Sony VAIO VPC-EB1S0E review
A powerful performance from the Core i3 chip, but this high-end VAIO fails to make the best use of it
Review Date: 2 Feb 2010
Reviewed By: Sasha Muller
Price when reviewed: £533 (£626 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
As the first of Sony's new E Series laptops to reach PC Pro, the VAIO VPC-EB1S0E didn't have to do much to grab our attention. But as well as a box-fresh design and new graphics chipset from ATI, there's one component that makes this laptop truly exciting: Intel's Core i3 mobile processor.
With the quad-core mobile Core i7 making a triumphant debut a few months back, we were eager to find out how its budget dual-core sibling would stack up. It lacks some of the fancy features found on the pricier models, such as the excellent Turbo Boost technology, which dynamically overclocks certain cores at the expense of others when a task would benefit. But it does support hardware virtualisation, and we're pleased to see Hyper-Threading present, allowing the two cores to handle as many as four threads at once in appropriate applications.
While the 2.13GHz Core i3-330M model at the Sony's heart is the cheapest of Intel's Core i3 range, you're not likely to find that a problem in everyday use. An overall score of 1.35 in our application benchmarks makes the Core 2 Duo look geriatric, and a closer look at the numbers only reinforces the i3's superiority. In particular, its score of 1.61 in our multitasking test puts it in a different league from its predecessors.
The Core i3-330M's strength isn't only its speed, though. The 32nm die and TDP of just 35W theoretically make it efficient too, so we were keen to put the VAIO through the wringer away from the mains. With this in mind, a light-use battery life of just 3hrs 16mins is disappointing; pushing it to the limit reduced this further to 1hr 12mins.
It isn't the result we'd hoped for, but there are other factors in play than just the processor. Rather than making use of the Core i3's on-chip graphics to keep power draw to a minimum and maximise battery life, Sony has seen fit to pair the Core i3 with discrete graphics in the form of ATI's entry-level Radeon HD 5470. Graphics chips guzzle power, so it's tough to gauge the Core i3's real-world efficiency on this showing.
Well this is exactly the market I'm looking at, Dell do an Inspiron with an i3 for £399, but I'm far from impressed by this, normally a Sony screen is a byword for quality, and Sony usually make their dedicated graphics switch-able. But my real problem is the stupid 16 x 9 screens that everything seems to sport now. I could understand this if it was fitted with a Blu-ray player maybe, but this adoption of a video standard display resolution for a laptop,just doesn't make sense for everyday use IMHO. A 15.6" screen would be fine at 1440 x 900, but at 1366 x 768 I will leave it on the shelf. Good to see the i3 delivering real usable performance, and look forward to someone making a laptop with an i3 and a "business screen".
By stokegabriel on 2 Feb 2010
But I'd never buy a Sony again. I had a FW31 which cost me £800. A month after I bought it the power button snapped off when I turned it on (it's held on by a miniscule piece of plastic). Sony replaced it fine. It snapped off again a couple of months later. Sony told me it was no longer covered by warranty as they had used "reinforced" parts to repair it and it shouldn't come off under normal operation. Just how much can you reinforce a 3mm piece of plastic. They wanted £255 to put a new one one. Apparently it is connected to the entire motherboard of the machine....OK Sony. As a result I have sold this laptop, and my sony TV, surround sound system, blu-ray player, digital camera and PS3 and have no intention of ever doing business with them again.
By ralphuk100 on 3 Feb 2010
Sony laptops and warranties are also on my no-buy list after my girlfriend's laptop died a death 2 years after purchase, apparently without any recourse, and with an estimated bill of £750 to fix it.
By Penguat on 3 Feb 2010
I'm a bit puzzled by Sony's apparent reputation for screen quality. The range of viewing angles on my FZ21M is terrible (particularly when watching dark videos) and yet screen quality is touted as a selling feature of this model, with stickers all over with "Widescreen X-Black LCD".
Sony's laptop screens seem to bear no relation to the screens on (for instance) Macbook Pros. I suspect Apple screens are more expensive, but why do Sony seem to get away with sub-standard screens (in my experience)?
By c6ten on 4 Feb 2010
Poor choice in spec, Sony!
The ageing Clarksfied i7-720QM of the Dell studio 15 is old news. Quad-core mobile processors have been and gone and frankly left an unpleasant after taste. Intel's new Arrandale i7's are all dual core and the way forward in terms of power conservation.
But I appreciate the frustration with this particular variant of the E-Series. It just doesn't make sense to add a dedicated GPU to this price range of laptop. Leave it for the i5's or i7's to handle.
What's more interesting is that you can spec the E-Series on SonyStyle with a tasty 1GB GDDR3 Radeon 5650, which when coupled with an i5 520M will make a reasonable portable gamer.
By dpazz on 14 Feb 2010
Thanks for the warnings
I was interested in the VPC EB1Z0E so I thought I'd check out a 'similar' review. Having read the interesting comments about Sony build quiality though, I'll look elsewhere. Thanks for the warning!
By projexe on 19 Mar 2010
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