Though Sony’s Vaio notebooks are often more expensive than other brands, they have always had the most beautiful screens, best keyboards, best battery life, and the most features. Their FE series laptops, however, were a bit of a disappointment. In 2006, the 15.4” screened Vaio FE series was the first to contain the new Core Duo processors, in which the user was supposed to get as much total work done, but at a much faster rate per battery charge than the older computers. The screen was bright, crisp, and beautiful. However, the stereo speakers were hardly listenable and the unit weighed too much. Things improved a little bit for the Vaio FE series when the Intel Core 2 Duo processors the original Core Duo, but not enough to cause excitement.
In the past month, Sony has replaced their 15.4” FE series with the new 15.4” FZ series notebooks, which have screens that are even crisper, much better battery life, better sound, and feel lighter than most notebooks which have 14 inch screens. Every new FZ notebook carries Intel’s new Santa Rosa processor. The major change between Santa Rosa's processor and its predecessors is the acceleration of the frontside bus (FSB) from 667MHz to 800MHz , together with the ability to slow it down during light loads. This technology, called Super Low Frequency Mode, knocks the bus speed down to 400MHz, the CPU's clock speed to 600MHz and reduces the core voltage. I am currently testing the higher-end FZ180E model, which has a Blue-Ray recordable drive built in. This is the first sub $2000 notebook with this type of drive. In addition, this unit showcases a speedy 2.3 GH Santa Rosa Processor, 2 GB RAM, a 200 GB hard drive, and a NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GT graphics card which is excellent for playing video and higher end video games.
The most noticeable aspect of the FZ180E Vaio laptop is the screen, which is the most beautiful I’ve seen on any notebook to date (and trust me, I’ve seen a lot). I remember, about ten years ago, reading a story about someone claiming to go to Heaven and looking at a garden. She described the colors of the garden as being so beautiful that they radiated from inside rather than being reflected on. That seems to be an accurate description on how the Sony FZ180E screen looks. I just wish the resolution was higher than 1280 by 800 pixels, especially since this computer has a Blu-ray player that plays discs at a much higher resolution. It’s not that the resolution is bad; it’s just not the high-def resolution it should be, unless you connect the computer to a HD monitor or HD television set.
It’s been quite a pleasure to actually use a 15.4” widescreen laptop, at full brightness (which is blindingly bright), and not have to worry about the battery running out instantly. I haven’t done specific testing yet, but while using Wi-Fi (transferring shows from my TiVo) and writing some documents, I was able to use the unit for 2 hours and 40 minutes. I watched the full Blu-ray movie Basic Instinct 2 with 15 percent of my battery left. While these times are still not ideal, they prove that it is possible for a unit to have a decent battery life without sacrificing speed or usability. I haven’t tested any of the other computers with the new Santa Rosa processors, but if Sony’s new model is any indication, these new processors live up to the hype.
Sony’s laptops have always been known as entertainment laptops and the FZ series definitely lives up to the hype. The FZ180E has both an S video and HDMI outputs. When connecting the unit to my HD television set, The FZ180E not only displayed at HD resolution, but did it very well. It also has a Memory Stick Pro slot as well as (finally) an SD card memory slot for those who don’t use everything Sony. It’s a pleasure to stick the SD card from my digital camera right in the front of the unit rather than having to attach a USB adapter.
This unit is not only for entertainment enthusiasts, but for video camera addicts as well. This unit comes with software that will enable you to put videos you’ve taken from your new HD video camera, edit them, and transfer them to a Blu-ray disc. Keep in mind that while a recordable DVD can hold anywhere up to 9 GB of information, a Blu-ray disc can hold up to 50 GB. I have transferred over many of my new HD videos that were filmed recently to my computer, but don’t have a need to put them on a disc yet since the FZ180E’s hard drive holds a hefty 200 GB.
For those of you who type a lot of documents, you’ll be happy to know that Sony has included a well laid-out keyboard that is not flimsy, like some of Sony’s other laptops, as well as those from competitors. The keys are easy to press and give great tactile feedback. You won’t even need to be concerned about typing at night. The screen is so bright that it easily illuminates all the keys and anything else you want.
I am slightly disappointed that the speakers still don’t play at a really high volume. They are adequate, at least more than the speakers on Sony’s FE series, which were pretty useless. The speakers produce crisp and clear sound, but if you want to watch a movie on this with a group of people, it’s a better idea to connect the FZ180E to your own set of stereo speakers.
For those of you that are highly into digital photography, this unit is also for you. I’ve noticed different colors in some of my pictures that I never saw on other computers. The levels of contrast and brightness are set perfectly on the unit, which makes pictures worth viewing. With the NVIDIA graphic cards, you can easily adjust on screen colors, brightness, saturation, etc.
Sony, once again, proves that they are at the top of their game when it comes to notebook computers. Even though their units usually cost a couple hundred dollars more than other brand name units that have similar specs, their units are worth more money in the end. They also have excellent customer service. In the past three years, I’ve had to send in two units to Sony, who had them back to me within a four business days. Let’s just hope that, in the future, Sony offers a portable HD laptop that actually has HD resolution.Powered by Sidelines