Sony VAIO PCG-FX109K

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  • Editors' rating
    7.7 Very good

Pros

  • Fast, feature-packed and well built.

Cons

  • Bulky and expensive
  • no PS/2 or infrared ports
  • moderate battery life.

The PCG-FX109K is the flagship of Sony's FX100 series of notebooks, and offers power and features without seriously compromising portability. At £2,809 (ex. VAT) you pay quite handsomely for all this, but if you're after a fully-featured desktop replacement notebook and you're prepared to pay for it, look no further.

This is no ultraportable: weighing 3.1kg minimum and measuring 32.4cm by 26.6cm by 5.5cm it's neither small nor light -- and it gets heavier if you include the floppy drive or a second battery. But what Sony has managed to fit into this case is pretty remarkable.

The 15in. TFT display has a native resolution of 1,400 by 1,050 pixels, which is bettered only by Dell's top-of-the-range Inspiron 8000 with its 1,600 by 1,200 pixel display. To fit the screen into the lid, the bezel is only a centimetre wide, but fortunately the lid itself is quite stiff, which should minimise the chances of damage in transit. In addition to the standard VGA socket on the back panel, there's also a TV-out connector, allowing you to make presentations on a TV screen, or watch a DVD movie. A supplied adapter cable for the TV-out port connects to a composite video socket.

The fixed optical media drive is a combined DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive, which should cover most needs. There's also a floppy drive built-in, but this can be removed and replaced with a weight saver if you don't need it. You can also use the slot for a second battery. The 30GB IBM TravelStar 30GT hard drive is a 4,200rpm UltraATA/66 device. This isn't that fast, and in a notebook equipped for video editing you might expect something quicker.

The FX109K is fitted with a 400Mbit/s i.LINK (IEEE 1394) interface, which is primarily intended for connecting to digital video equipment. You can also attach external hard disks or use the connection for high-speed networking, since TCP/IP is preinstalled. More conventional networking is catered for by a built-in 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet connection, and there's an internal V.90 modem provided too. There are two USB ports, one on each side of the rear panel, plus serial and parallel ports, but no PS/2 or infrared ports. A pair of CardBus-compatible Type II PC Card slots should handle any option not already included in this notebook, such as 802.11b wireless networking or Bluetooth connectivity. Curiously for Sony, there's no Memory Stick slot in the FX109K.

Powering all this hardware is an 850MHz Mobile Pentium III processor. The FX109K comes with 128MB SDRAM fitted, leaving one SO-DIMM slot free for expansion up to a maximum of 512MB. This combination gives a respectable Business Winstone score of 26.3 -- not the fastest we've tested by any means, but speedy nonetheless. With a single battery you get just over two hours of use at full power. This isn't great, but battery life can be extended via Intel's SpeedStep CPU technology and by judicious use of power management settings.

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Windows 2000 Professional is preinstalled, and Sony bundles a range of mostly image-related software. This includes MovieShaker and Adobe Premier 5.1 LE for video editing, PictureGear for stills, and InterVideo's WinDVD software MPEG player. DVgate allows video capture over the i.LINK interface, and Adaptec Direct CD and Easy CD Creator allow you to create discs with the CD-RW drive.

The VAIO PCG-FX109K provides plenty of features and delivers the performance to support them. However, it does this at a hefty price, even for a desktop replacement system.

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