The popular perception of Sony notebooks is that they’re the best on the market. So much so, whenever we asked to recommend a notebook, the first question as is often "should I get a Sony" or "is it as good as a Sony"? This is because Sony has always produced cutting-edge machines that you pay a premium for but the quality is always spot on.
In recent times, though, we’ve seen a number of budget machines appear aimed directly at the home user and the CR Series is the latest.
Available in a range of different colours, you can choose from pink straight through to a blood red and at first glance they look great.
Weighing in at 2.5kg, it’s a reasonably light machine but this is due in part to the use of a 14.1-inch Super-TFT display. Images look sharp and bright and when we watched a couple of movies on it, we were impressed. You'll also find media buttons on the front of the chassis, making it easy to control your films at the touch of a button.
When it comes to getting a little more out of the screen, such as playing games, there is the ATi Mobility Radeon X2300 card fitted, which is an entry-level GPU, so it can handle games with a reasonable amount of success. However, we found this wasn’t the case as the system ran sluggishly slow.
The build quality of the machine is reasonable but from the finsihs to can see where Sony has saved money, as it lacks the quality of the more expensive VAIO machines – even though it’s based on the same design as found on the TZ series. The keyboard takes up plenty of space on the main body so we were a little surprised to find the keys were rather small and awkward to use. This keyboard is certainly not up to Sony’s usual standard.
Powered by an Intel 2GHz Core 2 Duo T7250 and backed by 2048MB of DDR2 memory, this machine shouldn’t show any signs of slowing down when running in standard mode. However, with Windows Vista Premium installed we soon found the system started to lag and slow down. This is due to this new chip having only 2MB of Level 2 cache, as opposed to 4MB on older chips. That said, it does have an 800MHz Front Side Bus, so it shouldn’t be too slow in when running single-threaded tasks.
When it comes to extra features, there are the standard Sony staples. A DVD rewriter is included for backing up files and, as always with Sony machines, a Memory Stick card reader is in place. Thankfully, this has also been added to with a SD card reader, which is far more wide spread, so you'll be able to transfer photos and other files easily from your digital camera.
The Sony VAIO VGN-CR21/Z is something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it’s a good looking machine but the build quality isn’t up to the usual Sony standard.
What’s more, while the specification should deliver great performance, we found it less than satisfactory. Sadly, this machine is a little too much style and not enough substance.