The idea of the multimedia notebook isn't exactly new, as most manufacturers have promised to deliver and done little more than put a TV tuner into a portable. When it comes to multimedia there can be no one better than Sony. However, rather than take the Toshiba route, with its Qosmio, and offer a high-end, all-in-one solution, Sony is taking its own path.
For all intents and purposes, the Sony VAIO VGN-FS215Z is a standard notebook with an external docking station supplied. The multimedia comes in the form of the built-in TV tuner and remote control unit. You'll also find a quality pair of speakers, which is far better than using the notebook's own. As a solution, it means you can watch TV when at home and take the notebook on the move with you, without the need of being weighed down.
The VAIO itself is everything we have come to expect from the latest specification, as it comes with Intel's latest chipset, so you'll find Wi-Fi in the form of 802.11g built-in as standard, as well as enough battery life to see you through three hours with ease.
Weighing in at 2.9kg, you'll be glad that Sony has left most of the media weight in the docking station, as this isn't the lightest of notebooks. Powered by an Intel Pentium M 740 (1.73GHz) and 512MB of memory, it isn't the most powerful system available but it's quick and nimble enough to deal with most tasks. If you need to do some serious video or audio editing you may find that a memory upgrade is in order but in the main, it'll suit the typical user. The addition of a 100GB hard drive means you can store plenty of media files without the need of resorting to the built-in DVD rewriter, which supports dual-layer recording so you'll be able to store up to 16GB on a single double-sided disc.
When we think of multimedia we also think of playing games. After all, why have quality speakers and not put them to the test? Such a pity then that Sony has fitted the VAIO with the nVidia GeForce Go 6200, which is a less than cutting-edge graphics card. With 128MB of memory on-board it'll handle games with ease and when really put to the test, it'll source any spare 128MB from the system's main memory. However, with only 512MB in the system, this will seriously hamper performance so you may as well budget for an upgrade right from the start.
In use, the docking station and TV Tuner combination work well. Attaching the VAIO is as simple as setting it down on top of the unit, and all features are immediately available for use. Tuning TV stations is an automated process, and done using the included VAIO Launcher software.
As a hybrid solution, the VAIO is an affordable and flexible notebook. At the price it’s worth serious consideration but there are a few problems, namely in the less than cutting-edge specification and second-division graphics. When we think of multimedia notebooks we often think of all-in-one wonders like the Toshiba Qosmio range. However, Sony’s take on it means you get the flexibility of a portable with the additional power when you need it most - in the home.