- Stylish slimline design
- 14.1in. display
- integrated wireless networking.
- Not everyone will require, or be prepared to pay for, Sony extras like the Memory Stick slot and Jog Dial
- short standard warranty.
Sony’s range of VAIO notebooks continues to expand, most recently with the consumer orientated PCG-NV109 and its MiniDisc player, and the PCG-VX71P, reviewed here. An altogether more sober beast than the big and brash NV109M, the VX71P offers the ultraportable convenience of a 2kg notebook without the ergonomic compromise involved in having a 12.1in. or even a 10.4in. display. For the VX71P manages to keep the weight down and the battery life acceptable while offering a 14.1in. screen, which also allows a good-sized keyboard to be fitted.
Based around Intel’s low-voltage 850MHz Mobile Pentium III-M processor and 256MB of RAM, supported by the integrated 815EM chipset, the VX71P is well equipped to handle mainstream applications, although more demanding high-end content-creation-type programs might prove sluggish. This is partly down to the system’s integrated graphics chip, which commandeers up to 11MB of system memory for its purposes, and partly due to its 4,200rpm 30GB hard disk drive, which is only an average performer.
The hard disk is this 2kg system’s only internal spinning media drive, weight considerations banishing the bundled DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo unit to external FireWire-connected status. If you require a floppy drive, you’ll have to pay extra for another external (USB-connected) unit. The VX71P’s wedge-shaped dimensions accommodate a 3,600mAh Li-ion battery at the back, where the system is 3.3cm high; at the front, it tapers down to just 1.77cm. The footprint is 31.2cm by 33.1cm, enough to accommodate the 14.1in. XGA TFT screen and 84-key keyboard.
Like many recent VAIOs, the VX71P features a number of trademark Sony gizmos: a MagicGate Memory Stick slot at the front for exchanging files with similarly-equipped camcorders, digital cameras and audio players; a Jog Dial set into the mouse buttons for launching applications quickly; and, on the left-hand side, an i.LINK (IEEE 1394/FireWire) port. The 4-pin i.LINK port, which is accompanied by a DC-out port, services the external DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive.
As befits a space-limited ultraportable, you won’t find any legacy ports on the VX71P. What you do get, in addition to the i.LINK port mentioned above, is a pair of USB ports, a VGA port, microphone and headphone jacks, and a single Type II PC Card slot. Connectivity is well catered for, with RJ-11 and RJ-45 ports servicing the integrated 56Kbps modem and 10/100 Ethernet connections respectively. Wireless networking is also built-in, courtesy of an 802.11b (Wi-Fi) Mini-PCI card. To save battery life, you can disable the Wi-Fi card via a switch on the left-hand side.
As far as performance is concerned, the VX71P acquits itself pretty well, although it is held back by its graphics and – to a lesser extent – hard disk subsystems. A score of 31 under Business Winstone 2001 shows that it’s well equipped to handle mainstream productivity tasks -- Editors’ Choice ultraportables like Dell’s Latitude C400 and X200 scored 31.5 and 31 respectively. It also holds its own with other leading ultraportables when it comes to high-end applications, delivering a Content Creation Winstone 2002 score of 16 compared to the C400’s 18.7 and X200’s 16.6. Battery life of two hours and 41 minutes from the system’s standard 3,600mAh Li-ion battery is reasonable, and there’s always the option of purchasing an extended-life battery.
If you’re a Sony fan and you need an ultraportable system with a decent-sized screen, the VAIO PCG-VX71P should appeal. But it’s not exactly cheap at £1,701.28 (ex. VAT; £1,999 inc. VAT), and not everyone will require all the Sony extras, so a fair number of potential buyers will probably look elsewhere. The standard one-year warranty isn’t exactly generous either, although this can be optionally extended to three years.