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Coding on Sony Viao VGN-FW51JF - the MacBook Wannabe

02.01.2010
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I've been coding on the MacBook wannabe Sony VAIO VGN-FW51JF for the last few months and this is what I have to say about it.

The good

The laptop looks good (once you have removed all the stickers). The keyboard has very thin, wide spaced buttons like a MacBook and I was sceptical at first that I would be able to type as fast as I was used to with my retired IBM T42. After a month I was more comfortable with the new keyboard than I ever was with the old one. The wider space between keys is greatly improving my typing speed.

The bad

The touchpad supports scrolling by moving a finger along the side of the touchpad. Its fairly unpredictable when (if at all) it actually registers the scrolling movement. Its also inaccurate. I dont like it.

The touchpad features a left and right mousebutton. They are located below the touchpad. Sitting with the laptop on your lap, pressed against the stomach the buttons are obstructed even for a slim guy like me! :) Smart laptops have these buttons located at the top of the touchpad.

When I work late in dim lit traincoupes or in my bed (like now) the keyboard light of the retired T42 is very handy. The Sony VAIO has no such thing – I miss it.

The Windows 7 64bit installation came with lots of Sony bloatware. When logging into Windows I get tray popups telling me to create this profile, register that program, that I have files somewhere to be burnt on disc (this one will even repeat 3 times in a few minutes like I didnt mean it when I closed the popup the first time). One popup is triggered every time i press a keyboard shortcut key – to tell I pressed a keyboard shortcut key!! I get a general purpose menu aligned with the top of the screen that pops up when I move the mouse to hit the close button of windows usually located in that region of the screen – thus obscuring the close button – nice!

Sound, well Im no hifi expert, my initial verdict is that the sound is “muffled”. My Sennheiser hd202 earphones produce awesome sound with the retired laptop and with other devices but it sucks with the Sony VAIO. The sound coming from the laptops builtin speakers is squeaky. Haven't found any options that significantly improve the sound. Its not broken, its just bad.

The mixed

The Full HD 1920 x 1080 pixels on a 16.4 inch screen means high pixel density. Its a blessing and a curse. Naturally you want to increase the systemwide font DPI setting to make a 12pt font the same size in your physical world as on any lower resolution screen you may have been used to. Doing so gives you very smooth glyphs but webpage layout falls apart on many mainstream websites. Often web designers will define small regions of fixed size (set in pixels) and put text with scalable fonts inside those regions. This only works when the user has the same font DPI as the web designer. When the user has a higher font DPI then the font wont fit inside the limited region and the text will be clipped sometimes to the extend that it becomes completely unreadable. Bloody amateurs need to learn how to respect scalable fonts! :)

Conclusion

Fast keyboard, wide screen, big harddisk (500Gb) makes this laptop suited for coding.

Touchpad scrolling support is lousy, you have to move hand away from keyboard to scroll using the mousewheel. Mousebuttons below touchpad are illplaced, the laptop is not suited for use on a lap.

Bloatware will annoy you but it can mostly be uninstalled/disabled.

All in all I'm satisfied with the product but its not brilliant.

Original review http://scalemania.wordpress.com/2009/12/13/laptop-review-sony-vaio-vgn-fw51jf/

 

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Smeltet Kerne.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

Comments

Jacek Furmankiewicz replied on Mon, 2010/02/01 - 5:10pm

Does Ubuntu install easily on it?

I can't imagine doing any server-side development on Windows anymore...

Daniel Alexiuc replied on Mon, 2010/02/01 - 6:02pm

"lots of Sony bloatware" is an understatement. I don't think you realise exactly how much bloatware there is.

There's a trick to using a sony laptop - you have to do a clean install of windows, and then got to the sony website and download only the sony utilities that you absolutely need (function keys, HDD protection etc). If you don't know what it is then don't install it - the computer will run fine without it.

sd giant replied on Mon, 2010/02/01 - 6:15pm

I've been looking at the exact same model.  I have a couple notes based on my research (I don't own one)

1. Custom built Sony's have a "Clean Install" option.  Only available with Win7 Pro at $45 more than Win7 Hom, seems like it would be worth... lots of bloatware comments at newegg too.

2. I love the centered keyboard (with no number pad.) I know some people love the number pad.  As a coder who codes on my lap, I hate off-center keyboards...

  - as a followup, I'm very disappointed the new Sony i7 processor based laptops (like the VPCF1190X CTO) don't keep the keyboard of this model

  - I think there is a backlit keyboard on the VPCF1190X CTO though...

Jakob Jenkov replied on Wed, 2010/02/03 - 2:34am

How about HP Envy?

 

 ... I appreciate the review, as I had been thinking about buying a Sony, but have heard more than one unsatisfied user talk against it... even so, is a hardware review not a little bit misplaced on a Java site? :-)

Sindy Loreal replied on Sat, 2012/02/25 - 7:26am

Nice post mate!! Keep up the great writing and we’ll keep coming back for more

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