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Sony Vaio VGN-FW31E review

Barry de la Rosa
23 Feb 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
731
inc VAT
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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 1,600x900, 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.

Basic Specifications

Rating****
ProcessorIntel Core 2 Duo P8400
Processor clock speed2.26GHz
Memory4.00GB
Memory slots2
Memory slots free0
Maximum memory4GB
Size37x384x261mm
Weight3.1kg
SoundRealtek High Definition Audio
Pointing devicetouchpad
Power consumption standby2W
Power consumption idle26W
Power consumption active50W

Display

Viewable size16.4 in
Native resolution1,600x900
Graphics ProcessorATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470
Graphics/video portsVGA, HDMI
Graphics Memory256MB

Storage

Total storage capacity320GB
Optical drive modelMatshita UJ230AS
Optical drive typeDVD+/-RW +/-DL, DVD-RAM, BD-ROM

Ports and Expansion

USB ports3
Total Firewire ports1
Bluetoothyes
Wired network ports1x 10/100/1000
Wireless networking support802.11a/n
PC Card slots1x ExpressCard/34
ModemYes
Supported memory cardsMemory Stick Pro Duo
Other portsminijack audio output, minijack microphone input

Miscellaneous

Carrying caseNo
Operating systemWindows Vista Home Premium
Operating system restore optionrestore partition
Software includedWinDVD, Adobe Photoshop Elements 6, Adobe Premiere Elements 4, Microsoft Works 9

Buying Information

Warrantyone year RTB
Price£731
Detailswww.sony.co.uk
Supplierhttp://www.lambda-tek.com/componentshop

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