Sony VAIO F12 review

13 Jul 2010

Sony's latest VAIO laptop is a high-end entertainment machine that looks the business

Price when reviewed: 
1,378(£1,599 inc VAT)
5

We’ve already seen the first of Sony’s F Series – the high-spec Sony VAIO F11. Now comes the F12. With its generous 16.4 in display, grey-brown finish and faux-leather wrist-rest, it looks like a serious machine – an impression the price does nothing to dispel. Yet this sober notebook is in fact the company’s “ultimate entertainer”, and a closer look reveals a 1080p TFT, a Blu-ray drive and – as with the F11 – dedicated media playback controls set directly below the screen.

There’s plenty of power inside, too. Sony offers a range of processors, RAM from 4GB to 8GB and a selection of hard disks; but our review model was based on an Intel Core i7-740QM quad-core CPU with 8GB and a 500GB, 7,200rpm drive.

That combination achieved 1.58 overall in our desktop benchmarks – a strong score, but then at this price you’d expect that. If you step down to an i7-720QM, halve the RAM, swap the Blu-ray drive for a regular DVD writer and make do with a 320GB hard disk, you can expect performance only around 10% slower for a slightly more digestible £927 exc VAT.

Sony VAIO F12

3D performance is creditable too, thanks to a powerful Nvidia GeForce GT 330M. This helped the VAIO F12 motor through our low-detail Crysis test at an average of 81fps, and hold up a fairly playable 28fps with medium settings. Be warned, though, that 3D gaming causes the system fan to spin up to some very noisy speeds.

If gaming isn't your priority, you can order the F12 from Sony Style with a GeForce GT 310M card (and a much-reduced spec elsewhere too) for a mere £595 exc VAT.

But buying the economy version of the F12 is a little like ordering an Audi R8 with a 1.2-litre engine. It just isn’t the point.

If the VAIO F12's premium credentials aren’t already apparent, they will be once you start to use it. Even by Sony’s usual high standards, this feels like a beautifully assembled laptop, with a sturdy chassis and clearly separated keys that are a joy to type on.

The trackpad’s comfortable and responsive too, though the numeric keypad is a mixed blessing: not everyone likes their keyboard and pointer controls shunted over to the side.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,173
Price inc VAT £1,378
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 3
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 387 x 263 x 41mm (WDH)
Weight 3.100kg
Travelling weight 3.8kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i7-720QM
Motherboard chipset Intel PM55 Express
RAM capacity 8.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 16.4in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset Nvdia GeForce GT 330M
Graphics card RAM 1.00GB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 500GB
Hard disk usable capacity 465GB
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Seagate ST9500420AS
Optical disc technology Blu-ray drive
Optical drive Optiarc BD-5730S6
Battery capacity 5,000mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch no
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 1
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 3
FireWire ports 1
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Dolby Home Theater
Speaker location Above keyboard
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 3hr 7min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 25min
Overall application benchmark score 1.58
Office application benchmark score 1.21
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.88
Encoding application benchmark score 1.49
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.75
3D performance (crysis) low settings 81fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition, burn own recovery discs
Software supplied Microsoft Office 2010 Starter