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Three years ago I decided to retire my desktop PC and replace it with a laptop. I searched high and low, reading reviews, checking prices and constantly trying to decide which one I wanted to spend £1000 on.
I eventually came across the Sony Vaio FE31M. After spending nearly £1000, I could only think that it had better be worth it. 3 years later, I can confidently say that yes, it was.
Sony Vaio's are quite expensive in comparison to other laptops, but the build quality, features, style and reliability are worth it. Over the last 3 years I have had no problems at all. I do not treat my belongings very carefully, yet the Sony has shown no sign of wear and tear, no slow down in speed (although I do keep it updated and protected) and despite being classed as quite old now, it still looks very stylish.
It is mostly grey, with the outer edge of the screen and the underside being black. There is also a silver Vaio sign on the top cover, which is instantly recognisable to anyone who knows about laptops.
The CD drive can be found on the left side of the base, along with 2 Ethernet ports. On the right is the power connection, sockets for video and printer cables, 3 USB ports and memory card slots.
On the front of the laptop, you will find the power and battery life buttons, along with a switch to turn the internet and / or Bluetooth on and microphone and headphone sockets.
As you can see, there are connections for pretty much everything you may need on the go.
The screen is 15.4" with X-black technology. This makes the display very clear and bright and 3 years on I have not had any dead pixels. It is very prone to finger marks though. These are not visible when the computer is on, yet when it is off you will see them very clearly. However, do not worry; they can be cleaned easily with a damp cloth.
The keyboard is very nice to use. The buttons are not too small and are very soft when typing. The power button can be seen to the top right of the keyboard, with the mute, volume and two programmable shortcut buttons to the top left. The mouse pad is large, with two buttons underneath and is slightly off centre to the left. The whole setup makes the keyboard and mouse well spaced out and both accurate and quick to use.
An extra you will find on the top of the FE31M's screen is the motion eye camera, which is very helpful if you talk to friends over the internet, or have video conferences. It is easy to switch on and works very well. If you like to see people as you talk to them, or take photos of yourself and send them, then this laptop is for you.
On to the computer itself; With an Intel Core 2 Duo, 1.83 GHz processer, this laptop is very fast. It loads up quickly, runs programs at a fast speed, even if you have 3 or more open. It has not yet failed me and with 30 hours use a week for the last 3 years, it goes to show that it is very well built and reliable.
The 160 GB hard drive is the equivalent to 50, 000 songs, so has plenty of space for the average user. A bigger hard drive may be suitable for those who have lots of films and videos on their PC. You have 2 drives, so it easy to keep programs and media etc separate, which helps with processor speed. Windows also helps you to partition the drives if needed.
The Nvidia GEForce Go7600 graphics card is more than adequate for me; despite only having 128mb dedicated Video RAM, which makes large detailed games struggle a little. However, it still works and I have no problems with any games or films. They all look very clear and detailed. The sound on the Sony is also very good and can get to quite a loud volume. Obviously there is no comparison to desktop PC speakers, but you shouldn't expect this from a laptop.
The Sony Vaio comes with 1GB RAM, which is not a lot these days. I found that when I was using the laptop to browse the internet while having all of my web design programs and files open, the RAM would nearly top out. However, this laptop can be upgraded to a maximum of 2GB if needed. It is very simple to do. There is a small cover on the underside of the laptop which can be opened by taking out the two screws. Inside there are two slots, which can each take up to a 1GB card. I bought two of these for approximately £25 online and since installing them, there has been a noticeable difference in speed.
The Bluetooth on the laptop is a very helpful extra, allowing you to transfer files to and from the computer to a Bluetooth device, such as your mobile phone. I have used this very frequently, as the Bluetooth File Transfer Wizard which is pre installed makes it very simple.
Despite how good the laptop is, there are still some down falls. Firstly, it is quite heavy, so it is not the easiest laptop to travel with. The battery life has also been quite poor. Originally it lasted 3 hours on 'Balanced' mode, although this was significantly reduced on 'Performance' mode. This does not make it a good laptop for a long journey, unless you have spare battery packs with you. Three years on and my battery does not last for an hour. This is probably my fault though, as I usually use the laptop plugged in, so it rarely runs just off the battery to keep it working. However, no laptop batteries work at top performance for ever and new ones are available to buy. I have had to pay nothing for any repairs or spare parts since I bought it, so I feel that a new battery is not a bad price to pay.
Despite these negatives, overall I have been very happy with my Sony Vaio FE31M. It is fast, stylish, has lots of features and is very reliable. Sony is one of the top names in laptops and I can now see why. Whether it is this Sony that you go for, or any of the others in their range, I am sure you will not be disappointed.