Sony VAIO VGN-BX196SP review

Price when reviewed

Between this VAIO and the Acer, few could argue with Sony taking the crown for style. But while the glossy 15.4in widescreen TFT might make it appear a consumer notebook, the VGN-BX196SP is a surprisingly security-focused business notebook.

Sony VAIO VGN-BX196SP review

One of just two this month to offer both a TPM chip and an integrated fingerprint reader, you won’t have to worry about your data being compromised. Like NEC, Sony uses Protector Suite QL to store your passwords so you can replace them with a swipe of a finger. It also offers the encrypted My Safe area for important files. The TPM chip allows for hardware-based encryption for added security.

Elsewhere, features continue with readers for Memory Stick and SD cards. A Type II PC Card slot resides on the right with mini-FireWire and three USB 2 ports.

A fixed-focus webcam is integrated into the TFT bezel, although it’s much lower resolution than the Rock’s. Meanwhile, wireless communications include 802.11b/g and Bluetooth modules. The front-mounted switch for Wi-FI is always useful, as are the mute and camera-off buttons above the keyboard.

The chassis is up to Sony’s usual high build standards, with a solid lid offering good protection for the TFT. The 1,280 x 800 screen is one of the best on show, with decent brightness and vivid colours. The latter is down to the X-black coating, which can be a problem under bright office lights due to reflections.

We like the keyboard, although separate page up/down and Home/End keys would have been better. Meanwhile, the choice of touchpad or trackpoint control is welcome.

In our 2D application benchmarks, the Sony’s score of 0.80 puts it among the leaders. Inside is a 1.86GHz Pentium M 750 and 512MB of PC2-4200 memory, with a socket free for future expansion. The 100GB Serial ATA hard disk is the biggest this month, and the fast DVD writer is capable of writing to DVD+R9s at 4x.

One weakness is battery life. When idle, it lasted around two hours; under intense load, it fell just short of an hour. Given the high price, the poor battery life and the one-year return-to-base warranty are disappointing, even with Sony’s Highly Commended status in our Reliability & Service Awards.

Unless you can find it at a lower price, the Sony is too expensive when the Lenovo is just as secure for £100 less.

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