Sony VAIO PCG-NV109M

sony-vaio-nv109m-lead.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    7.8 Very good

Pros

  • Good performance, especially with 3D graphics
  • high-quality 15in. display
  • impressive audio subsystem including a MiniDisc drive and a subwoofer.

Cons

  • Bulky, heavy and relatively expensive
  • MiniDisc player only works with Sony’s SonicStage application.

Sony has never been scared of being different. Although the VAIO PCG-NV109M looks like a bulky, desktop-equivalent notebook from the outside, it has more Sony trademarks than almost any portable we’ve seen -- Memory Stick slot, Jog Dial, iLINK port, and even an internal MiniDisc drive. It also has a subwoofer, to give the audio a bit of extra kick.

Special Sony features aside, this is a well-appointed system -- as it should be for £1,701.28 (ex. VAT; £1,999 inc. VAT). A 1.6GHz Mobile Pentium 4 processor keeps 256MB of DDR RAM busy, while a beautifully bright 15in. XGA TFT display keeps the user informed. There's a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive, a 30GB hard disk, three USB ports, two PC Card slots, a 10/100 Ethernet port and a TV out port, along with audio in and out conveniently positioned near the front of the unit next to a handy thumbwheel volume control. There's also the highest count of pop-out legs, protective flaps and fiddly plastic bits we've seen on a notebook. The whole lot weighs in at a whisker under 4kg, so you're not going to carry it around any more than is strictly necessary. However, as our benchmarks show, the NV109M is powerful enough to be your main computer.

The subwoofer, MiniDisc drive and a floppy disk drive are all options that can occupy a bay on the right-hand side of the computer -- you can only have one of the three units installed at a time. The MiniDisc drive doesn't look like a CD-ROM to the system -- you can't use it for data storage, and it doesn't work with Windows Media Player. Instead, you have to use Sony's own SonicStage application. This is an idiosyncratic system for moving playlists of songs to and from MiniDiscs through a degree of copy protection. You have to check songs into the disc, and you can't do this more than three times without checking out -- that is, deleting -- a copy first. It's not too intrusive, won't stop anyone determined enough to be naughty, and lets you title your songs on MiniDisc with infinitely more ease than having to do so using a portable player's own tiny buttons.

Having the MiniDisc NetMD drive as part of the computer is very convenient, but not cost-effective. You can buy a USB-interfaced portable MiniDisc recorder for less than the cost of this option: these work just as well, and with the same software, but give you the bonus of a brand-new state-of-the-art portable MiniDisc player to pop in your pocket. Likewise, the subwoofer is surprisingly effective but doesn't do anything you couldn't achieve with portable external speakers.

Sony has put a jog dial beneath the touchpad, half-embedded in the mouse buttons. This looks as though it should act as a scroll wheel, but instead it pops up a rather intrusive applet for launching programs, linking the wheel to various functions within those programs and so on. It beeps, too. It would be much nicer as a simple scroll wheel, but there appears to be no way to configure it as such.

Once you've whacked all the volume controls up to maximum, the NV109M is loud enough to handle a party. We’ve never heard a portable computer get so close to boombox status, and are impressed. If you like taking your MP3 collections to parties, this is as good a one-box solution as you'll find, although something smaller and your host's hi-fi system might be more convenient.

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As far as performance is concerned, the NV109M delivers the goods. Its benchmark scores in both the Business Winstone 2001 (mainstream applications) and Content Creation Winstone 2002 (high-end applications) tests are just shy of making our ‘top 5’ lists, but the NV109M comfortably joins the top products when it comes to 3D graphics, courtesy of its 16MB ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 chipset. Battery life of 2 hours 43 minutes is useful too, should you feel strong enough to lug this 3.8kg monster around.

If you're a committed MiniDisc user, this is a great way to create and manage discs full of the music you've copied from your CD collection or obtained online. It's by no means the cheapest way of doing this, though.

Otherwise, this is a solidly constructed, solidly performing notebook that has a certain eccentric style about it.

Specifications

General
Recommended Use corporate business, small business
Processor / Chipset
CPU Intel Pentium 4-M 1.6 GHz
Cache L2 - 512 KB - Advanced Transfer Cache
Data Bus Speed 400 MHz
Storage
Optical Drive 1 x CD-RW / DVD-ROM combo fixed
Type none
Read Speed 24x (CD) / 8x (DVD)
Write Speed 16x
CD / DVD Rewrite Speed 10x
Type portable
Memory
RAM 256 MB
Max Supported Size 512 MB
Technology DDR SDRAM
Form Factor SO-DIMM 200-pin
Slots Qty 1
Empty Slots 0
Display
Resolution 1024 x 768 (XGA)
Widescreen Display No
Diagonal Size (metric) 38.1 cm
Display Resolution Abbreviation XGA
Audio & Video
Graphics Processor AGP 4x - ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 - 16 MB DDR SDRAM
Compliant Standards Microsoft WSS 1.0/2.0
Input
Type Jog Dial, keyboard, touchpad
Communications
Wired Protocol 10/100 Ethernet
Processor
Installed Qty 1
Type Pentium 4-M
Manufacturer Intel
Clock Speed 1.6 GHz
Modem
Protocols & Specifications ITU V.90, k56Flex, Hayes AT command set
AC Adapter
Input AC 100/240 V
Output 80 Watt
Connections & Expansion
Expansion Bays 1 x front accessible
Slots 1 x memory (0 free)
1 x CardBus (1 free)
Interfaces 1 x IEEE 1394 (FireWire) 4 PIN FireWire
3 x USB 4 pin USB Type A
1 x microphone - input - mini-phone mono 3.5 mm
1 x headphones - output - mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
1 x parallel - IEEE 1284 (EPP/ECP) - 25 pin D-Sub (DB-25)
1 x serial - RS-232 - 9 pin D-Sub (DB-9)
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 display / video - VGA / TV
Memory Card Reader Yes (Memory Stick)
Header
Brand Sony
Product Line Sony VAIO
Model PCG-NV109M
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC
Networking
Max Transfer Rate 56 Kbps
Data Link Protocol Ethernet, Fast Ethernet
Miscellaneous
Integrated Options Stereo speakers, keyboard, touchpad, display, Jog Dial
Included Laptop Accessories NetMD, subwoofer, weight saver module
Compliant Standards ACPI, APM
System
Notebook Type notebook
Platform Windows
Hard Drive Capacity 30 GB
Dimensions & Weight
Width 33.6 cm
Depth 27.6 cm
Height 5.3 cm
Monitor
Diagonal Size 15 in
Native Resolution 1024 x 768
Mainboard
Data Bus Speed 400 MHz
Cache Memory
Type L2 cache
Installed Size 512 KB
RAM
Form Factor SO-DIMM 200-pin
Technology DDR SDRAM
Installed Size 256 MB
Max Supported Size 512 MB
Slots Qty 1
Empty Slots 0
Physical Characteristics
Form Factor portable
Weight 3.9 kg
Hard Drive
Type HDD
Installed Qty 1
Capacity 30 GB
Power
Voltage Required AC 100/240 V
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
Type Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Sony MovieShaker, Sony PicoPlayer, Sony Smart Capture, Sony SonicStage, Adobe Premiere LE, Apple QuickTime 5, Drivers & Utilities, InterVideo WinDVD 2000, Norton AntiVirus, RealPlayer, Sony DVgate, Sony Digital Printing
Optical Storage
Drive Type CD-RW / DVD
Type CD-RW / DVD-ROM combo
Form Factor fixed
Card Reader
Type card reader
Supported Flash Memory Memory Stick
Video Output
Graphics Processor ATI Mobility Radeon 7500
Graphics Processor Series ATI Mobility Radeon
Video Memory
Technology DDR SDRAM
Installed Size 16 MB
Expansion Bays
Total Qty 1
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty, technical support
Service Included parts and labor, phone consulting
Full Contract Period 1 year
Sustainability
ENERGY STAR Qualified Yes

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