Nothing smokes our tyres like a stonkingly powerful laptop -- something so obscenely speedy that it makes our face blister and melt by the time the Windows start-up screen has launched. So we were psyched to get a hands-on with the new, 3D-capable Sony Vaio F series laptop, the VPCF21Z1E/BI. Here are our first impressions of this 16-inch machine.
This laptop will be released in March for around £1,800, which is, coincidentally, roughly the going rate for a kidney on the black market.
Like so many high-end laptops built for gaming and seriously powerful performance, this F series machine is so far from portable that it may as well be nailed to the floor. The laptop looks like a jet fighter, or some kind of stealth plane. It's angular, chunky, black and liable to slice your fingers off if you pick it up in the wrong way.
The lid is wider than the bezel that surrounds the screen, and its edges taper down towards the bezel. The chassis has a similar shape, with the wrist rest jutting out over the laptop's base. When you close the lid, its edges don't sit flush with the chassis.
Black glossy plastic covers the whole machine. The overall effect is reasonably classy, but we found the laptop gathered more fingerprints than a custody officer in a police station. The Sony Vaio logo stands out, as it's embossed in silver.
On the interior, you'll find a keyboard with isolated keys. A wide slab of rubber extends over the wrist rest area, encompassing the generously large trackpad. The idea is to make leaning your hands on the chassis more comfortable, especially if you're settling in for a long evening of headshots and killstreaks. We're not convinced it does the laptop's appearance any favours but we're willing to make the sacrifice if it makes gaming more comfortable.
The keyboard itself is backlit with a soft white glow, which is a really pleasing touch. The backlight is controlled automatically by an ambient light sensor, so, if you want to use the backlight but it's not particularly dark, there's no way we can see of manually turning it on. That puts you at the mercy of the sensor's ability to accurately gauge light conditions.
The 16-inch display has a high resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels. It's also 3D-capable. To watch 3D movies and play 3D games, you'll have to slip on a pair of Sony's active-shutter glasses -- the same ones used with the company's Bravia 3D TVs. That will undoubtedly make you look dorky.
There are some extra 3D-related features too. For instance, a button above the keyboard allows you to quickly switch between 2D and 3D. 2D movies on Blu-ray can be upscaled to 3D as well.
We didn't get a chance to test the upscaling feature but this technology hasn't impressed us when we've seen it on TVs. The laptop will have to try and figure out which parts of a scene are in the foreground and which should appear further back. As you can imagine, it only takes one instance of the backdrop popping out of the screen to ruin the experience. Still, we'll reserve final judgement until we have the laptop in for a full review.
The laptop's components are powerful. There's a quad-core, 2GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM processor, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GT 540M graphics card.
We can't wait to submit the Sony Vaio VPCF21Z1E/BI to our rigorous benchmark tests, and see if it lives up to the hype. With an astronomical price tag, it'll have to really blow our polka-dot socks off, but hopefully its features and performance will be up to the task.
Edited by Charles Kloet