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Review of Sony Vaio E VPCEH190X

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
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July 20, 2011 6:34:38 PM

The Unit at hand:

Model: VPCEH190X CTO
Price: $700
CPU: i5-2410M processor (2.30GHz) with Turbo Boost up to 2.90GHz
Display: 15.5" LED backlit display (1366 x 768)
Ram: 2 sticks at 2gb
HDD: Single bay 320gb 5200RPM


Performance:
There is the option to get a discrete graphic card but performance wise there isn’t a huge difference between the two, certainly not enough to warrant a $100 for the 1gb version of it. The only advantage that I can think of is driver support from nvidia, but since I don’t plan on playing games on this machine, graphic performance is secondary to me. In all honesty if you want something for games, look elsewhere.

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The I5 2410m is as expected a stellar performer. My older workstation is still running an e6700 and my gosh this thing is fast. Check the benchmarks for how the performance compares to other models but if you are going to get this model I would highly recommend getting the CPU upgrade. Not once did I have the feeling that I was being held back by the CPU. Sandybridge is fast and a worthy upgrade if you are still using core2duo laptop. If you are running previous gen i3, i5 I would probably sit this one out and wait for the next 22nano generation.

Then there is the black sheep in the hardware, the hard drive running at 5200 rpms. Unfortunately there is no 7200 option, though you can upgrade from 320 to 750gb for $100. If you want more performance, you could alternatively for the same money take one of these three options instead:
1.) Buy an SSD for $100
2.) Buy a hybrid drive like Seagate Momentus XT 7200rmp 500gb with 4gb ssd.
3.) Buy an external 2TB drive.

Obviously if application startup and boot time are important the SSD will tickle your fancy, the hybrid for those jack of all traders that want the best of both worlds, and the external drive for people like myself who handle many large files on a regular basis. The only thing that really stops the external drive from being the true winner is the lack of eSata or USB3 ports on the Sony.

Gaming:
Must admit I passed bench marking this. This laptop will never be used for gaming. If I want to game I'll go on my gaming rig. For a review of the HD3000 and possible FPS you might expect have a read here: http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Intel-HD-Graphics-3... . There are two graphic upgrade options as mentioned earlier, but from benchmarks, the HD3000 seemed to perform just as well, or poorly as the nvidia option. Clearly this laptop is not for gaming and at $700 you can get the top of the line AMD APU with HPs dv6z which performs far better than the HD3000.

Build quality and noise: Hate or love the looks.

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The oustide is best described as waffle like. So if you like waffles you will like the looks. I'm not a huge fan of it myself but others in the family liked it. Styling aside, the build quality is rock solid. Although it is made out of plastic, there is no flexing at all when lifting this large laptop up from a corner with one hand. The Display hinges work with a smooth motion although it is impossible to open with only one hand. There are no locks or other snapping systems either. The fan is quiet and during my benchmarking/dvd playback time I couldn’t hear it over the ambient noise. The palm rest and keys also stayed surprisingly cool during prime95. Since I don't have a infrared Thermometer I can't post any actual measurements, but I can say that during normal use it stays cool and can certainly be used on the lap for a short while.

By haegarthor at 2011-07-20
One contributing factor to the cool temperature on a table will undoubtedly be the little feet under the Laptop. They are about half as thick as a pen and half the diameter of a penny. They raise the laptop sufficiently from a hard surface to create a good airflow under the unit without creating wiggle. The only problem I found, was that due to these “feet” I couldn't find a good spot for the laptop on my Antec Laptop cooler.

Windows 7 fresh start: A no go.
I still remember those Mac vs PC commercials(if anyone has never seen them http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lhUx3yeLAA). I found it pretty hilarious while I was customizing my Sony on the website that the field “windows fresh start” was grayed out. Hurray for baggage? I figured oh well how bad could it really be? Well it was pretty bad. There was so much bloat ware I was actually considering just doing a full clean install to get rid of it. In the days of 500gig drives, a little bloat doesn’t hurt but it really grinds my gear knowing there is trash on there that I don’t want.
Just to name a few: the usual 30 day trial antivirus, office starter (even after entering my license key, starter stays on the HDD), and about 20 or so Sony “apps”, most of them useless. Don’t get me wrong, I really like added software when it has a purpose and adds value, but honestly I don’t want everything installed without my permission and then also leaving the installation files on the hard drive. There were literally .exe installation files for programs left on the hard drive. Trying to uninstal most of Sony gunk from the control panel failed thanks to a “network path missing” error. After some searching through the folders left by Sony, it turned out there actually is a tool that allows you to remove most of the programs with one click, but there was still a lot left, annoyingly some of them with hidden timers. Like a program that would remind you to extend your warranty after a year passed or one to join the Sony club.

There was also a multi media software that was similar to iPhoto and was supposed to use kinect like motion controls using the integrated webcam. A neat idea, which in practice was just horrible. If you want feature rich software there is plenty of freeware, like GIMP or Picasa, which perform better than Sony's.

Webcam: Not 2011
The installed Motion Eye camera is hardly what I would call modern. It has a standard resolution of 640x480 which can be software interpolated to 1280x960. The picture quality/clarity is something I would expect from a netbook, not from a $700 laptop. I really don’t understand why in the age of skype and broadband you would install such a cheap piece of hardware into a machine of this price. I could live with the low resolution, if the camera would at least work somewhat well in low light conditions but it does not. Without a light source inside the house the picture is very grainy and videos have considerable lag. There I was thinking I could retire my old external Lenovo 1.2mb webcam I used on my old HP, but looks like it will be dressing the bezel of this laptop for a few more years!

Connectivity:
Another place where I was rather disappointed is the connectivity on the laptop. It’s 2011 and there isn’t a single USB 3.0, firewire or eSata port.

By haegarthor at 2011-07-20

There are 3 USB ports and cd drive on the right.


By haegarthor at 2011-07-20
A Ethernet, VGA (anyone using projectors understands why), HDMI, exhaust fan, USB, microphone/headphone jacks on the left side.


By haegarthor at 2011-07-20

And finally Sony and SD memory card reader at the front.
The HDMI worked fine when connected to a HDTV and you can switch between three ( 720p,768 and 1080p) modes on the fly with the included software.

Keyboard: Good size, feel and numpad!
The keyboard is actually one of the redeeming factors on the laptop. It has a good tactile feedback, the keys are sufficiently spaced apart, and it has a complete numerical pad as well. There are in total 9 FN keys, The 4 most used are conveniently placed and easy to find. There is also a great lack of any “custom” shortcut buttons which I despise and never use (Like the HP g62 series which has an entire row of shortcut buttuns, juck!).


By haegarthor at 2011-07-20
There are exactly three custom buttons on the top right which serve unique functions and are small and discreetly out of the way. One is a web button, which when pressed while the computer is off, launches a quick web only linux. It is a nice feature, though I doubt it will get much use. The assist launches a recovery menu from the hidden Sony partition and finally the vaio button is a programmable button which if not altered launches the vaio control center.

There is also a feature that auto disables the touchpad when key strokes are detected. This is one feature I dearly miss on my Toshiba and forced me numerous times to manually disable the touchpad so that I could type without the cursor jumping around by accident.
Touchpad: Scrolling like a Mac, well almost.


By haegarthor at 2011-07-20

The touchpad surface has a ridged surface similar to HPs g62 mouse design but with far better accuracy. Overall the touchpad is good. The picture didn't come out great, but you can still see the little ridges on the surface. Trying to take macro photographs with a smartphone isn't really optimal.


By haegarthor at 2011-07-20
One aspect which is arguably subjective, but annoyed me immensely during use is the physical location of the touchpad. As you can see from the picture it is off centered to the left. I would imagine lefties would find this appealing, as a righty I can only say that prolonged use of the touchpad is very uncomfortable. The off centered position creates an unnatural angel for righties, and with the mouse buttons being fairly large, it is easy to misclick.

The touchpad also supports Apples style gestures. Sony has most of these features, with a few quirks. You can do the two finger scrolling and it works fairly well, but it does miss some of the finesse found on Apple hardware. Often times when using two finger scrolling, the cursor will ever so slightly move a bit into the direction you are scrolling, slowly but surely creeping down the screen. While browsing sites which used several different windows/tables/scroll zones, I found myself by accident moving these windows/tables/scroll zones instead of scrolling down the actual page as I intended.
If you are used to gesture control, like the scrolling, I recommend disabling the dedicated scrolling areas on right and bottom of the touchpad. Doing so significantly increases the usable touchpad area for gestures.
If on the other hand you never used gestures or are just not a fan of them, then you can just disable the feature altogether from the touchpad controls. Both “regular” side and horizontal scrolling on the edges of the touchpad work exceptionally well.

Finally pinch zoom works as you would expect for the most part, but there are some occasional lag spikes with it.

Screen: Not quite matt, but not quite glossy.
The screen is rather interesting. Sony markets it as “a special, anti-reflective coating that lessens glare and light reflection so you can enjoy a better picture.” So is it anti-glare or not? Well not really. Yes it is somewhat reflective but it’s not one of those ultra-glossy ones. I have used it outside, and must admit that works rather well outside. Unlike my Macbook or Toshiba, this screen is actually usable outside. The resolution is 1366x 768 and is enough for a 15.5” screen. Although a higher resolution would be nice, I still prefer a lower resolution semi anti-glare screen than a fully glossy HD one. Overall the screen is great, and writing this review on it worked perfectly. If you are thinking of spending hours in front of a screen, this one won't disappoint.

Conclusion:
It's far from perfect but build quality is solid. Yes it is expensive and anyone wanting maximum bang for the buck should look elsewhere. There is no denying Sony is charging a premium just like Apple. You can get more hardware for less with competitors, but then again I doubt people looking at these will buy them purely for what's inside. The 15.5" is a good size, though more of a desktop replacement than a true mobile computer. The standard battery at 4000mAH is small and I didn't expect to get 4 hours run time with 50% brightness and wifi enabled light browsing. Although I consider this the bare minimum for off the grid use, anyone wanting more mobility or using CPU intensive programs should seriously consider upgrading to the high capacity battery option. The 5300mAH is only $30 more while the 7950mAH adds an almost unreasonable $100.

Pros:
  • Good keyboard/touchpad.
  • Battery life.
  • Good “less” glare screen.
  • Good performance as expected from a core i5.

    Cons:
  • Poor connectivity, USB 2.0 only.
  • Poor webcam.
  • Bloatware.
  • Expensive.
  • 5200rpm hard drive.
  • No physical manual or recovery cd.
    a c 244 D Laptop
    July 21, 2011 6:31:06 AM

    Great review,thanks !
    Too bad it comes with a 5200RPM HDD,have you considered upgrading it ?
    July 21, 2011 3:01:00 PM

    Not yet! I knew when I bought the unit that I would eventually swap the hard drive, just haven't had the time yet. I'm usually more of an external hard drive kinda guy, but having no usb3 or esata ruined that idea.
    !