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(Pocket-lint) - There was a time when the release of a new Sony notebook was a cause to rejoice, not only did you get innovative new designs but you also got a certain degree of kudos for owning one.

However, as prices have dropped and dropped, Sony has had to release a more affordable range of models that hit a price point rather than an expectation point. Sony isn’t to blame for this; it’s the market demanding cheaper and cheaper machines.

That may sound like a negative introduction, it’s not supposed to be, it’s just that Sony produce some amazing notebooks – we love the S and TX series, for instance - so it’s hard to see who the VAIO VGN-FE21H is actually aimed at.

Is it the person who simply wants a Sony, or is it actually the best notebook in it’s price class? After all, it looks like a Sony but the build quality isn’t as strong as we’ve come to expect, with the plastic feeling a little weak in parts.

Weighing in at 2.8kg, it’s semi-portable and the 3 hour battery life is fine, especially considering it's got an Intel Core Duo T2300 (1.66GHz) powering things.

With 1024MB of DDR2 memory and a 100GB hard drive rounding things out, this is as decent a specification you’ll find for the price. However, we found it ran sluggish and didn’t really instil any confidence in us for the long term.

You’ll find a 15.4-inch X-black screen, which is very much what we’ve come to expect from Sony and graphics are handled by the nVidia GeForce Go 7400 graphics card, which is a mainstream, rather than high-end, option. While it handles things fine, it’s not exactly over-endowed in the gaming area.

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The keyboard is of a good size and has an almost retro styling. The keys are weighted, so when you click them you can feel the effect, which is a nice touch and makes for a far smoother typing action. The touchpad has the same widescreen aspect as the panel, which makes navigation easier and while the mouse keys are small and tucked away at the front of the case, they proved responsive.

You’ll find a DVD rewriter built-in and the standard array of ports and connectivity we’ve come to expect from a notebook. We used the VAIO for a couple of weeks and while there were no real problems with it, there is nothing compelling about it, either. It’s simply another affordable portable.


The Sony VAIO VGN-FE21H may not be the best notebook the company offers but its offers a decent specification at a decent price.

If it must be a Sony you buy, we’d suggest saving a little longer and opting for something a little more high-end. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with the VAIO VGN-FE21H, simply that it’s a run-of-the-mill notebook that doesn’t really stand out from the other machines in this price bracket.

Writing by Mike Browne. Originally published on 21 August 2006.