Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E review

Price when reviewed

Gaming is also underwhelming in 3D. The issue is that, while the laptop sports one of Intel’s lightning-quick Sandy Bridge processors, the graphics chipset is Nvidia’s modestly powered GT 540M. This is perfectly capable of playing games in 2D, but switch to 3D mode, where the graphics card’s workload almost doubles, and modern games are only just playable. Even at low settings, Crysis struggled to maintain a smooth frame rate, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was barely playable even at 1,024 x 768 resolution and minimum detail.

If you’re not intrigued by true 3D gaming, the Sony still has plenty to offer. The quad-core 2GHz Core i7-2630QM Sandy Bridge processor delivers huge amounts of power, gaining 2.02 in our benchmarks, and in tandem with the 8GB of RAM, glorious HD screen and Blu-ray writer, the VPCF21Z1E is well equipped for the demands of HD video editing and disc authoring. You will, however, want to remain within easy reach of a mains socket: with no graphics switching available, Sony’s hulking 3D laptop lasted only 2hrs 56mins during our light-use test.

Sony Vaio VPCF21Z1E - rear

Turn your attention to less engaging pursuits, and the Sony largely gets it right. There’s a little give in the keyboard’s base, but the crisp-feeling, short-travel keys feel great under the finger. Only the touchpad could be significantly improved: the wide rocker button often felt stiff in use, forcing us to deliberately press at its extreme edges to get a click to register.

Meanwhile, there’s little lacking in the way of connectivity. There are three USB ports (two of which are USB 3), mini-FireWire, an SD/Memory Stick card reader, an optical S/PDIF out and, for playing 3D Blu-ray content through a TV, an HDMI 1.4 socket. Meanwhile, networking is covered by Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth and single-band 802.11n wireless.

The unavoidable thorn in the Sony’s side is its price. With Sony suggesting the VPCF21Z1E is going to retail for around £1,800 inc VAT, you’re paying a staggering premium for that 3D display. As a technological showpiece, the Sony VPCF21Z1E largely delivers the goods, but when the same kind of money could buy you a 40in 3D TV, a PlayStation 3 and maybe even a budget laptop, too, it’s a luxury reserved for only the most affluent of enthusiasts.


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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