IRL Review- Sony VAIO F1 Desktop Replacement Laptop- The F1 is probably one of the most exciting laptops I have ever reviewed. Just kidding- its kind of forgettable. It falls along the long lineage of the F series, dating back to my early years in undergrad when the FS series came out and stole my heart with the Sony design and VAIO logo. Designed to be a media laptop for consuming things like movies, the media laptop eventually became more of a mainstream laptop, and 15 inches was the norm for most laptop purchasers. The F series eventually moved to a larger size, 16.4 inches with the FW series, and the F1 is the next iteration of that model (followed by the F2 which was the final F series, before being replaced by the SE- where the E was an entertainment version of the business S class, and finally ending with the SVS15). At 16.4 inches, a 1600×900 res screen, a Nvidia 310m GPU, and a quad core i7, it had decent specs to promise something different. Why the forgettable line in the opening paragraph? Read on in my IRL review of the F1 VAIO.
Design- Seriously what the heck- Sony has a bit of their DNA in this model, but this is one of the worst designed VAIOs I have seen in some time. While its definitely better than some generic laptop with some aggressive lines, its mostly bleh. Knowing how they nailed it out the park with the FW line with clear VAIO DNA, this F1 looks like anybody could have put their name on it and I wouldn’t have guessed otherwise. This Toshiba looking laptop only differentiates itself as a Sony really by the power LED button. Other than that, it looks terribly bland. I don’t really need to dissect it- it just looks like a lump of plastic. I cannot believe this is the descendant of the VAIO FS, the model that on looks alone hooked me onto the Sony franchise and almost took me away from the Toshiba M45 when I was making laptop decisions. Sony what happened here. Sony used this design for a few of their other laptops in this generation, and they are all ugly.
Power- this has power. The i7 quad core has power. I still don’t quite understand how i7 differentiates itself in mobile CPUs, and whether the name alone really means much over an i5, but I do know that quad core CPU 720QM hasn’t let me down yet. The GPU is a 512mb Nvidia 310m, a bottom barrel GPU that is about as fast as a Nvidia 6800m, which was the flagship GPU in….2004. So its as fast as the flagship CPU six years older than it. To put that into perspective, my old old Centrino single core Toshiba M45 was running a 6600m, the same generation. Its really cool to see how much technology changes that a flagship GPU is the entry level bottom barrel GPU 6 years later. Anyways, what I mean by all this is that its not for gaming. I think it might be ok for like YouTube haha. I actually isntalled a extension to force Chrome to use h264 in YouTube so that hardware acceleration would actually use the GPU instead of putting it all on the CPU. End result is that everything really runs smooth on this, despite the platter hard drive. I actually have no intention of putting an SSD into this machine. Its good enough. I don’t know the RPM of the platter drive, but its quite decent. Also, the power brick for this machine is HUGE- it has a higher output than their typical bricks, so I’m guessing it consumes a ton of power to keep everythign buttery smooth.
Screen- 16.4 inches should be awesome right? As an ultraportable fan, I should be getting lost in this screen? Nope. Its awful. Really really awful. I think its just as bad as the Thinkpad X301 screen. Everything looks washed out, the colors are dull and lifeless, the glossy screen reflects everything, the screen brightness is not bright, the resolution should have been 1080p right from the start and not this 900p crap, and the viewing angles are just awful. I really don’t understand what they did with this screen. If their intention was to make a mainstream laptop that was just affordable for the masses, I could see that- that would allign with their C series or E series. But this is their powerhouse media machine. Completely unacceptable IMHO. I seriously keep tryigng to adjust the screen brightness cause I think its on low or something. Its not. It just sucks.
Usability- I cannot believe how good this keyboard is- this is almost right up there with the Thinkpad keyboard. The travel and clickiness on the keys is just freaking fantastic. I really don’t know what they did to this keyboard but it seriously stands out to me as one of the best keyboards they have ever made. I really am surprised about this. And despite this awesome feat, they still make volume as a function button! Why. Whyyy. Three USB ports on this giant machine. It needs at least 4. Its a big machine. Give it more ports. I do like the VGA and HDMI outputs. Its quite comfortable to type on despite the ugly plastic wrist rest. Oh and I do love that the keyboard is finally backlit. I think this is the first iteration of Sony putting backlit keyboard in a non-flagship model possibly (still angry about them not doing that in the AW). It makes a big difference.
Build Quality- I mean generally it feels well made, despite looking like a janky plastic POS. It really does feel smooth in operation. Nothing feels cheap about it, although I wouldn’t say its premium either. I do wonder about that wrist rest though- picking this up second hand, the wrist rest is worn down hard. I at first thought that was skin oils, but more research says thats the plastic wearing itself out. I don’t really know what Sony could have done here to prevent that. I notice that everything seems to be plastic on this machine including the lid- the FW and the AW had magnesium lids AFAIK and this is a downgrade. While I don’t think it feels flimsy, I will always prefer metal over plastic.
Sound- HA! Again terrible laptop speakers from Sony. And this does not have a 2.1 set up despite having enough space to do so. Its thin sounding and forgettable. For the amount of space they have to work with this laptop, they should have been able to put a decent sound system in it, especially as a media laptop. Its such a big tease because there is a GIANT freaking speaker grill at the top of the laptop that puts out absolutely nothing. My cell phone sounds better than this.How is there not a subwoofer on this laptop? There is so much space to do so here.
Heat- I’m actually surprised here- despite being a hot quad core i7, it generally stays quite cool- generally idles around 53 degrees C. It can pick up heat when given enough tasks, but the cooler seems to work hard- and you can hear it- the fan is pretty loud. I am really surprised about this, given that there are very tiny intakes for the fan on the laptop.
Battery- no idea- it never came with one, so I don’t know what battery is like on this machine. You can see its a tiny space though on this laptop in the bottom picture.
Conclusion- I think the only pro on this machine is the power and the typing experience. I really enjoyed typing this review out on the F1. I like that I have goblets of power and don’t have to worry about going into Task Manager to kill of something. I don’t like that I could have slapped a Toshiba logo on this and I wouldn’t have second guessed that. Its a boring design, a terrible screen, and also that screen- its terrible. I can forgive the sound on a business laptop, because Sony is bleh with sound, but this is a media machine. Sony should have done more to this model to take it to the next level. The machines prior and after this model are much better (the FW and F2). Pass.
Pros- power and typing experience; Cons- terrible screen, boring design, terrible sound, terrible screen again.