I have a CTO laptop with identical specs to this laptop except for processor (i have i5 2520m) and sheet battery (i got it). sorry this is all just one block of text; the formatting in the review composer isnt very good.
Build Quality: it's pretty amazing. everything is solid and sturdy. it doesnt really feel like it's metal, but it is cold after sitting for a while and sony said it was so i guess it is. everything is matte so the only things that attract fingerprints are the mouse buttons. the touch pad is very good and supports a few multitouch gestures (like rotating, swiping through slide shows, and zooming), but there is an annoying lack of multitouch scrolling. to be fair, they do include regions on the side and bottom edges of the pad that you can use for one finger scrolling, and they have a feature that you can kind of just keep circling your finger around after you start scrolling and it will keep scrolling, but i wish they included a multitouch scrolling option. there is also a fingerprint scanner between the mouse buttons that sony never mentions and only sometimes pictures, so that was a little bit of a surprise. it comes with software to launch specific websites or programs depending on which finger you scan, but it is quite difficult to scan your finger satisfactorily and a little windows permission dialogue pops up before it does anything, so this good concept is not executed very well. the screen hinge is overall very good. it is pretty sturdy, but wobbles a bit if you move the computer. also, at different angles it has different resistances, and when you get below about 15 degrees it will just snap closed if you let go of it. however, it is very good on the whole. as for size, this thing is remarkably thin and light. i have no problem folding it up and carrying it around in one hand. it never gets very hot, even when streaming hd netflix movies (although the fan does come on full blast then, but it is next to silent otherwise). i wish the keys on the keyboard pressed down a little further, but i guess i will get used to it in time. i havent had a chance to test out the blu ray or usb 3.0, but im guessing they work. speakers are a little tinny, but i guess that is to be expected. there were tons of stickers on it when it came, but they were pretty easy to get off. i had to use some goo gone to get all the sticky stuff off though.
screen: the screen is amazing. it is just absolutely insane. there is just so much screen real estate to do stuff on with such a high res display (you have to put your face very close to the screen before you can see individual pixels). the screen can get very bright (bright enough to be easily seeable in direct sunlight) and the rather matte finish eliminates most glare. vertical viewing angles are not very good, but horizontal ones are much better, so there isnt too much to worry about. there is even an auto brightness sensor above the keyboard that will adjust the brightness of the display and choose when to turn on the backlit keyboard, although both can be manually adjusted as well (although i wish there was a function key for the backlit keyboard). the screen does have quite a large bezel around it, but i guess that is forgivable.
software: this laptop comes with some "bloatware" if you dont go for the fresh start option, but it is rather unobtrusive. during initial setup, they thankfully give you an option to disable norton, so that is good, and the other vaio software is pretty much out of your way. there is a little dock thingy at the top of the screen that pops out, but you can just close and disable it if you hate it. i havent tried any of the other programs (except for their settings thing which is actually very useful for adjusting specific things that the control panel cant do). the graphics switch thing is overall a great idea. battery life goes up a ton when the switch is flipped, although performance does noticeably go down (but this may be because it goes into power saver mode as well). the only problem is that sometimes the switch wont let you switch it. a little dialogue box pops up that say "you must close some of your applications" but neglects to say which ones to close and still remains after you close everything. this only happens some of the time, but it requires a full reboot to get past. however, a full reboot is no problem at all on this computer. the ssd makes it so you can go from hitting the restart button back to your desktop in a little over 20 seconds, which is mindblowing to experience. waking up from sleep takes about a second and a half as well. there is absolutely no waiting around with an ssd.
Battery: battery life is pretty stellar. in stamina mode with power saver mode on, it will easily last 6-7 hours on a charge. putting the sheet battery on will also double the battery life instantly, just like sony says, although it dramatically increases the weight and bulk of the laptop. another annoying thing about the sheet battery is that you have to charge it separately from the laptop. sony includes a little black box that you plug the laptop charger into and then attach to the sheet battery to charge it. it's pretty simple and well made, but i thought it would charge if you just plugged it in attached to the laptop. another minor annoyance is that there is a little plastic cover to protect the contacts on the bottom of the computer when the sheet battery isnt on, but there is nowhere to put the little thing when you put the battery on. it seems very vital yet remarkably misplaceable. one other software problem i had is that the computer stopped charging even though it wasnt full. it just said "56%, plugged in, not charging" and would go a few percent further if i unplugged it and plugged it back in. it was fixed by a simple reboot, and it has only happened once, but it is a little worrying.
performance: overall, it's pretty good. since i have a slightly worse processor than the laptop this review is for, some of this stuff may be different, but probably not by a lot. the laptop is very speedy in speed mode. the processor opens programs and loads websites very quickly in high performance mode, although this does bring battery life down to around 4 hours (or so the battery meter says, i havent tested). once you turn it to stamina, things do slow down quite a bit. things load slower and online games start to sputter. this is only exacerbated by switching from "balanced" to "power saver", but i guess that is expected. like i said before, the ssd is crazy. no need to worry about that.
June 13, 2011