Product Type: Sony laptops
Newest Review: ... and did they succeed? Yes, yes they did - and I'll forever be grateful. The Sony Vaio VGN-NR38E has a solid, but smart design with... more
Good Vaio For Money
Sony Vaio NR38E/S
Member Name: IzzyS
Sony Vaio NR38E/S
Advantages: Decent spec . , nice ergonomic design and feel to it, nice size, good value for money
Disadvantages: Touch pad and buttons a bit too close, the fn keys slightly dodgy (see review)
Anyone who saw my review of my last laptop, my Toshiba Equium, will know that I had alot of problems with it, of different types. In September I gave up on it and agreed to let my dad have it at a decent price, since he seemed pretty sure he'd still be able to use it.
So I went back to looking at what was on the market, laptop wise and when I spotted that you could get a Sony Vaio for under £400, I was quite tempted. Having read through the laptops specification and knowing that Vaios in general are sturdy, well built laptops of a decent quality and having always liked Sony branded items (I know, its bad to be tempted by name alone but its not like I was spending hundreds more just for the name, at this price), I ended up deciding to go for it, getting one for £399 at a local Comet store.
Read on for more information about it....
- Basic Spec. Stats. -
Ok so what do you get with this laptop? well it is one of, if not *the*, cheapest Vaio on the market, so clearly its not exactly the most highly powered, or feature packed, unit out there but considering the price and what I need, I find it suits me fine.
Here's the basic specification information, for anyone interested...
- OS (Operating System)
Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit. It also comes with the service pack 1 pre-installed, which saves you a bit of time as you don't have to install that before using it. With the Home Premium version of Vista, you get the Windows Media Center, which can be fun for scrolling through and selecting your favourite music and video files, though it is all patter really I suppose... like the 3D tiling, something that looks awesome the first time but honestly, I've hardly ever used myself since.
For anyone interested, this laptop has a 3.1 rating, as far as the Windows Experience Index is concerned (you can view this on a Vista machine by loading welcome center and clicking on 'Show more details').
Intel Pentium Dual Core T2390 @ 1.86ghz, which is slightly faster than my Toshiba (the Toshiba was only purchased about a year or so ago too). Now im no real IT expert but I believe this means that there are two processor chips (hence 'dual') that both run at the stated 1.86ghz. Its perfectly fast enough for anyone who mainly uses their computer for surfing the net, viewing and doing basic video editing every so often, like me.
- RAM (Random Access Memory)
2.00 GB. When you have Vista running, you really do need a decent amount of RAM, I hear that 2gb is almost the minimum for it to run fast enough that it doesn't drive you nuts (lol). I believe when it comes to the latest technology, you can now get up to about 4gb RAM but I find that 2GB is fine for my purposes/uses. The RAM basically helps the system run that little bit quicker and its used when you launch and run applications (programs). If you want to play music while also browse the 'net and maybe save a file through windows movie maker or something, multi tasking like that, then the more RAM you have the better, as it allows the computer to run all those applications quicker and lessens the chance of it crashing from the user requesting too many functions at once, if that makes any sense, basically the more RAM you have, the more multiple resources or applications/programs you can have running at once, I believe.
Considering there are still laptops being sold with as little as 512mb RAM, I feel 2gb is more than enough, even with Vista running. I can't think of a time where I've felt frustrated that it seemed to run particularly slow, apart from when it takes a while to shut down as it can do at times but to be honest I tend to blame Microsoft for that more than the hardware LOL. I tend to believe that if I had a new laptop with XP, rather than Vista, 1gb RAM would probably be more than enough, or close to it but oh well, there you go... its hard to find a new, modern laptop with everything else I'd like and a full warranty that runs XP and not Vista nowadays, so I guess I'm stuck having to 'get with the times' or whatever.
- Hard Disk Drive
The total capacity of the hard disk drive is 142gb. I think they advertise it as having 160gb but of course some of this space is used up by the OS (Vista) and pre-installed applications. Anyway I checked with 'my computer' and there it shows that the total space for drive c: is 142gb, so thats the total amount you have to play with, so to speak. I'm not too fussed about getting a large hard disk drive, considering I already have a 120gb external hard drive and a 7gb flash drive and external drives are getting so cheap, why pay 100s for a computer with a large hard disk drive when you could buy a portable one with over 100gb for under or around the £50 mark? 142gb is more than enough for me, especially considering my older Fujitsu Siemens I used until last year, that only had about 32gb in total!
- Graphics card
This laptop comes with a Mobile Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 card
- DVD Rewriter drive
The laptop comes with a DVD rewriter drive, so you can burn files onto recordable DVD disks. Its a DVD+RW/+R DL/RAM drive, so it will record on to DVD+R and DVD+RW recordable disks.
This laptop has a built in wireless ready functionality, so you only have to key in the details of your local network(s) once and it should automatically detect and log you onto it afterwards. There is a switch at the front of the laptop where you can switch the wireless LAN setting either on or off (it should be switched off in some places, such as during a flight etc., for safety reasons). The WLAN or wireless capability I believe is 802.11 b/g, if that means anything to you.
- What Other Features Are There, Externally etc.? -
- The Screen
This laptop features a 15.4" glossy screen/monitor. It is one of the glossier type screens but it seems nearly all modern laptops have that type of screen. I am a bit concerned that it does seem to attract a fair amount of dust and of course fingerprints show on it easily, its already started to look a little grubby but as nearly all laptops have such screens, I can't mark the Sony down for this alone really. I try to be careful and I have a microfiber cloth I use to clean it, when I remember *ahem*.
Anyway the screen is quite a nice size, its not too small that I feel I squint to read from it and its not too large that it means the laptop is too big and bulky and awkward to move either.
- Ports/Card Reader Slots
The following ports are built in
- 1x SD card media reader slot
- 1x Sony Memory Pro Duo reader slot
- 4x USB ports, 2 on one side and 2 on the other
- 1x ilink port (I believe this is used with digital camcorders and the like and is a Sony device)
- 1x headphone (standard 3.5mm port) & 1x microphone ports
- 1x VGA port (which I use to connect my laptop to my TV, the VGA port transfers picture from my laptop to TV). Be aware that this laptop does NOT include S-video out, which is also known as TV-out. Thats the connection normally used to provide both picture and audio from the laptop to a TV, the VGA port ONLY allows you to transfer picture to another monitor or a modern TV. You'll have to pay a bit more to get a laptop with a higher spec. that would include S-video out, if connecting your laptop to an older TV through scart is something your particularly keen on doing. I can only get it to work with my TV because my TV has a VGA port at the back labelled 'PC' and I use speakers separately to play the audio in front of the TV but most older TVs won't have that port/option...
Of course there is also the mains adapter plug/port, so you can use the laptop with the mains adapter plugged in and charge the battery up that way, as per usual. There are also two network ports, I believe these are for use if you were to cable a modem in or otherwise for use with network cables/connections, thats all I know, sorry im no real expert in these things but the main ports and slots I've already mentioned.
- Sony Site Spec. -
If you'd like to check, this link should take you to a page where the full technical specification of this Vaio model is shown from the UK Sony Vaio support site:- http://support.vaio.sony.co.uk/specifications/spec ifications.asp?site=voe_e n_GB_cons&c=0&s=VGN-NR&m=3374
- Pre-Installed Applications -
One nice advantage to buying a Vaio, even one of the cheapest ones like this, is that you get all the Vaio programs that come with all Vaio laptops. There are a number of programs that I got with my laptop, some of which include:-
- WinDVD for Vaio (for playback of video/movie files)
- Vaio Control Center (which lets you view and edit different settings related to the laptop)
- Vaio Content Exporter (which lets you convert mpeg video files)
- Vaio Data Restore Tool (why you'd use this instead of Windows Restore Point option, im not entirely sure)
- Google applications. It comes pre-loaded with a bunch of Google applications, including Picasa and Google desktop, which may or may not be of interest to you. Of course, these can all be downloaded for free through Googles site but if you use these anyway then it just saves you a bit of time as you don't have to sit and download them separately...
- McAfee. I got a 1 month free trial of McAffee SecurityCenter with the laptop but that might not be available everywhere, im not sure if that was just the shop I went to that offered that(?).
- Look, Style & Feel -
I have to say, I am pretty impressed with the Vaios ergonomic design. It has a different texture to the normal glossy/shiny type you might see on other laptops, on the bottom panel (around the keyboard etc.). This texture makes it alot easier to grip and lift/move the laptop about and, perhaps even better, it doesn't seem to get grubby or suffer from having lots of visible fingerprints show up on it either, which is a definite plus. This textured design is also featured on the top of the laptop lid, the only places its not applied to are both sides (where the ports are) and the bottom.
As well as this nice, easy to grip texture, the ergonomic design also includes a bigger than usual touchpad, which means that you don't I suppose hurt your fingers using a smaller touch pad. The two buttons below (for left and right click functions) have a rather posh sort of silver/chrome look and feel to them, which is nice to look at but the touchpad itself I feel can be a bit annoying for being so large at times, as I've found myself accidentally having two fingers on the touchpad at the same time, which messes the cursor up on screen, where I mean to have my other finger on the button but its easy to touch the pad by mistake, since its so large and there's little space between the touch pad and the buttons below.
Also the keys on the board are a nice size, not too small or too large and the keys work quite well. The keys aren't too large and you don't have to really push on them for the character to show up on screen, as I felt the keyboard on my old Toshiba was a bit stiff or something, the keys weren't quite as responsive but these seem fine.
In general though, I do quite like the design. Also its worth pointing out that I feel this laptop is particularly thin, or narrow, though it isn't exactly feather light but its not really 'chunky' either. I'm not bothered by the weight, since I hardly ever, if ever, take my laptop out the house but for anyone bothered about this, I'd say that it is still pretty heavy, you definitely need both hands to hold it up safely, put it that way! still, it is quite neat otherwise...
- Noise/Fan -
This is another section I thought I better add to my review here. The fan is located at the right side of the unit, if you put your hand near it then you'll easily feel the heat coming out of it when your using it, as you'd expect. The more highly powered the laptop, the more heat it generates and so a good fan is important and I've had no problems with the laptop over heating, so it seems to be good enough.
Another problem, or nuisance, can be the noise of the hard disk and of the fan and the unit in general, some laptops can be pretty noisy while their running and others aren't so bad. I'm quite happy with the noise level on this laptop. The keys aren't too noisy and there's only a light humming noise that you can hear while its running, its not as noisy as some laptops or computers I've heard. Just be careful with the fan to remember what side its on, never block it ( and dont put chocolate next to it, or anything that can melt, like I did accidentally to my old laptop forgetting how hot it is, I came back into the room 5 minutes later to find a pool of chocolate next to the laptop - :-( ), its pretty common sense stuff. The only element of the laptop that I noticed is a little noisy, though I am being a little picky perhaps in pointing this out, is, or are, the right and left click mouse/touchpad buttons, which make a fairly loud 'click' noise.
- Battery Life -
Some people complain that this units battery life isn't as good as it could be. Perhaps more expensive laptops have better battery life or energy consumption levels or what-not I don't know but I do tend to run my laptop off the mains for the most part and only run it off battery a couple of times a week or so, to keep the battery working. I've found that, so far, the battery tends to last around about two hours and a quarter, once fully charged and left to run on battery, it'll last about that long, which seems pretty average to me.
- What Else Does The Vaio 'Badge' Entitle Me To? -
Well not only do you get the undoubtedly patented ergonomic design but you can also join in by registering your laptop online, which will give you access to the Club Vaio site. Here you can find extra downloads and support help, there are discussion and support forums online, where you can post topics if you need a bit of help with something. I have used this service a couple of times and have received replies by people who have the badge (or title) 'Club Vaio Expert', so I presume they've been authorised to give out help and advice with basic to moderate problems with peoples Sony Vaios. You can find the support forum for Vaio notebooks/laptops here:-
The main European Club Vaio site can, of course, be found here:-
- So, Is It Any Good? What Are My Thoughts On This Laptop, So Far? Any Problems Encountered? -
Ok I admit I've only had it a month or so but I do use it daily. Having a good quality laptop is something that I feel is worth paying for and I was relieved that I wouldn't have to feel too much guilt given the price tag of this entry level Vaio.
The large touchpad can be a little annoying and I have noticed so far that on ocassion the 'fn' keys dont work, whereby I'll press the right key combinations but nothing appears on screen and there's no change to the screen brightness or volume and I have to restart the computer and try again, by which point the keys work fine. Hmmm... well I can't say thats something I like to see happening, especially so soon into having this laptop but restarting always seems to fix it and its only happened once or twice, where the buttons don't work.
The other slightly annoying thing I find, is that there isn't a manual volume knob on the laptop and to adjust the volume, other than by messing about with the volume control in Windows, you have to use the 'fn' key and f3 and f4 buttons. I'm used to just using a knob at the side of the laptop which this doesn't have, so thats a slight annoyance. This is what happens when you get used to something being there I guess lol its all change...
In general, I am very happy with my Vaio. The keys on the keyboard are easy to use, their not loud like some and it does have a nice design to it, I feel its a decent specification and I don't have any real problems with programs taking ages to load, so I don't feel its underpowered for my moderate computing uses. It looks good and runs pretty well and for the £400 mark, I am very happy.
If (and I hope it doesn't!) my laptop suddenly takes a turn for the worse, I'll be sure to edit this of course but for now, I wanted to add a review to let you know what this model offers and what I think of it. I may have only had it a month or so but I do use my laptop really quite frequently, so im pretty used to it now and can describe and explain it pretty well.
I hope this review has been helpful to you, if you have any questions or queries you think I might be able to help you with then feel free to leave a comment and I'll try and get back to you, incase I missed anything important out (but I hope I didn't).
This review can also be found on Ciao under my name there (the same name , IzzyS).
Many thanks for all R/R/Cs and thanks for reading!.
Summary: A dual core Sony Vaio for just under £400 that about says it all! definitely worth looking into
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