'

Sony VAIO PCG-FX604

sony-vaio-fx604-lead.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good

Pros

  • Solid, unfussy all-in-one design
  • good ergonomics
  • reasonable performance and battery life
  • large 15in. screen.

Cons

  • XGA screen resolution doesn't do justice to its 15in. size
  • too bulky and heavy for regular mobile use.

Sony's FX600 range of AMD-based all-in-one notebooks has been upgraded with four models, the 15in.-screen FX605 and FX604, and the 14.1in.-screen FX602 and FX601. The 605 and 604 models are differentiated by their CPUs (Mobile Athlon 1500+ and 1.1GHz Mobile Duron) and hard disk capacity (30GB and 20GB), while the 602 and 601 differ in their optical drives (DVD/CD-RW and DVD-ROM). We looked at the 1.1GHz, 15in.-screen, 20GB-drive FX604 model, which costs £1,104 (ex. VAT).

Sony's VAIO range is perhaps best known for combining eye-catching design with the latest technology, but there are plenty of 'bread and butter' products in there too, and the FX604 certainly falls into the latter category. Not that it's in any way ugly: it features Sony's familiar dark purple styling and has a reasonably solid construction, measuring 32.4cm wide by 26.5 cm deep by 3.58cm high and weighing 3.32kg (rising to 3.78kg with the AC adapter). Our review configuration featured a DVD/CD-RW combo drive in the fixed optical bay and a floppy drive in the modular bay, but the latter can be replaced with a weight saver or a second battery (£143.83 ex. VAT) if necessary.

As mentioned above, the FX604 is built around AMD's Mobile Duron processor running at 1.1GHz. This CPU has only 64KB of on-die Level 2 cache compared to the Mobile Athlon's 256KB -- and both AMD processors fall short of the 512KB of L2 cache seen in Intel's latest mobile chips. Our review system, like all of the new FX 600 models, came with 256MB of SDRAM, expandable to 512MB, and had Windows XP Home Edition preloaded.

The FX 604's TFT display is large enough at 15in., but the combination of its native 1,024 by 768 resolution and Windows XP's rather profligate interface doesn't really exploit the screen space on offer. ATI's 8MB 3D Rage Mobility-M1 graphics chipset does a perfectly good job with 2D acceleration, but despite its name isn't really up to handling demanding 3D games. The keyboard is particularly responsive and easy to use, and the system unit has tilt feet at the back that allow you to achieve a comfortable typing position.

The FX604 is reasonably well kitted out with ports and connectors. Serial, parallel, VGA and wired Ethernet ports reside behind a drop-down flap at the back, where you'll also find a pair of USB 1.1 ports and a modem port. The left-hand side is home to a stacked pair of CardBus Type II PC Card slots, plus a four-pin IEEE 1394 port, audio (microphone, headphone) and video-out ports. Infrared has long been absent from Sony's notebooks, while 802.11b wireless networking will have to be supported via an optional PC Card (£109.79 ex. VAT) if required.

As far as performance is concerned, the FX604 is steady rather than screaming -- as you'd expect from its specification. The FX604's Business Winstone 2001 score of 30.1 isn't great, but it should have no problem running mainstream productivity applications. The Content Creation Winstone score of 17.1 suggests that it might prove a little sluggish with more demanding programs. Battery life of two hours and nine minutes under BatteryMark 4.01 is reasonable given that you're unlikely to use this 3.32kg system on the road much -- and if you do need more uptime away from the mains, there's always the option of the second battery.

Top ZDNET Reviews

The VAIO PCG-FX604 can't be described as exciting, but it's well designed, has a big screen and a good keyboard, and performs well so long as you don't expect too much from it. That adds up to pretty good value from a £1,104 (ex. VAT) all-in-one notebook.

Specifications

Processor / Chipset
CPU AMD Duron 1.1 GHz
Cache L2 - 64 KB
Data Bus Speed 200 MHz
General
Recommended Use home use, small business
Operating System Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
Memory
Max Supported Size 512 MB
Technology SDRAM
Slots Qty 2
Empty Slots 1
Storage
Optical Drive 1 x CD-RW / DVD-ROM combo fixed
Type none
Read Speed 24x (CD) / 8x (DVD)
Write Speed 8x
CD / DVD Rewrite Speed 8x
Type portable
Display
Resolution 1024 x 768 (XGA)
Widescreen Display No
Diagonal Size (metric) 38.1 cm
Display Resolution Abbreviation XGA
Audio & Video
Graphics Processor AGP - ATI RAGE Mobility M1 - 8 MB SDRAM
Supported Display Graphics SVGA (800x600), SXGA (1280x1024), SXGA+ (1400x1050), UXGA (1600x1200), VGA (640x480), XGA (1024x768)
Analogue Video Format NTSC, PAL
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 1.1 GHz
Modem
Protocols & Specifications ITU V.90, Hayes AT command set
Connections & Expansion
Expansion Bays 1 x front accessible
Slots 2 x memory (1 free)
1 x PC Card (1 free)
Header
Brand Sony
Product Line Sony VAIO
Model PCG-FX604
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC
Networking
Max Transfer Rate 56 Kbps
Data Link Protocol Ethernet, Fast Ethernet
System
Notebook Type notebook
Platform Windows
Hard Drive Capacity 20 GB
Miscellaneous
Integrated Options Stereo speakers, keyboard, touchpad, display
Monitor
Diagonal Size 15 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
Technology SDRAM
Installed Size 256 MB
Max Supported Size 512 MB
Slots Qty 2
Empty Slots 1
Physical Characteristics
Form Factor portable
Weight 3.4 kg
Hard Drive
Type HDD
Installed Qty 1
Capacity 20 GB
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
Type Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Sony MovieShaker, Sony Smart Capture, Sony SonicStage, WinDVD, Apple QuickTime 5, ArcSoft Panorama Maker, Drivers & Utilities, Norton AntiVirus, RealJukebox, RealPlayer, Sony DVgate, Sony Digital Printing
Optical Storage
Drive Type CD-RW / DVD
Type CD-RW / DVD-ROM combo
Form Factor fixed
Video Output
Graphics Processor ATI RAGE Mobility M1
Graphics Processor Series ATI RAGE Mobility
Video Memory
Technology SDRAM
Installed Size 8 MB
Expansion Bays
Total Qty 1

Top ZDNET Reviews