Editors' note: This review is part of our Back-to-School 2008 roundup, covering specific configurations of popular laptops that can be found in retail stores.
With its 14-inch display, the Sony Vaio CR510 sits right in the middle of Sony's laptop lineup, which runs from the 11-inch Vaio TZ to the 17-inch Vaio AR line. We happen to believe that a 14-inch laptop resides in the sweet spot, offering the optimal balance between usability and portable for the majority of users. Along with being the right size, the Vaio CR510 also features the right platform; our performance charts clearly show that Intel's Core 2 Duo processor delivers better performance than AMD's Turion X2 CPU. With its competitive performance, basic but useful feature set, and great keyboard, Sony lists the Vaio CR510 for $999, but Best Buy has Vaio CR510 models for $899. The pink version we tested, the CR510E, must not be a popular choice--Best Buy is currently selling it for only $799.
|Processor||2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5750|
|Memory||3,072MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz|
|Hard drive||250GB, 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Intel GM965 Express|
|Graphics||Intel GMAX3100 (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||13.2 x 9.8 x 1.4 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.4 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.3 / 6.1 pounds|
If pink's not your thing, you'll find CR retail models in blue, red, white, gold, and brown (a matte black model with a fingerprint reader is available directly from Sony). The pink model we reviewed, the CR510E, features a lot of pink, from the glossy pink lid to the keyboard tray and screen bezel. The keyboard itself is silver, and a chrome rim runs along the front edge and sides of the laptop. The keyboard isn't as spacious as the one found on the 15-inch Vaio NR430 and the NR498 models we just reviewed, but we still found it very comfortable to use. The keys are flat and widely spaced--much like a MacBook's. Measuring 2.75 inches by 1.75 inches, the touch pad isn't oversized but provides easy gliding with its matte finish. The two mouse buttons have a slight rubber feel to them, which we like, and they don't suffer from the loud clackiness as those on the NR models.
Above the keyboard is a row of six multimedia shortcut keys. The small, square buttons look outdated next to a model like the Dell Inspiron 1525 or HP Pavilion dv5, which feature touch-sensitive keys. Along the front edge and accessible when the laptop is closed are media control keys. Hit the AV Mode button above the keyboard, and the CR510 lets you play a CD or DVD or access photos and music files stored on the hard drive without booting to Windows. Having the play/pause, stop, rewind, and fast-forward buttons accessibly when the lid is closed doesn't do a whole lot for you since you can't view pictures or a DVD unless the laptop is open, and the already tinny speakers that flank the keyboard offer even more muffled sound when the lid is closed.
We found less bloatware than with past Vaio laptops. The trial offers have been whittled down to four AOL desktop icons, and thankfully the Spider-Man tie-ins found on last year's CR120 model are absent here.
At 5.3 pounds, the 14-inch Vaio CR510 weighs nearly a pound less than a 15-inch Vaio NR model and only a couple ounces more than the 13-inch MacBook. The 14.1-inch wide-screen LCD display offers a 1,280x800 native resolution, which is the same as you'll find on larger 15-inch laptops. The Vaio CR510 features Sony's Xbrite-Eco screen, which we found to be crisp and vivid--movies and photos showed accurate colors, crisps edges, and smooth movement. In anecdotal testing, we found it to be less bright than other laptops, but at max brightness, the image looked fine under a variety of conditions. It features a glossy screen coating, but it wasn't as prone to glare and reflections as other glossy screens we've seen. Above the screen is a 1.3-megapixel Webcam.
|Sony Vaio VGN-CR510||Average for category [thin-and-light]|
|Video||VGA-out, S-Video||VGA-out, S-Video|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, mini-FireWire, MemoryStick, SD card readers||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||modem, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The Vaio CR510 provides the basic allotment of connections. While some mainstream models are serving up HDMI or DisplayPort connections, the Vaio CR510 supplies the standard duo of VGA and S-Video for connecting to an external monitor. On the right side, you'll find both SD and memory card slots and on the left is an always appreciated Wi-Fi on/off switch. You get Draft N Wi-Fi (which is backwards compatible with 802.11b and g networks) and Bluetooth.
The Sony Vaio VGN-CR510 features a standard, mainstream configuration of an Intel Core 2 Duo T5750 processor, 3GB of 667MHz memory, and a 250GB hard drive. In the labs, the Sony Vaio CR510 performed as expected, posting similar scores as the identically configured Vaio NR498. In general, it completed our benchmarks faster than the AMD Turion X2-based laptops in this price range, but it trailed HP and Toshiba systems, which feature more memory and 64-bit Windows, on our Photoshop CS3 test, where memory plays a key role in determining performance.
The Vaio CR510 ran for an impressive 3 hours, 11 minutes on CNET Labs' battery drain test on its standard six-cell battery. That Core 2 Duo-based laptop boast superior performance and better battery life makes it very hard to recommend an AMD-based laptop, unless you find one at a very deep discount where it can offer something approximating an attractive price-performance ratio.
Though purchased at retail, Sony's basic one-year parts-and-labor warranty applies to the Vaio CR510. Support is accessible through a 24-7 toll-free phone line, and an online knowledge base and driver downloads for this specific model can be found at Sony's support site.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)