Sony VAIO VGN-BX396VP review

£939
Price when reviewed

Sony’s VAIO notebooks have always impressed us with their high standards of engineering and design, ever since the Japanese electronics giant decided to make a move into the world of computers. This month’s submission is no different and, even though the BX396VP Sony sent us is an engineering sample, it still stands out as the most stylish on show in this Labs, with the company’s trademark mirror plastic adorning the front edge, and a smart silver and black livery.

Sony VAIO VGN-BX396VP review

Build quality is good, with rigid plastics all round and a tough backing for the screen. The keyboard makes the most of the 363mm width of the machine, with full-sized Enter and backspace keys, although separate keys for Home, End, Page Up and Page Down would have been nice. We liked the fact that both touchpad and trackpoint pointing devices are included.

The glossy 15.4in 1,280 x 800 TFT is excellent too. It’s bright and sharp, evenly lit and offers excellent contrast. Set into its top edge is a webcam, useful for video calls. Below it, next to the power button, is a fingerprint reader. This is backed up by a TPM chip, which can be used to encrypt data, passwords and network keys. Sony provides Infineon’s TPM Professional Package to take advantage of the chip’s capabilities.

The stars of the show, in the context of this Labs at least, are the core components. A 2GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, 1GB of 533MHz DDR2 RAM and a 80GB Toshiba hard disk all combine to produce the fastest 2D application score this month of 1.16.

But it isn’t all good news for the BX396VP. The first problem is that its battleship build quality is accompanied by battleship weight. Only the Acer TravelMate is heavier than the Sony’s travelling weight of 3.7kg.

The second gripe is battery life, which isn’t the best either. Under light use, the battery lasted just less than three hours (the best managed more than four hours), and the time to charge was a foot-tapping three hours. Life under heavy use was acceptable, however, at 2hrs 1min.

Add a relatively expensive £799 price to the list of disappointments and you have a notebook that, despite good performance, build quality and design, isn’t good enough value to compete with the best this month.

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