Sony Vaio F-Series Laptop (VPCF236F/MB)

I would have done a video-review of this laptop to go with my blog-review, but there are many to see on YouTube already. Here’s one that was well-presented, for the most part.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtyCOLUFjmo

I bought this laptop back in early November (2nd or 3rd I think) for $1,200 from BestBuy, and my experiences pretty much mirror Mitlovz’s. Gaming isn’t going to be the best experience you can have, but when you consider the speed and functionality of every-day tasks rather than just gaming, it shines far brighter than other laptops currently on the market. Don’t let that turn you away, because the target audience for this machine is not gamers.

This is marketed very much as a “desktop replacement” which means that it has the power to handle most desktop funtions, ALONG with the portability of a laptop. This is something that has kept Apple at the top of the notebook heap for a very long time. They don’t cater to gamers, they cater to industry-people, and artists. the sort of individual who prizes solid design and functionality with cutting edge technology. Below is a table comparing my Vaio F (as equipped) with a MacBook Pro 17″ (equipped comparably for fairness) and the costs.

My Vaio F Series MacBook Pro 17″ Winner
Material Plastic Aluminum Mac
Display 16.4″ LED 1920×1080
(anti-glare 1080p)
17″ 1920×1200 LED
(anti-glare)
Vaio
Processor Intel® Core™ i7 quad-core
(2.20GHz w/ Turbo Boost)
Can opt for 2.50GHZ
Intel® Core™ i7 quad-core
(2.40GHZ w/ Turbo Boost)
Can opt for 2.50GHZ
Mac
Graphics NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 540M
(1GB dedicated VRAM)
AMD Radeon HD 6770M
(1GB GDDR5 dedicated VRAM)
Mac
RAM 8GB 8GB
Hard Drive 750GB (7200rpm) 750GB (7200rpm)
Optical Drive Blu-ray Disc player
Dual-Layer DVD Burner (combo drive)
Dual-Layer DVD Burner
(No option for Blu-Ray)
Vaio
Keyboard Back-lit QWERTY 103 key
With number-pad
Back-lit QWERTY 78 Key
(no number-pad)
Vaio
Battery Life Estimates with standard battery
(5000mAh, included)
Up to 4 hours 30 minutes
Up to 7 hours
(assuming light-work/web surfing)
Mac
Ports Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45)
4-pin i.LINK® port (IEEE 1394)
USB 2.0 x1
USB 3.0 x2
VGA output
Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45)
FireWire 800 port (IEEE 1394)
USB 2.0 x3
Thunderbolt port
ExpressCard/34 slot
Vaio
HDMI® output Standard With adapter only
(not included)
Vaio

I’m not going to start a USB 3.0 vs Thunderbolt argument, the cost and lack of device support make it almost useless right now anyway. This will change in the future, but for now it’s a moot point. Obviously, Mac would win the above category if you need an ExpressCard slot.

Mac 4 / Vaio 5

That may seem like a very close competition, considering two category ties, until you factor in the costs:

Vaio Mac
Cost $1,349.99
before tax & shipping
$2,799.00
before tax & shipping

I can see some value in not needing to worry about anti-virus software and the likes, but that doesn’t jusify an additional cost of over $1,400. If you consider that argument (which is the most popular one from Mac-Fans) then you must consider the costs of such “protective” software. Assuming that you use your laptop for even 5 years (far more than the average, especially if you’re rough on your equipment) the average anti-virus/internet protection program costs around $60 a year, which is a total of $300. This still leaves $1,100 unaccounted for. Assume that the Vaio would cost an additional $200 for an aluminum case, and it’s still a difference of over $900. I love Apple products, and the Mac OS. I own a MacMini, and have had every iPhone except the 3GS. I just can’t justify the added cost when it comes to my every-day work equipment.

The bottom line here is that you’re getting a MacBook Pro, only better in many ways, for less money. This means that even for a business-minded individual the Vaio F series is a very tempting choice. The only exception I can conceive of right at the moment, is someone who’s work environment is almost exclusively dependent on Mac software; in which case, you would obviously want the MacBook.

Vaio Pros:

  1. The screen is AMAZING!
  2. The processor and RAM provide plenty of speed for just about anything
  3. The back-lighting on the keyboard is very nice when working in lower-light conditions
  4. Blu-Ray player combined with the full-HD screen and decent speakers make this a multimedia powerhouse

Vaio Cons:

  1. Screen-back plastic flexes under pressure: I’d like to see an aluminum cover even if the rest of the laptop is plastic
  2. Touch-Pad leaves a LOT to be desired. the surface has a strange texture-pattern on it that inhibits smooth finger movement: They should have left it the same texture as the rest of the laptop surface, and gave it defined edges, because the normal laptop surface feels like a touch-pad should.
  3. The graphics card could be a bit better: It’s a shame when you can watch 1080p Blu-Ray movies, but you can’t play most newer games in HD. This is the one flaw that prevents me from recommending this as a gaming laptop.
  4. Weight: This laptop is heavy, and I would highly recommend a backpack style carrying bag.

In the video review I linked to, the reviewer had mentioned a small issue with the back-lit keyboard on his Vaio. The back-lit keyboard has settings that you can adjust; as with windows power management options you can set it to behave differently depending on battery or plug: Always On, Turn on in Low-Light (with an option to change how long the back-light stays on), or always off. You have to have the “Vaio Control Center” app installed though, which he did not get with his because he chose the clean install option.

The nice thing about having a native 1080p resolution, is that when connected to my Vizio 42″ HD-TV, I don’t experience a loss of detail, like I did with my old laptop.

In short: If you want it for anything other than gaming, this is the machine for you.

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