Saturday, 4 February 2012


Perhaps the biggest flaw with the VAIO VPC-F136FM/B is its plain design. Its cover is basic matte black, bearing a metallic VAIO logo, and the inside is all gray, all the time, except for the black chiclet keys comprising both the main keyboard and the 10-key numpad that is also included. There are also five grey media-control buttons above the top row of the keyboard. Of course, media center laptops intend for you to focus on what's on the screen rather than what the body looks like, and the VPC-F136FM/B doesn't fail on that score. The 16.4-inch display is bright, and its 1,600 by 900 resolution is more than sufficient for viewing high-resolution photos or watching movies in up to 720p HD. The system as a whole is on the modest side, measuring 1.6 by 15.3 by 10.4 inches (HWD) and weighs 6.5 pounds, so the display and what you can do with it will really stand out.

PRICE: $1,299.99
Once upon a time, entertainment laptops weren't noteworthy in the hardware department; they gave you the basics you needed for typical media chores and not much more. The VAIO VPC-F136FM/B really shows how that thinking has changed in recent years, offering a well-decked-out system by any accounting. The 1.73-GHz Intel Core i7-740QM processor is a powerful one, and has the potential to become even more so (to the tune of 2.93 GHz) if you activate Intel's Turbo Boost feature. There's plenty of memory, too: 6GB of DDR3 RAM (expandable to 8GB), which you'll be able to take full advantage of thanks to the 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium operating system. The 640GB hard drive (5,400 rpm) is a roomy one, and it's nicely paired with a DVD±RW–Blu-ray reader combo drive, so HD movies will be within your grasp. Afraid that a system like this may not come through on the graphics? Don't be—the discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 425M video card has 1GB of dedicated memory, and will leave you plenty of performance headroom.
The VAIO VPC-F136FM/B is also not wanting in terms of connectivity or other options. A Gigabit Ethernet jack, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, 4G WiMax, and Bluetooth are all on board. You will also find a webcam positioned dead center at the top of the bezel, and SD and MagicGate card slots on the front edge, right next to the wireless on-off switch. On the right edge of the system, you'll see the headphone/optical out and microphone jacks and two USB 3.0 ports next to the optical drive. On the left edge are the Ethernet, VGA out, HDMI out, eSATA/USB 2.0 combo, and FireWire 400 ports, as well as an ExpressCard slot.
Among the included software are the Sony Creativity Suite, VAIO Media Gallery, and the Best Buy PC App (for purchasing and installing software), as well as Microsoft Office Starter 2010 and a 60-day free trial of the full version of Microsoft Office.
Because Sony hasn't skimped on the VAIO VPC-F136FM/B's hardware, it turned out some stellar results in our benchmark tests, even when compared to other desktop-replacement laptops. Its scores of 6,197 in PCMark Vantage, 4 minutes 52 seconds in Photoshop CS5, and 3.09 in Cinebench R11.5 make it one of the top competitors in its class. Its Photoshop result is tied with that of the HP Pavilion dv6-3163cl ($899.99 list, 3.5 stars), and the VAIO's even time of 3 minutes in our Handbrake video conversion test lagged just slightly behind that of the Pavilion (2:48) and Dell Inspiron 17R-2248MRB ($850 list, 3.5 stars) (2:44).
Even gaming can be satisfying on this VAIO: It averaged a healthy 47.9 frames per second (fps) in our Crysis test at 1,024 by 768 with Medium details, and a respectable 33.3 fps on Lost Planet 2 at the same resolution and under the same conditions. Unfortunately, when we cranked up the details and ran the same tests at the system's native resolution, things didn't go so well: Crysisslowed to a crawl of 7.5 fps, and Lost Planet 2 to 13.9—in both cases functionally unplayable. Still, if you don't mind maxing out the display, games aren't remotely out of the question.
Nor, for that matter, is working unplugged every once in a while. This VAIO, like most larger laptops, doesn't have terrific battery life, but it proved more robust than even Sony expected: The company promises only 2 hours 30 minutes from the VAIO's lithium ion battery, but we managed 2 hours 44 minutes in our MobileMark 2007 rundown test.
Unlike our Editors' Choice media center laptop, the Dell Studio 17, the Sony VAIO VPC-F136FM/B has a smaller screen (16.4 inches versus 17.3 inches), lacks multitouch capability, and doesn't have an integrated TV tuner option. For users who want full control over their media, those would be nice touches. But if you don't feel like dropping another $110 on the Dell, the VAIO is a powerful system that will serve you and your family well.
Spec Data
Type General Purpose, Media, Desktop Replacement
Processor Name Intel Core i7-740QM
Operating System Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium
Processor Speed 1.73 GHz
Weight 6.5 lb
Screen Size 16.3 inches
Screen Size Type Widescreen
Native Resolution 1600 x 900
Graphics Card nVidia GeForce GT 425M
Graphics Memory 1024
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 640 GB
Rotation Speed 5400 rpm
Networking Options 802.11n
Primary Optical Drive Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW
Wireless Display Capability (WiDi) No
WiMax Yes
MobileMark 2007 – Standard Battery Productivity Load (hrs:min) 2:44
PCMark Vantage 6197
3-D BENCHMARK TESTS - 3DMark06 - 1,024 x 768 - Default 8807
3-D BENCHMARK TESTS - 3DMark06 - Native – 0X/4X 6026
MULTIMEDIA TESTS - Handbrake 3:00 min:sec
MULTIMEDIA TESTS - PhotoShop CS5 4:52 min:sec
MULTIMEDIA TESTS - CineBench 11.5 3.09
PRICE: $1,299.99

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