Sony VAIO VGN-A397XP review

If you’re in the market for a desktop replacement notebook, size isn’t something you’re too concerned about, what it needs is power. Step up Sony’s latest desktop alternative in the form of the VAIO VGN-A397XP. One look at this machine and you know that it’s been designed for life on your desk.

Yes, there are people who will think that 4kg isn’t heavy and if you’re just walking out to the car and throwing it into the boot, you’d be right. The styling of the VAIO is pure Sony and why wouldn’t you want to carry it around, it’s a good-looking machine with iPod levels of “muggability”. However, carrying it around for even short spells makes you wish you’d opted for something a little smaller - unless you actually get mugged, when unlike the iPod, you could easily brain someone with it.

Matching the heavyweight laptop are its equally hard-hitting specifications. Designed around Intel’s Sonoma platform you’ll find the latest and fastest of everything. An Intel Pentium M 760 running at 2GHz delivers processing power. The use of the 915PM chipset means that you’ll find it running a 533MHz Front Side Bus. Adding support to this competent processor is 512MB DDRII memory. Ample data storage is provided by a Hitachi 80GB hard drive, aided in performance by a 5400rpm rotational speed.

What this means in everyday terms is that you’ll be able to run any application on the VGN-A397XP with ease. Whether you’re simply running office applications or trying to make the most of multimedia, such as editing video and audio files, you’ll find there is plenty of power in the VAIO to handle it.

When it comes to checking your work, the 17-inch screen is stunning. Using the now commonplace Sony X-black technology, images are sharp and crisp and really show digital images to their best advantage. We were a little surprised to find that Sony hadn’t gone the whole hog with the graphics, opting for an ATI Mobility Radeon X600 rather than the faster X800. However, with a 3Dmark 2003 score of 3200, there is little to complain too loudly about as you’ll still be able to get a good frame rate in all the latest games.

An added bonus comes in the shape of the VAIO's optical drive. A Sony DVD Multi-Drive supports DVD+/-RW, as well as dual-layer DVD+R creation. Writing data to two layers on compatible discs, this doubles the storage space available from DVD+R up to a whopping 9.4GB from a single disc. A wide range of software is also included free with the A397XP, covering many requirements. Wireless connectivity is provided by 802.11g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth options. For fixed networks, optimum data transfer speeds are available from the included gigabit Ethernet connectivity.

Verdict

With a battery life in the region of two hours when running Microsoft Office, you won't want to rely on this laptop to keep you working for long spells out in the garden. To be fair, it's not built with portability in mind, this VAIO is better suited to your living room where it can be used as either a family PC or as a gaming machine.