Sony VAIO VGN-FE31H review

Price when reviewed

Sony’s new VGN-FE31H isn’t quite as stylish as other VAIOs we’ve seen recently, but aesthetics will be the last thing on your mind after browsing its extensive specification list and factoring in the low £685 price.

Sony VAIO VGN-FE31H review

One of the biggest attractions is the 15.4in X-black TFT. Sony’s marketing material isn’t lying when it claims “ultra-bright and best-in-class colour fidelity”. The Sony’s TFT is by far the brightest in this group test and colours are excellent. And despite the glossy coating, reflections aren’t too distracting and viewing angles are the widest here.

The VAIO’s keyboard also puts others to shame. With large palmrests, a firm action and a great layout, it’s a joy to use. Likewise, the touchpad and buttons are bigger than most.

The only oddity is the manual screen catch. Instead of the usual spring-loaded hinge, you have to slide a catch to lock and release the TFT. Underneath, it’s easy to get to the memory and hard disk, but with 1GB and 120GB respectively, you won’t be upgrading for some time.

Looking at the Overall 2D score of 0.98, the Core 2 Duo T5500 delivers average grunt, but the VAIO feels fast in general use. If you want to play games, there’s a GeForce Go 7400 graphics card. It could only manage 15fps in Far Cry and Call of Duty 2, but these should become playable if you reduce the resolution and quality settings.

One of the FE31H’s biggest strengths is battery life – expect the 5,200mAh battery to last over 4hrs 30mins with light use and over two hours if you’re working hard or playing games.

Elsewhere, there’s a dual-layer DVD writer (supporting DVD-RAM), WLAN, a media card reader and three USB 2 ports. Mini-FireWire is also present, with a Type II PC Card slot and an ExpressCard/34 slot. The VGA webcam is useful for chatting via MSN Messenger or Skype, and you can plug in a headset at the front using the headphone and microphone mini-jacks.

Many will appreciate the inclusion of Photoshop Elements 4 and Premiere Elements 2. Windows XP Media Center Edition is pre-installed too, although there’s no remote control or TV tuner.

Warranty is a one-year return-to-base affair, but the hardware you’re getting at this price more than offsets this. With the great TFT, long battery life and generous specification, the VAIO is hard to beat.

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