Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E review

Price when reviewed

Ever since James Cameron’s Avatar thrust cinema-goers into the third-dimension of film, the concept of 3D in the home has become a reality. Now Sony, the big force behind the Blu-ray 3D format, has gone one step further, cramming a 3D display into a laptop equipped with one of Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge processors.

It might be significantly more portable than your average 3D TV, but even so, you’re unlikely to want to watch 3D movies on the train to work; the Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E is a seriously big laptop. Even with the glossy black lid firmly shut, it rises 46mm above the desk, and weighs in at a considerable 3.14kg.

Sit the Sony on a coffee table or a desk, though, and it’s right at home. Gloss black reaches all around, the thick-set chassis tapering away underneath, and the imposing figure makes the Sony look every inch the luxurious powerhouse.

Sony Vaio VPCF21Z1E - front

Peel the thick lid back and, as the Windows desktop appears, you’re left in no doubt as to the quality of the Sony’s 16in Full HD display. Fire up a Blu-ray disc, and the display delivers strikingly crisp images. Pin-sharp detail fills every corner of the screen, while the excellent colour reproduction sees it shrug off the challenges of Avatar, the beautifully rendered palette of blues and greens bringing the planet of Pandora to life.

Don the supplied active-shutter glasses, dab the 3D button beneath the Sony’s display, and the VPCF21Z1E reveals its 3D party trick. The display’s brightness levels drop significantly in 3D mode, when it switches to 120Hz, and the shutter glasses darken content even further, but the sheer quality of the display more than makes amends. Indeed, despite the relatively small 16in panel, Blu-ray 3D content was jaw-droppingly effective, with environments reaching deep into three-dimensional space and objects bursting out of the confines of the screen.

The bundled copy of Corel’s WinDVD software also makes it possible to watch standard 2D movies in a 3D-upscaling mode. We tested it with a DVD of Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as Avatar on Blu-ray, and the results were mixed. The pseudo-3D effect definitely gave images more depth, but, in the main it was unconvincing, and we often found our eyes struggling to adjust to the forced depth effect in certain scenes. Somewhat disappointingly, as the upscaling mode is restricted to WinDVD, it isn’t possible to engage the 3D upscaling while watching web-based content such as BBC iPlayer or YouTube.


Warranty1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions399 x 272 x 46mm (WDH)
Travelling weight4.0kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Core i7-2630QM
Motherboard chipsetIntel ID0104
RAM capacity8.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free0
SODIMM sockets total2

Screen and video

Screen size16.0in
Resolution screen horizontal1,920
Resolution screen vertical1,080
Resolution1920 x 1080
Graphics chipsetNvidia GeForce GT 540M
Graphics card RAM1.00GB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
HDMI outputs1
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0


Hard disk usable capacity596GB
Spindle speed7,200RPM
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Optical disc technologyBlu-ray writer
Optical drivePioneer BDR-TD03
Battery capacity5,000mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0


Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a supportno
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapterno
Bluetooth supportyes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchyes
Wireless key-combination switchno
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
USB ports (downstream)1
FireWire ports1
PS/2 mouse portno
9-pin serial ports0
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
3.5mm audio jacks2
SD card readeryes
Memory Stick readeryes
MMC (multimedia card) readerno
Smart Media readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readerno
Pointing device typeTouchpad
Audio chipsetRealtek HD Audio
Speaker locationAbove keyboard
Hardware volume control?no
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Camera megapixel rating1.3mp
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use2hr 56min
Battery life, heavy use1hr 37min
Overall application benchmark score2.02
Office application benchmark score1.45
2D graphics application benchmark score2.35
Encoding application benchmark score1.81
Multitasking application benchmark score2.47
3D performance (crysis) low settings84fps
3D performance settingLow

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS familyWindows 7
Recovery methodRecovery partition
Software suppliedCorel WinDVD, Microsoft Office 2010 Starter

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