Sony’s Vaio VGN-FW31E is an updated version of the VGN-FW11E (Labs, Shopper 250), and little has changed apart from the inclusion of a Blu-ray drive.
The VGN-FW31E looks identical to its predecessor, with a sturdy silver case and a rigid lid. The screen is bright and clear, as we’d expect from a Vaio, and has accurate colours and a 16:9 aspect ratio. Like the VGN-FW11E, the 16.4in screen has a resolution of 1,600×900, which is the highest on test.
The keyboard has flat, evenly spaced keys akin to a MacBook’s and is comfortable to type on. There’s plenty of space either side that Sony could have used to include a numeric keypad, so it’s a shame there isn’t one. The touch pad is large and responsive, and the buttons have a light action, although they lie flush with the case and so are hard to locate with your thumb. A row of buttons above the keyboard controls media playback.
As usual, Sony’s software bundle is a cut above the rest and includes Photoshop Elements 6 and Premiere Elements 4 – a package worth £80. You also get Microsoft Works 9 and WinDVD BD 8 for playing Blu-ray movies.
The hardware specification has changed very little: there’s an extra 1GB of RAM, a slightly slower processor and the same graphics card. The hard disk size has gone from 250GB to 400GB, but its performance in PCMark is virtually the same as the VGN-FW11E’s. A score of 5.9fps in Call of Duty 4 is as dismal as most others here for 3D performance.
Had the VGN-FW31E cost the same as the VGN-FW11E, it would have won a Best Buy award. However, it’s £78 more, primarily because of the Blu-ray drive. Asus’s X71SL will let you watch Blu-ray movies on its 17in screen for £86 less. That said, if you can find the VGN-FW31E for £700, its wider screen and better performance would make it the better buy.
|Processor||Intel Core 2 Duo P8400|
|Processor clock speed||2.26GHz|
|Memory slots free||0|
|Sound||Realtek High Definition Audio|
|Power consumption standby||2W|
|Power consumption idle||26W|
|Power consumption active||50W|
|Viewable size||16.4 in|
|Graphics Processor||ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470|
|Graphics/video ports||VGA, HDMI|
|Total storage capacity||320GB|
|Optical drive model||Matshita UJ230AS|
|Optical drive type||DVD+/-RW +/-DL, DVD-RAM, BD-ROM|
Ports and Expansion
|Total Firewire ports||1|
|Wired network ports||1x 10/100/1000|
|Wireless networking support||802.11a/n|
|PC Card slots||1x ExpressCard/34|
|Supported memory cards||Memory Stick Pro Duo|
|Other ports||minijack audio output, minijack microphone input|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium|
|Operating system restore option||restore partition|
|Software included||WinDVD, Adobe Photoshop Elements 6, Adobe Premiere Elements 4, Microsoft Works 9|
|Warranty||one year RTB|