back about £1,000.
To purloin a phrase from Douglas Adams, the VGN-AW41MF/H is big -- really big. The dimensions needed to house an 18.4-inch screen mean that, while this machine has all the usual laptop trappings, they're on a completely different scale -- it's nearly 1.5 feet wide, for crying out loud. The whole package is delivered with the usual Sony style, though. It's surprisingly slim, at 40mm thick, and the contrasting metallic grey and silver case is cool and sophisticated. The laptop weighs a whopping 4kg, which means you won't want to move it around too much once you've found somewhere for it to sit.
Inside is an excellent and generously proportioned keyboard with chiclet-style keys and a separate numeric keypad. The keys are all full-size and widely spaced, but there's some flex around the large return key. It feels as if this part of the keyboard has somehow lifted from the rock-solid base that the rest of it feels fixed to. It's not a big problem, but worth noting.
It's a pity that Sony didn't opt for a slightly higher vertical resolution for the 1,680x945-pixel display, so that it could do full justice to 1080p video. The screen isn't quite as good as the similarly specified display on the VGN-AW31M/H either. Contrast is slightly lacking and images don't have the vibrancy we usually see with Sony's X-black displays.