Sony VAIO VGN-AR41S review

£1792
Price when reviewed

Although it’s relatively chunky, the new VGN-AR41S still looks sleek when closed, mainly because of the glossy piano-black lid and mirrored edges. These conceal many of the ports such as the Gigabit Ethernet and modem sockets, S-Video in and out, VGA, mini-FireWire and HDMI. Cleverly, the PC Card blanking plate has a mirrored edge, while the ExpressCard/54 slot below it is black, making them less obtrusive.

Sony VAIO VGN-AR41S review

It’s good to see a full-sized RF aerial input at the rear, but oddly there are only three USB ports. Also, open the lid and you’re greeted by a far less stylish screen and keyboard, with acres of unused matte-black space. Given the space, it’s strange Sony decided not to include a numeric keypad, while locating the keyboard so far back means the front edges cut into your wrists as you type. The only consolation is that the touch pad is at the front, so you never brush it with your palm while typing.

The 17in TFT isn’t as reflective as others, and is exceptionally bright and sharp. It has the same resolution as the Dell – 1,920 x 1,200 – in order to display Blu-ray movies at their native resolution. This is possible thanks to a Matshita Blu-ray drive, but it’s this that pushes the AR41S’s price so high and we’d question whether a 17in screen is large enough to reap the benefits of 1080p video. Also, there are far cheaper options if you want a Blu-ray player, including Sony’s own PlayStation 3. Plus, the battery doesn’t last long enough to watch an entire movie, so that’s no advantage, either.

Two 160GB Seagate hard disks provide copious amounts of storage, although our test unit’s disks weren’t configured in a RAID. But again, the cheaper Dell matches this capacity with two 160GB Samsung disks. It also matches the year of collect-and-return warranty; the only benefit with the Sony is that warranty cover is international.

Finally, the Inspiron 1720 equals the AR41S’s core components: a Core 2 Duo T7500, 2GB of RAM and a GeForce 8600M GT. So, although the VAIO is a decent performer, you can have the same for less than £1,000. Overall, it means the Sony is poor value here.

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