Sony VAIO VGN-FE41E review

£800
Price when reviewed

It’s by no means the most attractive VAIO we’ve seen, but in an otherwise uninspired line-up the VGN-FE41E deserves its own separate podium, such is the step up in style. It’s built to an extremely high standard, with a lid that provides ample protection to the 15.4in TFT, and a keyboard that’s a joy to use.

Sony VAIO VGN-FE41E review

Key travel is just right, with a full-height Enter key, and a large touchpad and buttons that are pleasant to use. The X-black TFT is bright and vivid, and there’s a webcam built in to the frame. The only minor niggles with build quality concern the slightly flimsy hinges – the screen wobbles a little when bumped – and the manual screen latch rather than the usual spring-loaded type.

But, the high quality continues inside, particularly the 4,800mAh battery. We squeezed 2hrs 45mins from it when idle, and this dropped only by around an hour when running our intensive multitasking test. This puts it well ahead of all but the four-hour Toshiba, making it ideal for travellers.

Performance is middling, with a benchmark score of 1.01 putting it slightly above the average this month. The Core 2 Duo T5500 is one of Intel’s cheaper models, but with 1GB of RAM it has no problems running Vista smoothly. The Nvidia GeForce Go 7400 graphics handle Aero effects, although playable frame rates weren’t quite reached in our test games, even at 1,024 x 768. Ultimately, gaming isn’t the Sony’s forte.

But there’s plenty more to like. As well as the usual PC Card slot, there’s an ExpressCard/34, which doesn’t quite offer the flexibility of the larger 54mm cards, but is useful because Sony bundles a media card reader to plug into the slot. External displays can be connected via VGA or S-Video, and there’s a large 120GB hard disk to store plenty of music, photos and videos.

As always with Sony, warranty is the major disappointment – a single year of return-to-base cover – although this is tempered slightly by Sony’s good showing in our recent Reliability & Service Awards. It also helps that there’s a stunning software bundle on offer: Photoshop Elements 5 and Premiere Elements 3 are worth more than £100 when bought separately, making the VGN-FE41E a deserving Labs Winner.

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