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Sony VAIO VGN-AW21XY/Q review


The RGB LED screen, Blu-ray writer and awesome specification result in the best all-round desktop replacement on the market.

Review Date: 7 May 2009

Reviewed By: Mike Jennings

Price when reviewed: £2,033 (£2,338 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

Only an elite few machines soar above the £2,000 mark, and laptops like this hugely-expensive Sony VAIO need something special to justify the outlay.

The Sony VAIO VGN-AW21XY/Q sets its stall out as an entertainment powerhouse thanks to several attributes, not least its stunning screen. As well as boasting a diagonal width of 18.4in and a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, it uses the same RGB LED technology that so impressed us in the Dell Studio XPS 16.

The extra two inches mean that the panel's sheer vivacity and sharpness look even more impressive than the Dell's screen, though. And we were also pleased to note that the colours weren't quite as saturated as they were in the Studio XPS, which required tweaking before looking its best. The VAIO required no such adjustments and is one of the best laptop screens we've ever seen - ideal for both work and play in equal measure.

Sony's audio heritage means that the VAIO doesn't boast brand label speakers, but the pair you get - in concert with the single subwoofer - combine to produce plenty of volume and impressive clarity.

The commitment to quality extends to the chassis, which is one of the sturdiest and most stylish we've seen. There aren't many flashy touches - the VAIO logo across the glossy lid and the green ring around the hinge is about as extravagant as this machine gets - but the leather across the wrist-rest and glowing media buttons just ooze class.

The familiar scrabble-tile keyboard is one of the best examples we've tried too, offering more travel and a more positive action than keyboards of the Apple MacBook Air or the more recently-reviewed 17in MacBook Pro. The trackpad is another highlight: it's wide and responsive pad with a pair of comfortable buttons. And, scattered around the chassis is a decent selection of ports and sockets, including USB, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire and an HDMI output.

Performance continues the already-impressive trend, with a high-powered Intel 2.93GHz Core 2 Duo T9800 processor helping the Sony to a 2D benchmark result of 1.51 - it's among the fastest laptops we've ever tested. And with an Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT graphics chip on board, there's gaming potential too.

The VAIO returned figures of 79fps and 24fps in our low and medium-quality Crysis benchmarks. The scores aren't the best we've ever seen - the Asus W90 with its pair of Radeon HD 4870 chips is quicker - but there's still more potential here than with most laptops.

Elsewhere, a Blu-ray writer is a cut above the read-only drives that are in the majority of HD-equipped machines, and the dual DVB-T TV tuner is another another rarity that allows the AWrarely seen in either desktops or laptops, and able to record and view different channels at the same time.

Also worth mentioning is the innovative storage. The main disk is a 500GB Fujitsu model running at 4,200rpm, but the operating system - in this case it's Windows Vista Ultimate - is deposited on a pair of 64GB Samsung SSD drives running in RAID 0. It's far more imaginative than most laptops, and the result is consistently faster access for vital system files.

All of this luxury isn't without its downsides, however, and battery life is chief among these. The 4,800mAh power pack lasted just a mere two hours in our light use test. The VGN-AW21XY/Q is expensive, too: £2,157 exc VAT is an awful lot to spend on any laptop, even one this powerful.

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