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Sony VAIO F21Z1E 3D review

Tom Morgan
3 Mar 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,800
inc VAT

Hugely powerful in applications, and capable of 3D Blu-ray playback, but its graphics card is comparatively underpowered.

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Specifications

16 in 1,920x1,080 display, 3.1kg, 2GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM, 8.00GB RAM, 640GB disk, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

Sony is continuing its roll-out of VAIO laptops featuring Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors with the F21Z1E, a 16in powerhouse. As well as great application performance, the range-topping system also includes USB3, a 3D-capable Full HD display and a Blu-ray optical drive.

Even the smallest details in movies and still images are preserved on the amazingly sharp display. The super-high 1,920x1,080 resolution is a perfect match for watching Full HD video, but desktop icons and text are tiny and hard to read. 3D video was decent, although the sense of immersion isn't as complete as it would be on a larger display; although we expect to see it on more laptops in the future, we don’t think 3D in its current implementation is suited to a small screen. One pair of active shutter glasses is included in the box, and we can't see anyone sharing this screen with others.

Sony VAIO F21Z1E 3D

Sony’s trademark VAIO styling has taken a back seat to the new technology, as the 3D display is incredibly chunky. It’s almost as thick as the main body, which isn’t particularly slim itself. Make no mistake, in spite of the 16in screen this is a desktop replacement laptop. It weighs over 3kg, which doesn’t take into account the very chunky power brick. You’ll need to carry that brick if you want to use the laptop on the move, especially as the battery lasted just under three hours in our test.

It may not be the most mobile laptop then, but performance is another story. The Intel quad-core i7-2630QM was nothing short of mind-blowing. Running at 2GHz by default, Turbo Boost pushes the clock speed to 2.9GHz for demanding applications such as our multimedia benchmarks. A stunning overall score of 143 eclipsed just about every other laptop we’ve seen. Combined with a massive 8GB of memory, the F21Z1E should sail through even the most intensive tasks. The downside to all this power is that the processor gets warm very quickly. It only takes a short time for the fans to spin up and at full speed they sound louder than some desktop systems.

The 3D display is powered by an Nvidia GeForce GT 540M, which is easily capable of playing high definition content. It can also handle games reasonably well, averaging 40fps in our Call of Duty 4 test. By disabling anti-aliasing, it still managed a solid 32fps at the far-higher native screen resolution. Unfortunately playing games in stereoscopic 3D increases the workload on the graphics card and the mid-range 540M can’t keep up. We had to lower the resolution and turn down some detail settings to achieve a playable frame rate.

Sony VAIO F21Z1E 3D 3

We were very impressed with the backlit keyboard, which includes a numerical keypad. Each key was very responsive and the raised wrist rest made it very comfortable to type on. An ambient light sensor enables the backlight automatically when working in poor lighting conditions, making it a breeze to type in the dark.

Performance is absolutely immense thanks to the quad-core processor, but the F21Z1E is held back by a comparatively underpowered graphics card. Although it can play 3D Blu-ray titles, it can’t play games in 3D at decent levels of detail. The loud fan noise and limited battery life also detract from the overall experience. As one of the first Sandy Bridge systems available we would suggest waiting for other manufacturers to show their hand before taking the plunge.

Basic Specifications

Rating***
ProcessorIntel Core i7-2630QM
Processor clock speed2GHz
Memory8.00GB
Memory slots2
Memory slots free0
Maximum memory16GB
Size45x398x271mm
Weight3.1kg
SoundRealtek HD Audio
Pointing devicetouchpad

Display

Viewable size16 in
Native resolution1,920x1,080
Graphics ProcessorNvidia GeForce GT 540M
Graphics/video portsVGA, HDMI
Graphics Memory1,024MB

Storage

Total storage capacity640GB
Optical drive typeBD-ROM + DVD+/-RW +/-DL

Ports and Expansion

USB ports3
Total Firewire ports1
Bluetoothyes
Wired network ports1x 10/100/1000
Wireless networking support802.11b/g/n
PC Card slotsnone
Supported memory cardsSD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, Memory Stick Pro/Duo
Other portsminijack audio output, minijack microphone input

Miscellaneous

Carrying caseNo
Operating systemWindows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Operating system restore optionbackup and recovery software
Software includedMicrosoft Office 2010 Starter edition, Playsttion 3 remote play
Optional extrasnone

Buying Information

Warrantyone year RTB
Price£1,800
Detailswww.sony.co.uk
Supplierhttp://www.sonystyle.co.uk

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