The Sony VAIO GRT716S was the first laptop I owned and bought some 5 years ago now and its still running fine.
Overall, its fairly sturdy - desk height falls didn't do harm to it and it was also easy to keep clean.
Speedwise, with optimization, it hardly ever crashed on any software for me when other people reported constant crashes on their different systems, so I would believe the components were of high quality. It also ran software (i.e. games) that had minimum requirements well outside its capabilities so that was a big plus too.
Now as for downsides, it was fairly expensive when I bought it back in Germany, for almost 2000 Euros. After several years of use (despite regular internal cleaning), one of the fans ended up dying and the laptop would literally make your room temperature soar. However, if you buy a laptop cooler, that should not be a problem. Also, due to its high specs for a P4, the battery would literally run out within minutes, so keep it plugged!
This laptop still runs 5 years on and if you still have one, don't throw it - its still usable!
I have had my Sony Vaio GRT716S for 3 months now and I thought that it is was high time I wrote a review about this marvellous notebook. Founded in 1946 Sony started out as a small company specialising in transistors radios, over the years their influence in the electronics market has grown and today they are probably the worlds most recognisable brand of electronic goods. In 1998 Sony launched their Vaio range of notebooks and these too have become the must have name in the notebook market. As with most of the Sony Vaio notebooks it has a sleek and sharp looking design intended to lure looks conscious buyers like myself. It has dimensions of (WxDxH) 35.7 cm x 30 cm x 4.5 cm which is slightly bigger than your average notebook but not a major concern. It comes in a two tone grey colour being light at the front near the keyboard and a darker grey around the TFT screen and back where all ports are. The Keyboard is robust and durable unlike my previous notebook where the keyboard was poorly fixed and kept bouncing up and down as I typed. The keys are springy to the touch and offer great responsiveness, a feature which I always look for in a notebook as I do a lot of typing. There is nothing worse than a keyboard with rigid keys that slam into the base every time you touch them. I am quite a heavy handed typist so I need soft keys so that I don?t drive my fiancee crazy with my earthquake inducing typing late at night. The GRT716S?s keyboard is perfect in this respect and even my heavy hand can?t force the keys to make too much of a noise. The touch pad is another area of concern with any laptop and I strongly suggest that you try out any notebook before buying because I have tried some touch pads that are very sluggish. Often this can be rectified by changing the sensitivity in some menu somewhere hidden within the labyrinth that is Windows XP but sometimes the touch pads are just duff so make sure you try them out. The Sony Vaio GRT716S has no problems
on this front either, initially the touch pad was a little slow but after tweaking the sensitivity option I found it to be perfectly responsive. This is of course all down to personal preference, I prefer my mouse pointer to move swiftly across the screen but others don?t. Most people will find that the initial settings will suit them just fine. Another thing that you may want to consider is buying a mouse, but again this is just my personal preference and depends upon how you are going to use the notebook. If you are using it at home and quite frequently, touch pads can become quite tedious and so the addition of a mouse can combat this. The GRT716S also boasts a 16.1? Onyx TFT screen which Sony insisted was the sharpest screen available on a notebook at the time of production. I have to back this up completely, before I bought my Sony Vaio I shopped around quite a lot trying out many different notebooks in loads of different stores. I can honestly say that the screen on the GRT716S is by the far the sharpest image I have seen on a notebook screen. With my previous notebook the image was fairly sharp if you looked at it straight on but as you started to move around the screen the image started to blur and fade out (as with most notebook TFT screens). With the Sony Vaio GRT716S however, the image displayed on the screen stays sharp even at these different angles (up to a certain point obviously). This is great if you want to lay down on the sofa to use it, as I often do when I?m surfing the web, because it still provides a superb image. The size of the screen is also perfectly ample if not a little more than you really need, but I like a bigger screen as I find it easier on the eyes. The drive included with this notebook is one of its best features as it has support for all the writing formats that are currently available on both CD and DVD. It can write both the major DVD formats and all the DVDs and CDs I have written so far have come out perfec
tly (no tea coasters yet!) . The CD-ROM reads at a speed of 24x while the DVD-ROM reads at a speed of 5x, which is pretty much the industry standard for both CD and DVD nowadays. Now to move onto the features that most people will look at first when looking around for a new notebook or desktop, the amount of RAM and the CPU speed. As standard the Sony Vaio GRT716S comes with a 2.8 GHz Intel Pentium processor and 512 MB of DDR RAM. The processor speed is more than enough for any applications that you may want to run and can easily cope with even the most advanced games on the market. Where this processor falls down however is in the fact that it is a normal processor (of the type used in all desktops) rather than a mobile equivalent which is often used in notebooks. Mobile processors for those of you who don?t know were developed specifically for use in notebooks in that they require less power to run and tend not to overheat as much as a normal processor. In a desktop overheating is not a problem because the processor usually has its own fan which blows air over it to cool it down and there is generally more space in a desktop tower so overheating is less common. Placing a desktop processor in the confined space of a notebook however is a different issue. After a while they tend to heat up and while they have a fan to cool them down it is a less efficient process because there is less space available into which cool air can flow. This means that the fan often has to run continuously to make sure that the processor is kept cool. When I saw that the Sony Vaio GRT716S had a desktop processor I was somewhat put off but as I?m not really that bothered by fan noise I didn?t consider it to be that much of an issue. Having used my GRT716S for prolonged periods of time I can confirm that after about an hour of use the fan will kick in (earlier if you are playing graphics intensive games) and runs pretty much continuously for the rest of the time you are u
sing the notebook. Personally I can ignore the noise (which could hardly be described as loud) but for some people the noise is very irritating and is a point to consider. The 512 MB of DDR RAM is ample for most applications and means that you can have many programs open at once (I?ve had eight programs running simultaneously) without any slowing down. If you intend to play the latest games however, you may want to consider adding some more RAM. I play a lot of Battlefield 1942 (which is a very memory intensive game) and found that sometimes the game slowed up or stuttered when the settings were set to the highest levels. In the past couple of weeks I have expanded the memory to 1024MB and now I can run the game on the highest settings available without any degradation of performance. This brings us nicely onto the Graphics card which is an extremely important factor when playing games. The GRT716S has an Nvidia GeForce FZ Go5600 graphics card with 64MB of onboard RAM. The onboard RAM is an important factor here as it means that the graphics card does not leach any of the system memory which could impair the performance of the notebook when playing games. The graphics card has been adapted for use in notebooks and is capable of coping with most of the latest releases with ease. I have played a wide variety of games on my GRT716S (Morrowind III, Battlefield 1942 and Call of Duty amongst others) and have so far encountered no problems. The games run perfectly well and there is no stuttering or blurred graphics. The Sony Vaio GRT716S comes with an 80GB hard drive which will be more than ample for most everyday users. I have a lot of games and music which I store on my hard drive so the large capacity is particularly useful for me. Even with over 25 game and 120 hours of music I have only used 39GB so I cannot see myself running out of space in the near future. Access to the hard drive is also very quick and loading from the hard drive seems
to be faster than my previous notebook so no complaints there. In terms of connectivity you couldn?t ask for much more, the GRT716S has 3 USB ports running the new 2.0 technology which makes for faster transference of data between your peripherels and your notebook. As well as this it has a Firewire port and one of Sony?s magic gate memory stick slots. The absence of an Infrared port is of little importance to me and I don?t know anybody who makes use of such a feature on a regular basis so its non-inclusion is not really a major problem. Not really much else to say in terms of connectivity, the ports that the GRT716S provide are perfect for the everyday user and this is a notebook aimed at the mass market rather than a specialised group. I would recommend this notebook as a desktop replacement rather than a notebook which your are going to use on a bus or a train. The lithium ion battery only gives about 1.5 hours of use before it needs to charged and if you are running many applications at once this time can be significantly lowered (sometimes below an hour). The weight of the notebook is also a factor in this, weighing in at 3.9Kg it?s not exactly lightweight, so you won?t want to be carrying this across any appreciable distance. However this notebook is perfect if you want a system that you can move easily around your house. This was an important factor for me when deciding to buy a notebook, as I tend to type while I?m in bed and in my study and I like to surf the net whilst watching television so I needed to be able to move around the house, which is something that a desktop does not offer. The GRT716S comes with built in Stereo speakers which offer adequate sound if not a little tinny at times, but that is to be expected with all notebook speakers. When playing games and listening to music I tend to use the speakers which came with my desktop but again this is all down to personal preference. For some people sound is not that imp
ortant, but I like to have a good quality sound system on which to enjoy my music and to appreciate the finer details of the sound effects in the games that I play. The GRT716S also comes with a built in 56k modem and onboard Ethernet support for local area networking. This notebook is often bundled with a whole host of software which differs depending on where you buy it. Most retailers offer an Adobe package along with Microsoft Works 7.0 and some other Sony related software but shop around to get the best software package as they differ greatly from place to place. Overall I would recommend this notebook to anyone who is looking for a desktop replacement with high specifications and a high level of overall performance. At £1799.99 it is a bit pricey but as the saying goes ?You get what you pay for? and that is definitely the case with the Sony Vaio GRT716S. Listed below are the full specifications for those of you that are interested. Full Specifications Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz processor 512MB DDR SDRAM memory (expandable to 1GB) 80GB hard drive Removable CD-RW/DVD ±RW drive 16.1" TFT colour display Visible screen size 40.9cm (measured diagonally) Nvidia GeForce FX Go5600 with 3D performance 64MB Video RAM Built-in stereo speakers 1 i.LINK (IEEE 1394) interface 3 USB 2.0 ports 56K V.90 modem Built-in Ethernet 10 BASE-T/100 BASE-TX MagicGate Memory Stick slot H47 x W357 x D300mm Weight 3.9kg