Sony VAIO VGN-B1VP review

Price when reviewed

Sony’s B-series VAIO is easily the most stylish on test. It isn’t the sleekest model from Sony, and doesn’t have the ergonomic catch-less lid, but it still beats the NEC, Dell and several others on the catwalk.

Sony VAIO VGN-B1VP review

Look at the feature table on p118, and you’ll probably be surprised by how similar the Sony’s specifications are to the Toshiba, which costs almost £300 more.

For a start, there’s the full Centrino complement – the Intel 855GME chipset, a 1.6GHz Pentium M CPU and the 2200BG wireless card. Then there’s 512MB of PC2700 memory, a modem, mini-FireWire and a Memory Stick reader. Plus, you get a 40GB hard disk – big enough for most uses – and a CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive, capable of burning CD-Rs at 16x. If you need a DVD writer and larger hard disk, Fujitsu Siemens’ V2020 offers them for only £7 more.

Despite the compromises you’d expect at this price, there are few to be found. The built-in networking is 10/100 rather than gigabit, but we can see few people complaining. There’s no infrared or Bluetooth, but, again, these aren’t essential components for most business use.

And Sony has more than made up for these absences with neat touches such as the recessed ports on either side of the keyboard, preventing damage. Plus, there’s a switch to turn off the wireless radio and hardware volume buttons, including a mute. We like the keyboard layout too, and it’s comfortable to type on thanks to the tapered front panel. The TFT, also, is of good quality, but isn’t quite as bright as others.

The main highlight, however, is battery life. The B1VP will last two hours under continuous intensive use, and five hours if you’re not loading the CPU or making use of the optical drive. And at 2.4kg, the VAIO won’t weigh you down too much. Just beware that a spare battery costs significantly more than others. When you come to replace the original after a year or two, you’ll be facing a bill of almost £150 – Dell charges only £66.

The inclusion of Norton Internet Security 2004 isn’t a huge consolation, but means the B1VP is protected from Internet nasties straight out of the box. We’re not too surprised to see only a single year of collect-and-return warranty at this price; VAT-registered businesses can upgrade to a three-year, on-site service for £200.

With the best ergonomics score and lowest price on test, the VAIO is a tempting proposition, and beats Dell for sheer value. The Dell is faster, though, and the D610 will still be around in nine months, while the B1VP almost certainly won’t.

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