Reviews  

Sony Vaio VPCCB15FG

Eric Ernest 2011-08-21
82 Very Good
Price: Rs 54,990

Full Review

The first thing you notice, right of the bat, about the Sony Vaio VPCCB15FG laptop is its 'vibrant' colouring. For our test piece that colour would be green. Yes that's right, green - a colour choice which evoked plenty of not too flattering comments from my office colleagues. While visually it definitely sticks out from the rest of the laptop crowd, let's see whether this holds true at the performance end of the spectrum as well.


Design
The VPCCB15FG laptop has a translucent plastic green back lid with the Vaio design imprinted in the middle and a smaller size Sony logo at the top. This same translucent plastic moulding extends to the palmrest and the area above the keyboard - not covering the keyboard, screen bezel and the bottom of the laptop. It has to be noted that this green plastic form does attract its' fair share of finger impressions and smudges.

The laptop features a full sized chiclet style keyboard with the multi-gesture touchpad located below the keyboard, positioned towards the left end.  A dark bezel borders the 15.5-inch LED backlit screen, and together with the backlit keyboard's dark colouring, provides for a pleasing contrast to the surrounding green tone. In my opinion, this colour contrast has a better visual appeal than if the entire latop was coloured in one colour.



In line with Sony's promotion of this series' vivid colours, the other colouring options for this particular series are orange and black. Sony offers a washable keyboard skin - which also comes in a variety of colours, and costs Rs. 1690 - that fits over your keyboard and keeps it clean. While we didn’t get this for our review unit, it should come in handy given how the keyboard keys, due to the backlighting feature, are slightly elevated and consequently has spaces underneath them where crumbs could get in.

The Vaio laptop weighs 2.8-kg with a six-cell battery, which is comparably heavier than other laptops we have reviewed - it's important to note here that given the laptops designated use indoors, this shouldn’t be a point to really fret about.

Features
This Vaio laptop comes with a good 15.5 inch full-HD screen - this is very good feature for a laptop with such screen dimensions. The viewing angles are good from the horizontal axis and to a lesser extent the vertical axis - the view from the top vertical axis is good, however the view from the bottom axis gives a darkish hue to the on screen picture. As with most mainstream laptops that have a glossy screen, the Vaio's screen reflective nature will be an irritant at times. Having said that, viewing videos, images or text on the Vaio's screen is a pleasant experience.

The laptop holds true to the saying that "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" - some folks will like it, but even more folks will not be too appreciative of certain colour choices - such as the green, orange and the even more "vibrant" pink in some of the other models. Nevertheless, it's always good to see companies come up with something new in laptop designs every now and then. The laptop's plastic translucent-like properties allows for the edge of the back lid as well as the touch pad to appear glowing.



The laptops' plastic appearance should not detract from the fact that it has a good build quality. The power button is located at the top right of the keyboard, next to the "Vaio", "Web", and "Assist" shortcut buttons. The speakers are placed along the same horizontal as these buttons, with one speaker extension at each of the right and left ends. There's a 1.3-megapixel (MP) webcam placed at the top of the laptop's screen bezel.

Keyboard Usability
The keyboard’s multi-gesture enabled touchpad was generally very responsive, and so were the dual mouse buttons.

The keyboard, which has chiclet style keys, is very comfortable to type on and provides good tactile feedback. This is not a downside to the keyboard, but just my personal observation, that the arrow buttons could have been larger in size. The keyboard's backlight feature adds a nice touch to typing under dark or low light settings - It lights up when the ambient light dims out to a particular level.


Hardware
Under the hood, the Sony Vaio VPCCB15FG laptop features a Intel second generation 2.30 Ghz Intel Core i5-2410M (Sandy Bridge) processor, 4GB DDR3 RAM, on-board Intel HD graphics and AMD Radeon 6630M graphics with 1GB of RAM (the laptop automatically switches between the discrete and integrated graphics of the CPU, as and when required) and a 500GB (7200 RPM) hard drive. A point to keep in mind with the switchable graphics mode in this laptop is that unlike in laptops with Nvidia's switchable graphics, we were unable to manually force the entire system to choose a single graphics option (you aren't allowed to run either the AMD/Intel graphics exclusively). However there is a rather tedious process by which a prompt, which pops up whenever a new application is run, will ask you which graphics option to enable for all the individual programs. I have to say that having to go through the trouble of choosing which graphics option to use, each time a new application was run was rather cumbersome.



The laptop has three USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, Gigabit Ethernet port, VGA port, HDMI, headphone and microphone jacks, DVD writer and a multi-card reader. It also features Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/ n and Bluetooth 2.1 wireless connectivity.  There is also a handy switch for enabling/disabling wireless network (both wireless internet and Bluetooth) connectivity - and unlike most other laptops which use symbols, the "Wireless" tag is written right above the toggle and the "off" and "on" positions are clearly labelled.  This makes it visually intuitive for the user to enable/disable wireless connectivity.



More details can be seen on this review's "Specifications" page.




Software
The laptop comes pre-installed with Windows 7 Home Premium. The Sony Vaio laptop also comes with its own handy software bundle. One such feature is the quick web access. By pressing the "Web" button, when the system is switched off, the system initializes a browser type interface which allows you to just browse the net. This feature starts up pretty quickly, and if you are in a hurry and just want to check some important information online without having to go through the process of the entire system starting up, the "quick web access" feature is invaluable. The browser used is the Splashtop Browser which comes under the Mozilla Public license. If you press the "Web" button, when the computer is already running, it will open the systems default web browser (I.E, Firefox, Chrome)

The other button is the "Assist" button which upon pressing starts up the "Vaio Care Rescue". Just like the "Web" button, this can be accessed without having to enter into the main OS installation. When the system is already on, pressing this shortcut button will open the "Vaio Care 6.3" program, which is a feature that allows you to troubleshoot problems, run maintenance and tune up facilities and other related utilities.

When the system is already on, pressing the "Vaio" shortcut button will open the Media Gallery player, which is a feature that allows you to access your photos, videos and music all through one interface. You should keep in mind that this all-in-one feature is already provided by Windows, but the Media Gallery player does have its charm, in other words "Gesture Enabled" controls - a very cool feature indeed. You can use hand gestures in front of the inbuilt camera and according to your movement, as predefined in the program's settings, you can pause a playing song, move to the next/previous song/picture. I did get quite a few weird glances from people passing by who thought I was merely waving my hand at the laptop for no particular reason.

Among the other software included in the laptop was the Microsoft Starter 2010 Edition - quite useful as this is not a trial version - which features Word Starter 2010 and Excel Starter 2010. Other software included are the PMB Vaio edition for managing your photos; Arcsoft Web companion 4 for capturing images and video - with an added video monitor mode; Vaio Control Centre for configuring various system settings; Vaio Gate which comes up as a popup from the top of the screen whenever you move the cursor there, and provides easy access to apps and links - it has to be pointed out that some folks might find this functionality rather irritating; Evernote for Vaio; McAfee PC Security Center 30 day trial: Vaio Data Restore Tool; Vaio Media Plus; Vaio Transfer Support. A point to keep in mind is that most of the software mentioned, is redundant with Windows already providing similar functionality. 


Performance
The Sony Vaio laptop had a score of 114 on the Worldbench 6 benchmark - for comparisons sake, that would be 2 points more than the Acer Aspire 5755G. This Vaio laptop should be more than capable of performing most multiple processor and memory intensive tasks without any issues.

During synthetic testing, the laptop's hard disk recorded an average read speed of 82 MB/s and a PC Mark Vantage score of 6828.

As with any system running switchable graphics, the performance difference between the Intel and AMD adapters in 3DMark06 is quite telling: the discrete card scored nearly double that of the integrated graphics (3285 for the Intel adapter and 6442 for the NVIDIA). FarCry 2, played at 1024x768, DirectX 10 mode, AA 2x, and 'Ultra High' settings, registered a average frame rate of 32.90 fps. For Metro 2033, played at 1024x768, DirectX 11, Very High Quality, AAA, AF 4X, and all settings maxed out registered 10.20 fps. Given these scores, playing games at low to medium settings, would make for a comparatively smoother sailing for gamers.

Watching both 720p and 1080p HD videos is a pleasure on the Full HD screen. The sound output from the built in speakers, is appropriately loud for a small-medium sized room, but it does sound very shrill. Listening through headphones would be the best option.

Throughout our testing, the Sony Vaio did a good job of keeping itself cool, which is a positive aspect for any laptop. However, you do notice that the section of the bottom part of the laptop that is next to the exhaust heats up slightly. Moreover, the laptop was barely audible during operation, which is another positive feature of this laptop.

The laptop's six-cell battery lasted for 1 hour 4 minutes through one of our battery tests, at high performance mode, and having the wireless connectivity mode enabled. Having said that, you should be able to extract around 2.5 hours out of the laptop's battery for doing lighter every-day work such as browsing the web and listening to music. But despite the Vaio laptop registering a lower battery life than most other mainstream laptops, given the configuration of this laptop and its intended use indoors, battery life shouldn’t be a major concern.


Upgradability
There are two covers at the bottom of the laptop that can be opened – one at the bottom-left section which is bordered on its top right side by the second cover. The cover at the left contains the hard disk and the neighbouring cover contains the memory modules. There are two memory slots, one of which is occupied by a 4 GB memory module. You can upgrade the memory to a total of 8GB by adding another memory module. Removing the cover for the hard disk slot was very easy - you don’t have to expend that much effort in opening this slot when compared to most other laptops. Removing the memory slot cover was comparatively harder although still easier than opening slots in most mainstream laptops.

Bottom Line

As far as appearances go, the Sony Vaio VPCCB15FG  is definitely a unique laptop, and one that everyone will notice no matter where you go. That the laptop delivers on the performance side of things, and has features such as full-HD screen, good backlit keyboard, are a big plus for this laptop. Putting all of these factors into perspective and you realise that the price tag on this unit is not that high. Keeping in mind that you genuinely like the colour choices for this unit, the Sony Vaio VPCCB15FG  is a good contender as a home entertainment and multimedia laptop and one that you should definitely check out.


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