Kamis, 27 November 2008


. Kamis, 27 November 2008

Once Blu-ray triumphed over HD DVD in the high-def format war, Sony had an opportunity to emerge as the good guys in the cutthroat laptop market. But instead of focusing on a swift adoption of Blu-ray in the PC space, the company still seems obsessed with hitting profit margins. A good example is the Sony VAIO VGN-FZ485U, a mainstream multimedia laptop that doesn't wow you with performance or features. Its one redeeming quality is that it bundles a Blu-ray burner. Given that Sony is the strongest voice in the Blu-ray Consortium, which developed the format, the $2,199 (direct) price tag should've been a lot cheaper. Cramming excessive "bloatware" into this laptop was equally egregious, if not more so.

In a world where fancy metals and glossy finishes are beginning to take shape in laptop designs, the FZ485U's plastic frame lacks any of these things, which is, depending on your point of view, either satisfyingly minimalist or plain Jane boring. The FZ485U takes an Apple approach: The silver lid is clean, free of any artistic splashes or flashy colors. You can, however, have Sony customize it with patterns and colors (or even engrave the lid with meaningful statements of your choosing) to match your personality. My lid design was subtle, which is how I like it. But the unit's look is deceptive, because its dimensions (10 by 14 by 1.3 inches) might lead you to believe that it weighs as little as the 5.3-pound Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Penryn). Instead, the FZ485U's 6-pound frame puts it more in line with the Dell XPS M1530 (6.2 pounds) and the HP Pavilion dv6500t (5.8 pounds).
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The laptop's interior somewhat clashes with its silver exterior. Still, the full-size keyboard is comfortable and even a little mushy for those whose fingers are sensitive to hard surfaces. The Dell M1530 and the HP dv6500t have keyboards that offer more resistance and make hard clicking sounds when you type, which I prefer, since I tend to like background noises. The bright, 15.4-inch widescreen is superb for photos and videos, though I thought the resolution could have been higher than 1,280-by-800, given that the system bundles a Blu-ray drive. (The Apple MacBook Pro [Penryn] and the Dell M1530 come with 1,440-by-900 resolution).

The features are well balanced for a media laptop. The three USB ports and one FireWire port aren't head-turners, but they aren't the main attraction. For those who are starting their Blu-ray collection, the FZ485U comes with a BD-RE drive, better known as a Blu-ray burner, that also functions as a dual-layer burner for regular DVDs. While the combination of the BD-RE drive and InterVideo's WinDVD BD software make for a wonderful Blu-ray experience, the drive itself is very expensive. Beyond that, the HDMI port, the ExpressCard 34 slot, the 1.3-megapixel webcam, and separate SD and Memory Stick card readers are solid.

I found the 300GB hard drive's inclusion questionable, not because of the capacity but because the drive spins at only 4,200 rpm, which can slow down performance. I recommend switching to a 250GB drive that spins at 5,400 rpm or more. Another annoying habit of Sony's is its excessive bundling of proprietary and trial software, or "bloatware." Not counting third-party software like Norton 360 and InterVideo's WinDVD, there were at least 35 VAIO utilities in the Program Features of Windows Vista Ultimate. Luckily, the FZ485U's performance parts were fast enough to handle this software overload.

As for green credentials, the FZ485U doesn't meet the necessary criteria for EPEAT and Energy Star certifications. It does, however, comply with RoHS, a European consortium set up to eliminate hazardous byproducts from the manufacturing process. According to my own tests, using a PS3 International Kill A Watt meter, the 33 watts consumed while the laptop was idle came in above Energy Star's 19W ceiling (14W is the limit for laptops with integrated graphics). By contrast, both the Apple MacBook Pro and the HP Pavilion dv6500t passed my tests with a reading of 19W.

Although the FZ485U integrates the latest Intel Penryn core technology, its 2.1-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 is considered middle of the pack. For about the same price or less, the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Penryn) and the Dell M1530 start with T9000 series processors, which pack a bigger wallop, as evidenced on our performance tests.

On the other hand, the 4GB of RAM that the system incorporates is impressive, especially if you're an Adobe Photoshop guru or a database programmer. The FZ485U's Photoshop scores kept pace with those of the Apple MacBook Pro, but due to its slower processor, the FZ485U lagged behind the Apple MacBook Pro on the SYSmark 2007 Preview Overall score by 15 percent. Nor could it beat the ASUS M50Sa-A1—a $1,300 laptop—trailing it by 18 percent on SYSmark 2007 Preview Overall.

The FZ485U does use discrete graphics, but mainly to enhance the Blu-ray experience rather than for 3D gaming. Still, the nVidia GeForce 8400GT graphics delivered performance results on 3DMark06, Crysis, and World in Conflict benchmark tests that are above average—but don't surpass the 3D gaming scores of the Apple (running Boot Camp and Windows), the Dell, and the ASUS laptops. While discrete graphics is a welcome addition, it takes a toll on battery life. I'd be more forgiving if this were a desktop-replacement laptop, but a score of 2 hours 16 minutes on MobileMark 2007 tests, which barely gets you through a Blu-ray movie or a third of a coast-to-coast flight, is simply inexcusable. A mainstream laptop's battery life has to be in the 3- to 4-hour range; furthermore, the optional extended battery costs $250.

My biggest complaint about the Sony VAIO VGN-FZ485U is that it's too expensive for a mainstream laptop that does merely above-average (rather than extraordinary) things—my attitude would be dramatically different if the price were $1,600. But I have other issues as well. The FZ485U crams in software which users don't need and which bogs down performance. And the 2 hours of battery life makes it hard to recommend over systems like the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Penryn), the Dell XPS M1530, the HP Pavilion dv6500t, and the Asus M50Sa-A1.

Sony Corporation

Spec Data
* Type: Media
* Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate
* Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo T8100
* Processor Speed: 2.1 GHz
* RAM: 4 GB
* Screen Size: 15.4 inches
* Screen Size Type: widescreen
* Graphics Card: nVidia GeForce 8400M GT
* Storage Capacity: 300 GB
* Networking Options: 802.11n
* Primary Optical Drive: DVD+/-RW DL with Blu-Ray

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