Sony Vaio E-series notebook (SVE14A15FNB) Review
- Stable performance
- Looks good
- Can game a bit
- Excellent battery life, for such a power package
- A bit too much use of plastic
The Sony Vaio E-series is impressive. It doesn't cost an arm and a leg, puts up a sophisticated show on the spec sheet, and most importantly, that translates into steady performance coupled with very good battery life. Critically, it looks more expensive than it actually is, just adding to the overall value package.
After the extremely blingy Vaio S-series, the new E-series does look a million times more subtle and appealing to a wider demographic of users. And on the spec sheet too, this one does look to pack quite a punch, something that is probably going to get a bit more attention thanks to the sweet price tag!
Build & Design
The moment this laptop emerges from the box, your attention is going to get torn between multiple visual elements. The first is the black finish that gets a thin red border almost around all sides of the laptop. The second one is the lid is slightly smaller than the base area, which is a standout design.
The matte black finish does have a slightly shiny element to it, but doesn’t catch dust and scratches, since it isn’t exactly a glossy finish. On the lid is the small Sony logo and a bigger VAIO logo in the middle. Framing the lid is a red stripe. Open it, and the same matte finish carries on around the keyboard and on the bezel, albeit in silver colour. This finish does spill over for a bit to where the keypad begins. You can see quite a dash of red here, around the individual keys. Even the touchpad is ringed with the red goodness!
Generous amount of real estate has been afforded to both the touchpad as well as the palmrest on both sides. The keyboard does feel well spaced out, and the quick access keys seem to have come back into fashion.
Port placement is spread around the side spines – 4 USB ports (all 3.0 variety), HDMI out, Ethernet as well as the optical drive. No experimentation with placing the ports on the back. The cooling vent seems to be quite generous, and actually it is needed, since the machine inevitably heats up when taxed.
Overall, the Sony Vaio E-series has excellent build quality and this one definitely feels more expensive than it actually is. The differential dimensions of the lid and the rest of the laptop also add a funky touch to the overall visual element.
Features & Specifications
On paper, the Vaio E-series does look quite powerful. This is powered by the Intel Core i5–2450M (2.5GHz) processor, with the Turbo Mode taking it to 3.1GHz. There is 4GB of RAM to help this along. Just to make it clear, this isn’t from the latest Ivy Bridge series of processors, but the previous gen Sandy Bridge one.
The graphics bit is handled by the Intel HD 3000 graphics and the AMD Radeon 7670M (1GB) graphics. The resultant performance is decidedly mid-range, something that we will explain in the performance section.
Sony has sent this laptop along with a 640GB hard drive, and while we cant really criticize that, it would have been ideal to have a 750GB drive, something the Toshiba Satellite L850 offers. Incidentally, the review unit shared with us didn’t have an OS restore partition, and the Sony website also does not specify if the laptop will be shipped with restore media or not.
The 14-inch display on the Vaio E-series is among the best we have seen in the last couple of months, across all laptops that we have tested. Partly helped by the 1600x900 pixel resolution, which is more than the standard 1366x768 pixels that are common in laptops in this price bracket. Also, while this technically isn’t completely non-reflective, it does put forward a better foot than some of the rivals. The display is natively quite bright, but lesser than the displays on the Dell Inspiron 14R Special Edition and the Acer Aspire V3 (read our review).
The keyboard is very well spaced out indeed, something that better ergonomics and placement techniques have ensured that even 14-inch laptops don’t sacrifice on typing comfort. This one is very good to type documents on, and with adequate spacing between the keys very conducive to typing quickly. The key travel isn’t perfect though, but that is something that you’ll probably get used to over time. Also, just an observation – the keys have a hollow thud while typing, and miss out on the chunky response.
No shortage in terms of connectivity options. There are four USB ports on the machine, and all the USB 3.0 variety. Safe to say this has been made with the future in mind! There is the HDMI out as well, and the optical drive.
The machine comes with Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) preloaded, and actually loaded on top of that with a bunch of Sony utilities and third party trial-wares. And we kid you not when we say that uninstalling them completely, running a registry cleaner and removing all other unnecessary apps from the startup made this machine 50% quicker in real time usage scenarios that it was out of the box. We wonder every single time we test a laptop as to why manufacturers want to slow down the performance of their own systems in such a shabby way!
The power package is quite neat, and there is no doubt that this one will offer better performance than what a laptop in this price bracket usually does. Considering this one is still on the Sandy Bridge platform, we will not be comparing it against any Ivy Bridge laptops.
To start off, we ran the PC Mark Vantage benchmark, and we got a score of 7039. Compare this to the score that the Acer Aspire V3 got – 7469, with exactly the same processor and RAM.
The next benchmark is the PCMark 07, and here the Vaio showed its hand a bit with a score of 2219 as against the 2055 for the Aspire V3. Essentially, that we have here are two laptops priced around Rs 10000 apart, but with very similar system performance. At the end of the day, you may argue that the benchmarks aren’t the end of the world, and this is where the real world usage experience kicks in. Between the two, we could hardly find a winner when used under a typical daily usage scenario!
With the AMD Radeon 7670M (1GB) graphics on board, a lot was expected from the Vaio in terms of what the gamers are sort of looking for. The 3DMark 06 score of 8523 and the 3DMark 11 score of 1881 (Entry), 1190 (Performance) and 375 (Extreme) is consistently more than what the Nvidia GT630M can offer. However, the Vaio scores surprisingly less in the Unigene Heaven benchmark, with a score of just 16 FPS. We verified this multiple times, and even double checked if the graphics driver updates that we had downloaded were actually the latest! We can only say that this one will appeal to the casual gamer, bit despite the spec sheet, will disappoint anyone who wants a bit more gaming from the laptop.
Where the Vaio E-series redeems itself is in the Battery Life test. This one lasted 2 hours and 34 minutes from full charge to complete discharge in the test – in High Performance mode. Essentially, under a lighter daily usage pattern, you are looking at anywhere between 3.5 hours to 4 hours backup from the stock battery pack. This is very good, and for a laptop this powerful, it is actually creditable this is coming so close to what the ultrabooks claim to offer with battery life.
During this review, you may have noticed that we may have compared the Vaio E-series with the Acer Aspire V3 at multiple points. The idea was to compare how two similar hardware packages tend to differ in terms of the final performance in different machines. However, there is a price difference of Rs 10000 between the two, and why someone considering the Sony Vaio E-series may not consider the Aspire V3, and vice versa, simply because both are aimed at different demographics – different display sizes and vastly different battery performance.
For a box price of Rs 55,990, the Vaio E-series offers good performance and looks very well while doing it. However, the real cherry on the cake is the excellent battery life that it offers, something we honestly did not expect. This is the machine to have if your usage scenario will require good performance, very good battery life and can handle a bit of gaming.
Check out our video review of the Sony Vaio SVE14A15FNB below:
Contact: Sony India