- ✓Powerful and well-equipped, with a good range of connectivity features.
- ✕It's heavy, the display isn't perfect and you're paying a premium for the brand.
The VAIO PCG-FX109K's term as the flagship of Sony's notebook range has ended, the new PCG-FX209K stepping in to take its place. This 1GHz desktop replacement system is more powerful than portable, and shares most of its predecessor's looks.
The FX209K is a fast system, thanks to the 1GHz Mobile Pentium III processor tucked inside the black and blue magnesium alloy/plastic chassis, but the components installed alongside are less impressive in a system designed for digital video/audio convergence. The 128MB of SDRAM seems a little miserly, while the 30GB IBM hard disk drive could be larger (and faster) if you're going do a lot of video editing.
The 15in. TFT display is large, but it suffers from some of the faults that occur when you attempt to make a 1,400 by 1,050 LCD portable. Curtaining is visible across the bottom of the screen, and there are uniformity errors where the panel is clamped at the edges. We were also disappointed to find a stuck pixel at the left-hand edge of the screen. You can drive a second monitor from the FX209K's rear VGA port, and there's also a TV-out port that's useful for displaying video or viewing DVD movies.
An integrated DVD/CD-RW combo drive is included, which provides a removable storage medium and allows you to playback DVD movies without having to swap drives. The floppy drive on the right-hand side is removable, which is convenient as the FX209K is a cumbersome device, weighing 3.5kg with one battery and the floppy drive fitted, or 3.3kg with the floppy drive replaced by a weight saver.
As you'd expect from a VAIO, the FX209K features an i.LINK (IEEE 1394) port, which provides a high-speed 400Mbit/s connection for external hard disks, networking or, primarily, digital video equipment. Sony has installed its usual raft of (frankly hit-and-miss) A/V utilities, but has also included Adobe Premiere 5.1 LE, along with a digital video plug-in for capturing and editing raw DV footage via i.LINK. The FX209K has no dedicated video processing hardware, but the 1GHz processor certainly helps to reduce the time taken to process special effects and render video streams in Premiere.
At just short of two and a half hours, the battery life of this Windows 2000-based system is pretty much what you'd expect -- which is to say, not particularly impressive. You can push it a little further with power management, but if it's still not enough, you'll need to fit a second battery in place of the floppy disk drive. Two Type II PC Card slots are included, as well as a built-in Conexant-Ambit V.90 56Kbit/s modem and Intel Pro 100 Ethernet controller. You also get two USB ports, but no Memory Stick slot, PS/2 or infrared port.
With a Business Winstone 2001 result of 28.2, the FX209K is more than powerful enough to cope with mainstream tasks, while its Content Creation Winstone 2001 score of 31.2 shows that it's well up to high-end duties too. It gives the impression of being rugged enough to handle the rough and tumble of portable use, but is just too expensive. It's by no means the only notebook with a 1GHz processor, a large LCD and IEEE 1394 connectivity, so you might want to shop around before settling on this one.