When the review unit for the Sony VAIO E Series arrived, I was excited to open up the sleek black box. After all, it wasn’t often that I got to review a Windows-based laptop, especially a VAIO. The last review I did was nearly a year ago on the Sony VAIO Z (which I loved). But that was a bit too high end. Fortunately, now it was going to be a 14-inch value priced model. So I eagerly open the box and…
And it’s pink.
Okay. Now I’m a fairly laid back kind of guy, and I have quite a few pink shirts in my closet. Plus, that Hong Kong scandal stud from a couple of years ago, Edison Chen, did have a pink laptop at the center of his controversy.
But this was pearl pink, the girliest of the pinks. Danged if I was to be seen in public with it.
Although you girls will probably love it. And so, in the interest of science (and tech reviews), here goes.
The E Series is Sony VAIO’s more affordable line. The VAIO brand has been generally associated with high end, high priced tech wonders (like the Z), and so the E Series is Sony’s way of cashing in on this street cred for the broader market.
The official name of the unit is the Sony VAIO E Series SVE14112EGP (darn it Sony, can’t you just use simpler model names, like names of fruits or trees or something?) And it is one huge laptop, in the classic mold: it has a large 14-inch widescreen 1366×768 display, a DVD optical drive (sorry, no Blu-Ray), and lots of ports. It’s powered by an Intel Core i3 processor, has 2GB of memory, and comes with a 320GB hard drive.
And since this is a Sony, much attention is paid to audio and video. The SVE14 (that’s my nickname for it) comes with Sony’s xLOUD and Clear Phase technologies, which makes for louder, richer sounds. Video power is supported by the integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor. Translation: it won’t be a serious 3D gaming computer, but it’s pretty decent enough for casual games. An HDMI port lets you connect the laptop to your home entertainment system.
The SVE14 comes with Windows Home Basic (64-bit version), which means that if you don’t upgrade your RAM beyond the 2GB, then you’ll be missing out on some performance potential.
Battery life? Four to five hours. Not the best, but par for the course for such a big laptop, I suppose.
Booting up the machine is pretty fast, despite it not having one of those newfangled SSD drives. Tip: set your laptop to hibernate rather than power down when you press the Power button. Much faster, and you get to resume whatever you do anytime.
The VAIO SVE14 comes with Microsoft Starter Office 2010, which is Microsoft’s entry-level Office suite of basic Word and basic Excel, plus advertising. Tacky, but good enough for basic needs. Although you’d be better off downloading a full free suite such as Kingsoft Office.
The first time you launch the VAIO SVE14 though, expect a bit of bloatware to kick in as the Sony add-ons set up. So don’t expect to get to use your machine instantly right out of the box. And if Windows Updates kicks in (as it would), expect a bit more pensive waiting before you can finally declare the machine as ready for business.
Once it’s ready for business though, you’ll quickly realize that this is a pretty fast, clippy laptop. In fact, performance-wise, there is nothing that you can complain about with the E Series. It will do most anything that you’d want it to do (save for playing complex 3D graphics games), and it will have sufficient firepower to spare.
The keyboard is full-sized and very comfortable. If you’re a touch-typist and you type fast, you’ll love the E Series keyboard. It’s one of the perks of having a 14-inch-and-up screen size: lots of real estate, leading to an indulgent keyboard with widely spaced keys.
Plus, the trackpad is sizeable. It’s a multi-touch pad that is easy to use and easy to work with. If you’re getting a laptop for writing up your Great Pinoy Novel, then the E Series 14 won’t disappoint.
The screen is gorgeous too, as can be expected of a Sony. The sound? Well, given that they were touting the xLOUD technology et al, I would have expected more oomph. But it’s definitely better than your run of the mill tinny speaker sounds from most other laptops.
My biggest beef with the price-friendly VAIO is that, in order to make it price-friendly, Sony chose to clad it in plastic. And I’m not just sour-graping because it’s pink plastic. I’m griping because it’s all plastic, period.
Here’s why. A full-on all-plastic exterior is acceptable when you’re dealing with light netbooks with tiny footprints and 10.1-inch screens. Plastic can take the weight and the volume easily. I’ve been using a netbook for years and its all-plastic body doesn’t bother me one bit.
But when you get to the size of 14-inch laptops, well, there’s a price that you gotta pay. The SVE14 weighs in at 2.205 kilograms. If you hold the laptop with just one hand, you could almost feel the plastic creaking in places as it struggles to keep its innards together. This is why 14-inch laptops (and beyond) ought to be made with aluminum or magnesium or some other tough yet light metal.
Plus, the plastic is too flexible, leading to a lot of unsavory tactile cues. For instance, you could squeeze the lid against the body with your fingers:
You could also discern the wobbliness of the drive bay door:
In short, this is simply too big and bulky a unit for plastic. If it was any other laptop maker, I wouldn’t wince. But this is a Sony VAIO. I expect a lot from a VAIO. And I’m afraid that at worse, the plasticky feel of this unit might dilute the VAIO name.
I’m thinking that there may be a connection between the pink plastic, its target market (girls, I gather), and usage. Girls tend to be more careful with their gadgets, often lovingly ensconcing them in protectively padded bags and all. Guys, meanwhile, tend to be more careless and aren’t too averse to dropping their gadgets now and then.
So maybe the choice of plastic for the VAIO E Series isn’t so bad for this model. Girls will carry it with two hands, which means they won’t feel the ricketiness of the plastic case as much (except for the bit of plastic undercarriage near the drive door — really, it practically sinks in as you hold the laptop up).
Besides, plasticness aside, the pearl pink finish is actually quite pretty and very feminine. Yeah it ain’t for me, but I can see how it could appeal to a girly-girl type of girl. So long as she’s really into lugging around a 2.2 kilogram 14-inch laptop with her.
Verdict? Great laptop, if you don’t mind wallowing in a sea of pink plastic.
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