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Sony VAIO PCG-FX301

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Pros

  • Fast for its class
  • integrated networking
  • keen pricing.

Cons

  • Poor battery life
  • no expansion bus
  • somewhat basic warranty.

Sony has extended its range of budget notebooks with the addition of the VAIO PCG-FX301, which looks set to take over from the existing FX101 and FX201 models. The system is similar to the FX201, but incorporates a number of enhancements designed to keep it abreast with the competition from the likes of Compaq, Dell, NEC and Toshiba.

The FX301 is also one of the first notebooks to feature AMD's new 800MHz Mobile Duron processor, distinguished from the desktop version of the CPU by the inclusion of PowerNow! technology, which is designed to maximise battery life.

System memory has been increased from the paltry 64MB supplied with the FX201 to a more realistic 128MB of PC100 SDRAM. However, Sony has taken the view that a 10GB hard drive remains sufficient for a general-purpose notebook.

Physically, the FX301 is a sizeable system, and although it does slim slightly towards the front it's also fairly thick (45mm at the back when closed), so it doesn't have the elegant lines of some of Sony's more expensive notebooks. The weight is about average for a three-spindle design at 3.1kg -- which is another way of saying that this isn't an ideal choice for the regular traveller.

Build quality is acceptable but hardly top-notch, with the slightly hollow feel to the major mouldings that you often find with less expensive portables. That said, the FX301 is reasonably robust, although it has a plastic rather than a metal lid so the system will need to be treated with care if taken on the road.

The 8-speed Toshiba SD-C2502 DVD-ROM drive is fixed, but the floppy drive is modular and can be removed. The only option currently available to fit in its place, apart from a supplied blank which will shave 200g or so off the weight, is a secondary battery, which costs £169 (ex. VAT).

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The reasoning behind this becomes clear when you take a closer look at the primary battery, which is rated at a rather modest 1,700mAh rather than the more usual 3,600mAh. This is very apparent in the system's rundown time in PowerNow!'s High Performance Mode, which BatteryMark 4.01 reported as a very modest 1 hour and 11 minutes. PowerNow! Supports two other modes - Automatic and Battery Saver - that should deliver longer battery life.

Despite its reasonably modest price, the FX301 comes as standard with both an internal Conexant-Ambit Soft56K V.90 modem and a Realtek RTL8139 10/100 LAN adapter. The system is also well supplied with ports, including both serial and two USB connectors, IEEE 1394 (i.LINK), and TV-out. Only a PS/2 mouse/keyboard port is missing from the lineup.

Sony also deserves credit for not skimping on the screen, since the FX301 is equipped with a proper 14.1in XGA resolution TFT display rather than a smaller alternative. The screen is both bright and vivid, and delivers a high-quality image.

Performance is relatively good for an 800MHz processor, which bodes well for AMD's Mobile Duron: the FX301's Business Winstone 2001 score of 25.2 is more than creditable for a system in this price bracket.

If you're looking for a solid workhorse of a notebook, and you require brand-name support, you could do worse than choose Sony's VAIO PCG-FX301.

Specifications

Processor / Chipset
CPU AMD Duron 800 MHz
Cache L2 - 64 KB
Data Bus Speed 200 MHz
General
Recommended Use corporate business, small business
Operating System Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition
Memory
RAM 128 MB
Max Supported Size 256 MB
Technology SDRAM
Form Factor SO-DIMM 144-pin
Slots Qty 1
Empty Slots 1
Storage
Optical Drive 1 x DVD-ROM fixed
Compliant Standards CD-DA, CD-XA, CDi, Kodak PhotoCD
Read Speed 24x (CD) / 8x (DVD)
Type portable
Display
Resolution 1024 x 768 (XGA)
Widescreen Display No
Diagonal Size (metric) 35.8 cm
Display Resolution Abbreviation XGA
Audio & Video
Graphics Processor AGP - ATI RAGE Mobility - 8 MB SDRAM
Supported Display Graphics SVGA (800x600), SXGA (1280x1024), SXGA+ (1400x1050), VGA (640x480), XGA (1024x768)
Analogue Video Format NTSC, PAL
Sound Microphone
Compliant Standards AC '97
Input
Type keyboard, touchpad
Communications
Wired Protocol 10/100 Ethernet
Processor
Installed Qty 1
Max Supported Qty 1
Upgradability not upgradable
Type Duron
Manufacturer AMD
Clock Speed 800 MHz
AC Adapter
Input AC 110/240 V ± 10% (50/60 Hz)
Connections & Expansion
Expansion Bays 1 x front accessible
Slots 2 x CardBus (2 free)
1 x memory (1 free)
Interfaces 1 x docking / port replicator
2 x USB 4 pin USB Type A
1 x parallel - IEEE 1284 (EPP/ECP) - 25 pin D-Sub (DB-25)
1 x headphones - output - mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
1 x microphone - input - mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
1 x modem - phone line - RJ-11
1 x network - Ethernet 10Base-T/100Base-TX - RJ-45
1 x display / video - VGA - 15 pin HD D-Sub (HD-15)
1 x serial - RS-232C - 9 pin D-Sub (DB-9)
1 x IEEE 1394 (FireWire) 4 PIN FireWire
1 x display / video - S-video output - 4 pin mini-DIN
Header
Brand Sony
Product Line Sony VAIO
Model PCG-FX301
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC
Networking
Max Transfer Rate 56 Kbps
Data Link Protocol Ethernet, Fast Ethernet
Compliant Standards IEEE 802.3, IEEE 802.3u
System
Notebook Type notebook
Platform Windows
Hard Drive Capacity 10 GB
Miscellaneous
Colour gray
Integrated Options Microphone, stereo speakers, keyboard, touchpad, display
Dimensions & Weight
Width 32.4 cm
Depth 26.6 cm
Height 3.6 cm
Monitor
Diagonal Size 14.1 in
Native Resolution 1024 x 768
Colour Support 24-bit (16.7 million colors)
Mainboard
Data Bus Speed 200 MHz
Cache Memory
Type L2 cache
Installed Size 64 KB
RAM
Form Factor SO-DIMM 144-pin
Technology SDRAM
Installed Size 128 MB
Max Supported Size 256 MB
Slots Qty 1
Empty Slots 1
Physical Characteristics
Form Factor portable
Weight 3.1 kg
Hard Drive
Type HDD
Installed Qty 1
Capacity 10 GB
Power
Voltage Required AC 110/240 V
Compliant Standards EPA Energy Star
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition
Type Drivers & Utilities, McAfee VirusScan, Norton AntiVirus, Picture Gear, RealAudio Player, WinDVD
Optical Storage
Drive Type DVD
Type DVD-ROM
Form Factor fixed
Video Output
Graphics Processor ATI RAGE Mobility
Graphics Processor Series ATI RAGE Mobility
Video Memory
Technology SDRAM
Installed Size 8 MB
Expansion Bays
Total Qty 1
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty
Service Included parts and labor
Location carry-in
Full Contract Period 1 year

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