Sony VAIO VGN-AX570G review: Sony VAIO VGN-AX570G

With the VAIO VGN-AX570G's integrated TV tuner and beautiful 17-inch wide-screen display, Sony seeks to deliver a self-contained laptop that's equal parts TV and media-center computer. Though the VAIO VGN-AX570G lacks the best-in-class performance of the Toshiba Qosmio G25-AV513 and some of the features found on the Fujitsu LifeBook N6210, it offers a competitive multimedia experience for several hundred dollars less.

Brian Nadel and Justin Jaffe

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5 min read

With the VAIO VGN-AX570G's integrated TV tuner and beautiful 17-inch wide-screen display, Sony seeks to compete with the Fujitsu LifeBook N6210 and the Toshiba Qosmio G25-AV513, delivering a self-contained laptop that's equal parts TV and media-center computer. Though the VAIO VGN-AX570G lacks the best-in-class performance of the Qosmio and some of the features found on the LifeBook, it offers a competitive multimedia experience for several hundred dollars less. Still, all these systems are designed for people who are quite serious about making their laptop the entertainment hub of their home; more casual users who can do without the integrated TV tuner are better off with the much less expensive HP Pavilion dv8000z.



The Good

Excellent display; solid productivity and multimedia performance; integrated TV tuner; built-in 0.3-megapixel camera; large drive capacity.

The Bad

Tiny touch pad and mouse buttons; only three USB 2.0 ports; memory-card readers support only two formats; can't have TV tuner and DVD burner onboard simultaneously; loud fan.

The Bottom Line

With a superb 17-inch display and an integrated TV tuner, the Sony VAIO VGN-AX570G is among the most self-contained multimedia laptops and undercuts many of them by several hundred dollars.

The VAIO VGN-AX570G measures 15.8 inches wide, 11.7 inches deep, and 1.7 inches thick, making it nominally smaller overall than its predecessor, the VAIO A690. The VAIO VGN-AX570G's base weight of 8.4 pounds is more in line with that of current-generation, lighter-weight desktop replacements such as the 8.4-pound Gateway NX850XL, the 8.3-pound HP Pavilion dv8000z, and the 8.2-pound Dell Inspiron 9300; heavier multimedia-focused desktop-replacement laptops include the Fujitsu LifeBook N6210 and the Toshiba Qosmio G25-AV513. The VAIO VGN-AX570G's bulky AC adapter adds a bit less than a pound to the package. Though the system doesn't run particularly hot, the fan is quite loud and runs often.

The keyboard has large, firm keys, and we found it comfortable to use. It has no separate number pad, however, unlike the Pavilion dv8000z and the LifeBook N6210, and there's quite a bit of dead space around the keyboard. The VAIO VGN-AX570G's tiny touch pad lacks a scroll strip, and the mouse buttons are quite small; a separate pointing stick anchored in the middle of the keyboard has its own set of mouse buttons. We find it odd that a laptop the size of the VAIO VGN-AX570G has two diminutive pointing options; we preferred to use our own external USB mouse.

The VAIO VGN-AX570G's best feature is its superb 17-inch-diagonal wide-screen display; it's among the brightest laptop displays we've seen, providing richly detailed images and a very fine 1,440x900 (WXGA+) native resolution. The stereo speakers, placed along the front edge of the laptop, sound good, if not as loud or bass-heavy as the Qosmio's or the Inspiron 9300's. Other notable A/V features include an integrated 0.3-megapixel camera, an external mute button (but no volume controls), and Sony's new integrated TV-tuner module (more about that later). The VAIO VGN-AX570G lacks many of the external multimedia controls found on competitive models, relying instead on its big remote control to manage the optical drive and the TV tuning.

The VAIO VGN-AX570G performs well as a stand-alone LCD TV. Its sharp and stable picture is one of the best we've seen on a laptop TV, though the couple of seconds it takes to start and change channels is annoying. The laptop's integrated TV tuner comes as a swappable module, which we like, but because the modular DVD burner fits into the same slot, you can forget about burning a DVD from a TV show without first putting it onto the hard drive. If that's a deal breaker for you, consider Sony's $300 docking station, which offers an additional modular bay.

Though it's the first VAIO laptop to feature Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition, Sony still throws in a great assortment of apps, including Click to DVD for disc burning, SonicStage for audio editing, and Image Connector for transferring files to a Sony PSP.

Integrated TV tuner notwithstanding, the VAIO VGN-AX570G offers a subpar assortment of ports and connections. You get only three USB 2.0 ports (at least one shy of what competitive systems offer), in addition to four-pin FireWire, VGA, and headphone and microphone jacks; however, you don't get an S/PDIF optical port. The module slot accommodates either the double-layer DVD burner or the TV tuner (which includes composite audio and video plugs, S-Video out, and an antenna connection), both of which come included. The sole PC Card slot does not support PCI-Express. While the laptop does have built-in flash-card readers for Secure Digital (SD) and Memory Stick modules, competitive models' readers often support five or six formats. The VAIO VGN-AX570G has Gigabit LAN, Bluetooth, and 802.11b/g wireless. Sony also includes a fingerprint scanner--an unusual but welcome touch for a multimedia desktop replacement.

Like the VAIO A690, the VAIO VGN-AX570G is available in only one configuration; specs include a midrange 1.9GHz Pentium M; ATI's Mobility Radeon X700 GPU with 256MB of video memory; 1GB of 533MHz memory (it can accommodate up to 2GB); and a big 160GB, 5,400rpm Serial ATA hard drive. Its overall BAPCo SysMark 2004 performance numbers were in line with those of comparable multimedia desktop replacements such as the Pavilion dv8000z, the LifeBook N6210, and the Inspiron 9300, but they came in behind those of the Qosmio G25. While we can't recommend the VGN-AX570G for hard-core gaming, it should be able to shoulder most other productivity and multimedia tasks. Sony backs the VAIO VGN-AX570G with a one-year warranty; it'll cost you $249 to upgrade to three years. With drivers, manuals, and a deep knowledge base of customer experience, the Sony support site can help you fine-tune your system. The site has well-organized setup tips, a list of contact info for its software partners, and a great updater that allows the notebook's software to run Microsoft's latest Windows security fix. Sony provides unlimited access to its 24-hour toll-free hotline for the life of the warranty; phone support costs $19.95 per incident after that. Tech support is also available via e-mail on Sony's Web site. For more detailed information about warranties and service plans, check out Computer Shopper's overview of 37 major computer vendors.

SysMark 2004 performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo's SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  
Toshiba Qosmio G25-AV513
Fujitsu LifeBook N6210
Dell Inspiron 9300
HP dv8000z

Doom 3 performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Frames per second  

Find out more about how we test Windows notebooks.

System configurations:
Toshiba Qosmio G25-AV513
Windows XP Pro; 2GHz Intel Pentium M 760; 1GB DDR2 SDRAM PC3200 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce Go 6600 128MB; two Fujitsu MHT2060BH 5,400rpm
Dell Inspiron 9300
Windows XP Media Center Edition; 2GHz Intel Pentium M 760; 1GB DDR2 SDRAM PC4200 533MHz; Nvidia GeForce Go 6800 256MB; Hitachi Travelstar 5K80 80GB 5,400rpm
Windows XP Media Center Edition; 2GHz Intel Pentium M 750 1.86GHz; 1GB DDR2 SDRAM PC4200 533MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon X700 256MB;
HP dv8000z
Windows XP Pro; 2.2GHz Turion 64 ML-40; 1GB DDR SDRAM PC2700 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon Xpress 200 series 128MB; Seagate ST9100822A 100GB 4,200rpm; Toshiba MK1031GAS 100GB 4,200rpm
Fujitsu LifeBook N6210
Windows XP Home; 1.86GHz PM 750; 1GB DDR2 SDRAM PC4300 533MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon X600 128MB; two Fujitsu MHV2100AT 100GB 4,200rpm



Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 8Performance 6Support 4
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