Sony’s latest VAIO VPCCW25FG laptop runs on the Core i3, Intel’s entry level to their new Core range of processors. While the new Core range handles graphics and HD much better, what Sony included as an extra is what really impressed us. Inside you’ll find the NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics card with 512 MB of dedicated video memory. It enhanced the graphics to such an extent that we had to run our 3D benchmarking twice just to make sure the results were actually correct. (A very respectable 6028 in 3DMark 06, compared for example to the 1565 of the Core i7 equipped Mecer M770CUH)
Although Sony doesn’t really market the machine as a gaming laptop we were very happily playing the new Command & Conquer 4 on the highest settings. A few years back we simply wouldn’t have dreamed of it. It out performed every other laptop we’ve ever received in regards to 3D benchmarking (up until we received Acer’s new 7740G with ATI onboard).
Just to get a few specs quickly out of the way; the Sony VPCCW25FG’s i3 CPU runs very comfortably at 2.13 MHz, and is stocked with 3 GB worth of RAM. Its 320 GB worth of hard disk space should deal with your growing video collection at least for a little while. (The unit that we received for review was a pre-release test unit, so actual setup might differ.)
The chiclet styled keyboard was work friendly and we found it hassle free to type on. Ditto for the smart touchpad- it was spacious, not too smooth and it supports multi-touch gestures such as pinch and zoom. As far as size is concerned the VAIO is pretty much average, weighing 2.4 kg with a 14" LED backlit screen. Average also applies to the unit's battery life, standing at about 2½ to 3 hours; as well as sound, which was adequate, but should have been better. The 14" LED backlit screen has a very slight brown tint and is glossy, making it very reflective. This also applies to the palm rests, which can become easily smudged with fingerprints.
Apart from three USB ports on the side you get a HDMI connection to hook the PC up to an HDTV, plus Sony’s i.Link port to connect it to AV equipment that supports this type of port. It will help you transfer data faster than with USB. The VAIO also supports the newer SDHC and Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo memory cards. An ExpressCard slot rounds off the port offering nicely. Since Sony isn’t trying to save weight on the unit, there's a DVD drive to load games or movies.
Above the keyboard you’ll find three shortcut buttons- one for VAIO Assist, one to turn off the display and another that will lead you to VAIO’s Media Gallery. Depending on how much you like the included VAIO software you’ll find these shortcuts either very handy or merely a waste of a potentially useful button.
The Assist button (which was a bit slow to respond) takes you to VAIO Care under which you will find the following: One Click Care to help with system tune-up and disk defragmentation; Troubleshooting with Advisor to deal with system settings and wireless and network issues; Recovery and Restore for system recovery and back-up; as well as VAIO Support that gives you info such as model number and service tag.
The VAIO Media Gallery brings together all your media into one visually good looking package, making it easy to produce slideshows, or view your pictures on a timeline. It's one of the better media suites we’ve worked with thus far.
Apart from the shortcut buttons you have other VAIO software offerings such as VAIO Gate, which creates an Apple-like graphical taskbar, and PMB VAIO Edition that manages your pictures. The VAIO Software is pretty much a hit-and-miss affair. Some of these can be handy, but you’ll very easily get by without ever using any of it.
The Sony VAIO VPCCW25FG left us very impressed. Although it’s nothing special in regards to size, battery life or speaker quality, the VAIO’s 3D performance was excellent. The Core i3 processor performed well, the number of ports available was a bit more than we expect from this type of machine, plus the keyboard and touchpad were top notch. As always you pay a premium for a Sony product, with the VPCCW25FG marked with a RRP of R9999 - more than we expected for an i3 machine. It includes an international warranty.