The Sony Vaio F is an Adobe RGB-enabled laptop that will appeal to a niche audience who understands why it costs what it does. Those who don’t know what Adobe RGB is should be spending their dollars elsewhere.
Sony’s latest revision of its 16.4-inch design laptop manages to impress at first glance. Apart from an intriguing screen size between 15 and 17 inches, it sports a matte 1920×1080 screen that covers 100 per cent of the Adobe RGB gamut. In theory this is great for photography, but you’ll need colour-aware applications and your own profiling software and calibration tools. Windows itself isn’t very colour aware, and things that should be blue in the user interface end up looking purple as a result.
The laptop also has a Blu-ray drive to take advantage of the Full HD screen, but once again unless your video player is colour aware you’re likely to see colour shifts. The complete lack of sRGB mode or emulation means that this laptop is best left to designers who like the idea of a colour-managed laptop and are happy to spend extra to get it there. Flip open the lid and you’re greeted with a faux-leather wrist rest, which is a sort of rubberized plastic that is pleasant to the touch and adds a feeling of class, something that’s enhanced by the excellent build quality of the laptop.
The touch pad that’s nestled within the wrist rest though, not so much. Its Alps based, and although supposedly supports multi-touch features like flick navigation, pinch zoom and pivot rotation, they are all extremely unreliable and you’ll soon turn them off to avoid any chance of unpredictability. Why vendors find it so difficult to do this on Windows compared to OS X we’ll never understand. Being a full-sized laptop, the Vaio F is reasonably equipped connections-wise too, with three USB ports (one of which is shared with an eSATA port), headphone and microphone jacks, FireWire 400, VGA and HDMI out ports, gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n and Bluetooth. As is the typical Sony tradition, it wastes space in glorifying its own Memory Stick format by giving it its own slot separate from the SD card reader that sits astride it.
Also filed under “annoying placement” is the hot air vent, which faces left. If you’re a left-hand mouser, or have something else plugged in to the laptop on the right-hand side, things are going to get toasty warm mighty quick. Sony’s hinge design sadly precludes a rear-facing vent, preferring looks over practicality.
While there’s plenty of space for speakers, the Vaio F disappoints, its tiny tweeters managing a louder volume than most, but lacking clarity and tending to flange out sounds. In a laptop of this size, and with these multimedia chops, we’d have at least expected a subwoofer somewhere. The keyboard holds no surprises, with the only customized section being the buttons near the screen, allowing the user to turn the display off, control the media player, run Vaio Care, or to switch colour profiles. Unsurprisingly, the latter does nothing for Windows itself, only for colour-aware applications.
Coming pre-installed with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, Sony like other vendors enjoys including other software for the user’s displeasure, which will have you reaching for the uninstall dialog in quick order. An annoying drop-down dock at the top of the screen that gets in the way of moving windows gives links otherwise found in the Start menu, and when minimized shows off RSS feeds.
A gadget in the sidebar links to Sony’s on Media Gallery App, an interesting attempt to browse music and video. It looks nice, but is laggy and like most vendor included apps of this type poses absolutely no threat to the likes of Windows Media Center, XBMC or millions of other pieces of superior software. Also included from the Sony side is Vaio care, a one-stop centre for hardware troubleshooting, recovery and restore, support and “One Click Care”, a useful automated system maintenance tool. Not so useful is PMB Vaio Edition (a poor attempt at Picasa/iPhoto) or Music Station (the same, but for iTunes).
From the standard software brigade, McAfee is the antivirus trial of choice, but Norton Online Backup has also been installed in an interesting cross-security firm bundle. Corel WinDVD has been included, as has an Office trial, Roxio Easy Media Creator, Evernote, Windows Live Essentials and ArcSoft Webcam Companion. Pushing the design theme, Sony has also included Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements, along with Lightroom 2.5. It’s a nice touch, but we’d figure that this laptop’s target audience would already have the full versions of such programs.
- Network interface: 10/100/1000 LAN, Bluetooth, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
- eSATA ports - 1
- USB ports - 3
- Firewire type - 400
- VGA - Yes
- HDMI - Yes
- Natural resolution (max) – 1920 x 1080 pixels
- Diagonal screen size – 16.4 inch
- Primary hard drive – 500 GB
- Optical drive – Blu-ray
- Dimensions – (H x W x D) 41 x 387.2 x 263 mm
- Weight – 3.2 kg
- Laptop type – Heavyweight, Designer
- Graphics hardware – GeForce GT330M
- Amt of RAM – 4GB
- Integrated webcam – Yes
- Processor type – Intel Core i7
- Processor speed – 1.6 GHz
- Operating system – Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
- Embedded stereo speakers – Yes
Internals and benchmarks
Beating under the hood of our particular model, the VPCF116FGBI, is a Core i7 Q720 @ 1.6GHz, with 4GB RAM, a GeForce GT330M and a 500GB hard drive. Unsurprisingly, this lead to excellent performance, with the Vaio F turning in 6517 in 3DMark06, and 6384 in PCMark05, making it decent for gaming and some 3D work.
Of course, all this power is destined to have a profound effect on battery life and with all power-saving features turned off, screen brightness and volume set to maximum and an XviD file played back, it lasted a whole of one hour, 27 minutes and 36 seconds. You won’t want this away from a power outlet for too long.