SONY VAIO VGN-FJ1S review

3.5 out of 5
£899

For

Cheap, handling, 80Gb built-in hard drive, graphics capabilities

Against

No cool factor, poor build quality

Let’s cut to the chase, when you’re thinking of buying a notebook there is one PC brand that makes it onto the shopping list without having to check out what’s on offer, and that’s a Sony VAIO. It’s not that they make the best or most affordable machines; it’s just that, unless you want to opt for an Apple, they come with a certain degree of “cool” built-in.

Which makes it a sad day when we have to inform you that the cool-factor is no longer a prerequisite of the VAIO. The VGN-FJ1S looks like a VAIO and in many respects acts like one but from the first use, it just didn’t feel right.

Sure, it’s built of the standard combination of magnesium-alloy on the lid and tough plastic on the interior but there proved an alarming amount of flex in the casing. Even the keyboard and mouse buttons were less than ideal. While they all worked competently, it just didn’t match up to the standard we have come to expect. There are better built machines that cost less than the asking price of this notebook.

With an overall weight of 2.4kg and a battery life lasting just over 3 hours in use, you’ll get a fair degree of mobility out of this system.

Maybe we’re expecting too much, after all, this notebook costs £899 (inc. VAT), so isn’t aimed at high-end spenders but it has to be repeated, there simply are better built machines at this price point.

So are there any redeeming features of this machine? Interesting, while the build didn’t impress, we liked how the VGN-FJ1S handled. Powered by an Intel 1.73GHz Pentium M 740 with 2MB Level 2 cache and 533MHz FSB, it handles daily tasks easily. Coupled with 512MB DDRII memory and fitted with 80GB of storage space, you won’t complain about what’s on offer. Such a specification will more than handle most tasks. However, it’s better suited to the mobile worker, as for home use, we’d have liked to see a little more raw power.

The same has to go for the graphics sub-system, which is the integrated Intel 915GM chipset. Fine for watching movies and the like, don’t think of impressing anyone with a spot of gaming - it just won’t handle it. In these days of big TFT screens, the 14.1-inch display appears quite small, although the 1280 x 768-pixel resolution provides a sharp and clear output. Built into the top of the display is the Motioneye camera that can be used to take photos and for video conferencing.

Connectivity covers the bases well, you’ll find Wi-Fi as well as fixed Ethernet and modem ports, along with the ubiquitous Memory Stick slot - when will Sony start to consider the addition of SD slots across the range, as they have with the high-end VGN-T1HX?

In terms of software it comes with Norton Internet Security 2005, Sony Sonicstage, Adobe Photoshop Elements 3 and Adobe Premier in addition to the standard spreadsheet and word-processing applications.

Verdict

There is a good deal of performance to be had from this notebook, as it's not short on power but we were less than impressed with its overall build quality. Better suited to the desk than it's portability would suggest, this is a Sony VAIO you can let people be envious of, just don't them touch it.