|Name||Multimedia laptop: Sony VAIO F (VPCF226HGB)|
|At a glance:||Highest-spec processor tested,Two USB 3.0 ports,Highly typeable keyboard with ,full number pad,Lowest-capacity storage in this roundup at 640GB, and lacks eSATA or Firewire|
|Summary:||Plentiful processing power and good graphics, but lacks storage capacity and legacy connectivity.|
With its 16.4-inch TFT display, the VAIO F-series notebook provided for our 2011 multimedia laptops roundup was the second-smallest of the machines tested. Portability is often the major trade-off when it comes to truly multimedia-capable notebooks, but Sony has made an admirable job of providing one that – in most areas – doesn’t feel inferior to its peers.
With the same 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 540M graphics card as the Asus N73SV, it achieved similar results in our modern DirectX 11 benchmarks, coming second-equal to the HP Envy 17 3D in most cases. Strangely it performed a little worse in the DirectX 10/11 Call of Pripyat test, and much worse in the DX9 Trackmania Nations Forever.
However, it fared much better in the processor department, taking out top honours in the Cinebench 11 single-CPU and PCMark 7 benchmarks. This isn’t entirely unexpected, as its Intel Core i7-2720QM CPU is the highest-spec processor of the four notebooks, with four cores and a clock speed of 2.2GHz (up to 3.3 with Intel's Turbo Boost technology).
In typical VAIO fashion, the F-series model constitutes an aesthetically stylish notebook, even if its hard-edged profile does come across as decidedly old fashioned when compared to the others. This particular model features a matte-black finish and, when closed, an “underbite” look owing to a larger base area than that of the display. This reveals such indicators as the power-supply, wireless, and SD-card lights along the front edge while closed.
The keyboard consists of large, distinct keys, and as such it’s very typeable. It’s backlit, but it doesn’t always appear to activate once you start typing.
The texture of the touchpad is rather rough (as opposed to the smooth, frictionless surfaces of most), and this appears to translate to the motion of the cursor. Personally I found it constitutes a fairly unpleasant touchpad experience, but your own mileage may vary on this one.
A bar underneath represents your physical left and right mouse buttons, but it’s fairly nondescript and can actually be fairly difficult to locate in the heat of use.
In terms of inputs and outputs, the VAIO is also the least enabled in the range. While it does include a VGA-out option on top of the now-standard HDMI-out, there are no eSATA or Firewire ports, almost ruling it out entirely for those who wish to indulge in video editing or production (if not for the two USB 3.0 ports from a total of three). At 640GB, its hard drive capacity also falls short of the other notebooks in our roundup, so you’d be hard pressed to load it up with a great deal of HD footage anyway.
Despite graphical performance on par with the Asus N73SV, the comparatively high asking price makes the VAIO the most difficult laptop to get particularly excited about in our 2011 line-up. As such, it’s hard to recommend it over and above its competitors.
On its own merits, it offers good graphical performance, top processing power and high-speed USB 3.0 connectivity, but lacks the legacy Firewire or eSATA connectivity and high-capacity storage necessary to be an all-around winner.