When it comes to choosing the right notebook, it is often best to consider the most common situation it will be used in. There is little point in buying an ultraportable machine if it will spend most of its life being used on a desk. Which brings us to the Sony VAIO PCG-K315Z, which is quite clearly intended to replace the desktop PC that is gathering dust in the corner of your living room.
At 3.7kg, you are unlikely to take this notebook on the move with you - which is for the best, as we only managed a mere 80 minutes of life from the battery. What you do get with such a weight is a widescreen display, which at 15.4 inches manages to dominate the look of the VAIO without overpowering it. The use of Sony’s now commonplace X-black screen technology means that you get stunning images from a bright screen.
The use of an ATi Mobility Radeon 9200 graphics card is on the mean side, as in order to play the latest games most users will be looking for a Radeon 9700 as a minimum specification. With 64MB of memory soldered onto the card, you can expect, on average, a 3Dmark 2001 score of 6850. While it supports the latest DirectX extensions you’ll find that most games will need to be seriously switched down in order to maintain a reasonable frame rate.
Manufacturers continue to split their notebook ranges between the use of mobile specific processors, such as Intel’s Centrino technology, and desktop processors. The use of the latter chips is cheaper and offers faster Front Side Bus speeds but can only be used in larger bodied notebooks. An Intel 3.06GHz Pentium 4 532 processor powers the VAIO and is supported by 512MB DDR SDRAM. With this processor supporting Hyper-Threading, those creating digital media will find that applications will run more smoothly. Rounding out the base specification is a 60GB hard drive. We found no real drawbacks in this configuration and found it more than usable for all home-user needs.
Sony continues to be an innovator in its choice of additions in its notebooks. While the DVD rewriter is slowly becoming the norm across the industry, it has long been standard in Sony’s desktop replacement notebooks. In line with the ongoing dominance of DVD as a recordable format, the PCG-K315Z includes a multi-format optical drive. Supporting DVD+/-RW, the VAIO also supports dual layer DVD+R recording, which allows users to record onto twice the storage space of standard DVD discs.
Wireless is provided by Wi-Fi alone, with no provision for Bluetooth or infrared. This is slightly compensated for, by utilising the faster 802.11g Wi-Fi standard, which is backward compatible with 802.11b.
Desktop replacement notebooks may not be as exciting as ultraportable machines but they do constitute over 80 per cent of the notebook market. With this in mind, the VAIO plays directly to its core market’s needs - it may lack the style and grace of many VAIO notebooks but we found it a pleasing machine to use - when plugged in, that is.