Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Sony VAIO VGN-NW120J (Staples)

Sony's VAIO notebooks have long been at the cutting edge of style, and the VGN-NW120J continues the trend. This sleek mainstream laptop features a cool textured finish and a nice, colorful 15.5-inch widescreen display, but at $799.98 (list), it is a bit more expensive than competing systems that offer similar components and features.

The NW120J's Silver Rattan design has a textured weave pattern that looks like a brushed aluminum weave, but is actually just ABS plastic. There's no mistaking what brand of notebook you're using thanks to the big, highly polished VAIO logo and the smaller SONY badge etched into the lid. The keyboard deck, also done up in Silver Rattan, is spacious and contains a lightly textured touchpad and two mouse buttons. The white full sized keyboard resembles a MacBook keyboard; it features isolated keys and offers lots of room for easy typing. Because the keys are widely spaced there's no room for a dedicated number pad such as those found on the comparably sized HP G60 and Compaq Presario CQ60 models.
At the top of the deck are three function buttons and a power switch. One button is a Web browser quick launch key, one turns the display on and off, and the third is a speaker mute button. The speakers are low powered and lack volume, which is just as well as they are tinny sounding.
Framed by a silver bezel, the 1366-by-768 display is unusual because uses a 15.5-inch panel, rather than the 15.4 or 15.6-inch sizes that are currently all the rage. It delivers a 16:9 aspect ratio and features Sony's XBRITE-ECO technology, which uses a glossy coating to deliver rich colors and deep black levels. Image quality is superb, although the shiny screen can be distracting if you're working in a brightly lit room. At only 5.5 pounds, the slim (1.2-inches at its highest point) NW-120J is as easy on the shoulder as it is on the eyes.
You get a decent selection of features with the NW-120J, and considering its lofty price it would be unreasonable to expect that Sony would include a Blu-ray drive. Sadly, that's not the case. Instead, you'll have to settle for a standard DVD multi-drive. In addition to three USB ports, there is an S400 i.LINK (FireWire) port as well as HDMI and VGA video ports and a gigabit Ethernet jack. Wireless networking comes by way of an 802.11 A/G/N adapter, and there's a 1.3-megapixel webcam embedded in the upper screen bezel. Expansion slots include Sony Memory Stick PRO with MagicGate encryption technology, ExpressCard 34, and SD memory card slots. The use of color-coded headphone and microphone jacks is a nice touch.
The 320GB hard drive comes with Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit) as well as a couple of Sony-branded applications, including Movie Story, MusicBox, and Multimedia Streaming software. Unfortunately the drive is cluttered with third party trialware offers, including QuickBooks Simple Start, Norton Internet Security, MS Office, and a few others.

The use of a 2.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6500 processor and 4GB of RAM gave the NW-120J the necessary horsepower to manage a PCMark Vantage score of 3,225, which beat the HP G60 (2,844) and the HP Pavilion dv6t (1030us)(2,924) systems but couldn't touch the Editors' Choice Dell Studio XPS 16(3,995). It's Cinebench R10 and Windows Media Encoder scores of 4,285 and 1:16, respectively, were also impressive, but the more powerful Dell system retained the top scores for both tests.
The battery life time 3 hours 5 minutes on MobileMark 2007 was about average for a 15-inch notebook.
The Sony VAIO VGN-NW120J may cost a bit more than the HP G60, but it offers slightly better performance and has much nicer lines and a slick finish. Including a Blu-ray drive would have gone a long way toward justifying the higher price, however. If high definition capabilities are a priority, there's always the well-appointed Dell Studio XPS 16, which offers a full 1080p display and a Blu-ray drive, but you'll have to part with an additional grand for the extra features.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS: Check out the test scores for Sony VAIO VGN-NW120J (Staples)
Spec Data
Type General Purpose
Processor Name Intel Core 2 Duo T6500
Operating System Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium
Processor Speed 2.1 GHz
Weight 5.5 lb
Screen Size 15.5 inches
Screen Size Type Widescreen
Graphics Card Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD
Graphics Memory 64
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 320 GB
Rotation Speed 5400 rpm
Networking Options 802.11n
Primary Optical Drive Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW
Battery Type 40 Whr (Watt hours)
Tech Support one year 24/7

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