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Review Sony Vaio VGN-AR51M Notebook

Sony and graphics… Besides a number of fine, small notebooks with LED display and elegant carbon fiber cases, Sony also offers at least one interesting series in the fields of desktop replacement notebooks, the AR models. Though big, these are aesthetically pleasing and score points especially by their bright display. Regarding video performance, Sony forges ahead anyway for a long time.

Sony Vaio AR51M Logo

Case

The design of the Sony Vaio AR51M is characterized by absolutely simple and geometric curves and flat, continuous surfaces.This presumably lets the notebook appear somewhat big and cloddy. Another interesting design aspect is the surrounding metallic molding, which harmonizes nicely with the rest of the noteook and sets slight accents at the flanks by its gentle curved form.

While some predecessor notebooks came with glossy surface, the AR51 series does it completely without this scope of design. All surfaces are matte black. This contributes not only to lower sensibility of the finish, but, also to a comfortable haptics.

While the base unit is rather stable at the front and the bottom side, clear deformations can be observed at the top side near the back, where the notebook also clearly yields by applying force. The display is again relatively robust and the display cover is very resistant against applied forces.

Furthermore, it is noticeable that the display has only a limited opening angle, which should not cause problems for a notebook which will be likely used at the desk most of the time. The folding mechanism of the notebook is very interesting. Despite the hinges are attached in the usual way, the display is moved a little bit to the front during opening - an elegant solution.

Besides a slight possible see-saw the hinges hold the position of the display well. The transport hook is a single fold-out hook in the base unit, which is not completely centered. The advantage of this mechanism is clearly the look of the notebook, because the hook nowhere interferes with the the straight and simple design of the notebook. However, in practice these has some small disadvantages, because the display is not hold absolutely tight, if closed, especially at the left side. But, this is only a minor aspect for DTR notebooks.

At the first glance the provided interfaces seem to be few. There are some USB ports (2 relatively unreasonable at the right side near the front), audio ports and a kensington port at the left side. Is this all?

However, at a closer look, you'll find a cover at the right side and behind there a modem and LAN port. Still, where are the video outs?
They are behind cover 2, at the center of the right side directly beside cover 1. Behind it, there are a number of additional interfaces like VGA out, S-Video out, HDMI, Firewire AV-in. So, regarding interfaces, there should be nothing left to be desired.

Generally, it looks good, if the interfaces are hidden behind covers, because this contributes to the design of the Sony Vaio. In practice the USB ports are very far too the front, and also the high number of interfaces at the right side is only limited user-friendly.

It seems that the covers want to tell you: 'You can attach everything, but, please only for some time.' If the work is complete - remove the cable, close the cover - so that your AR51M is aesthetically pleasing again.

Front Side: Cardreader
Sony Vaio AR51M Interfaces
Left Side: Audio, Blu-ray Drive
Sony Vaio AR51M Interfaces
Back Side: Fan, Kensington Lock, Battery, USB, Power Connector
Sony Vaio AR51M Interfaces
Right Side: 2xUSB, PCCard, ExpressCard, Cover 1 (Firewire, AV-in, S-Video, HDMI, VGA Out), Cover 2 (LAN, Modem)
Sony Vaio AR51M Interfaces

Input Devices

Another aspect, which lets the Sony AR51M appear so big, is presumably the standard keyboard without separate numerical pad which is nearly a little small in relation to the big case. Furthermore, it is located relatively far to the back of the base unit, so, requiring some adaption time.

The layout of the provided keys appears to be alright, however, it is seems possible rather dense in the strictly rectangular opening. The size of the keys is alright too. The keys are typical Sony, i.e. flat and slightly concave and, so, very user-friendly. Also the short travel, which is typical for Sony keyboards, does not necessarily annoy here, on the contrary typing with the AR51M's keyboard is very comfortable.

The touch pad is nearly at the same level of the palm rest areas near the front of the noteboook. It is very user-friendly. We want to especially point the  surface out, which has good sliding properties.

Both of the touch pad's button are at the front edge of the notebook and there integrated in the surrounding molding. They are comfortable in use, and their clicking noise is dull.

The provided hot keys are also beautifully integrated in the case. They can be used for volume control (left beside the keyboard) and controlling the Mediaplayer (right above the keyboard).

Touch pad
Sony Vaio AR51M Touch pad
Keyboard
Sony Vaio AR51M Keyboard

Display

Color Diagram
Display Measurement

The Sony Vaio AR51M comes with a 17 inch WXGA+ panel with a maximum resolution of 1440x900 pixels. So, the desktop is a little more spacious than those of standard 1280x800 pixels WXGA panels, while the displayed contents are still sufficiently big.

Special characteristics of the provided display are brilliant brightness and intensive colors. These get even obvious at the first glance, when the AR51M is just turned on. The measurements prove this first impression: A maximum of 434.8 cd/m² rather reminds on measurement values of TVs than of notebook displays. The  calculated illumination is only 65.8%, but, as the minimum brightness of 285.9 cd/m² is still excellent, this is can be neglected. The average brightness of 357.8 cd/m² is also brilliant.

290.1
cd/m²
387.6
cd/m²
333.1
cd/m²
285.9
cd/m²
393.1
cd/m²
350.2
cd/m²
351.7
cd/m²
434.8
cd/m²
393.6
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Maximum: 434.8 cd/m²
Average: 357.8 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 66 %
Black: 0.8 cd/m²
Contrast: 491:1

The maximum contrast of 544:1, which is especially due to the good maximum brightness, is noticeable and many competitors are outperformed regarding this aspect.

The good brightness makes working outdoors with the Sony AR51M  possible. However, you should consider that the glossy surface leads depending on the brightness of the environment to more or less heavy reflections. Also the anti-reflection coating does not really improve this.

Furthermore, the viewing angles of the display are in general good. Horizontally and vertically, the area of operation is spacious. At acuter angles, looking from bottom up, the display darkens.

Sony Vaio AR51M Viewing Angles
Sony Vaio AR51M Viewing Angles
Sony Vaio AR51M Viewing Angles
Sony Vaio AR51M Viewing Angles
Sony Vaio AR51M Viewing Angles
Sony Vaio AR51M Viewing Angles
Sony Vaio AR51M Viewing Angles
Sony Vaio AR51M Viewing Angles

Performance

As already mentioned in the introduction Sony pursues its on strategy regarding hardware equipment for video performance. In contrast to many other competitors, who always provide newest and most powerful video solutions, Sony only provides a little bit lower video performance, which is in turn optimized regarding power consumption and heat emissions for each of its notebooks and mostly also perfectly utilized regarding performance.

So, the Sony Vaio AR11M performs, equipped with a NVIDIA Geforce 8400M GT video card with 256 MB DDR2 memory, nearly at the same level as notebooks equipped with video cards of the next higher class (8600M GS) and is still comfortably quiet and without noticeable heating.

Combined with a T7250 Core 2 Duo CPU by Intel, which is identical to the T7300 CPU, but, only equipped with 2MB L2 Cache instead of 4MB as the T7300, the Sony Vaio AR51M  provides good office and multimedia performance, which should be sufficient for nearly all fields of operation. Nearly here means especially with the exception of computer games which would require a more powerful video card, so, they can only be played with restrictions with the AR51M.

If you do not want to miss out gaming performance, you can choose the AR51SU model instead, which not only provides a high-resolution WUXGA display, but also a 8600M GT video card, so, current games should be playable with smaller restrictions. But, this will cost about 1000.- Euro more.

Furthermore, the AR51M is equipped with 2GB main memory (max. 4GB) and 2 hard disks with a total capacity of 320 Gigabyte (2x160GB, 5400 revs/min). So, sufficient capacity for your video and audio collection should be  available at the first.

Benchmark Comparison 3DMark
Benchmark Comparison 3DMark
Benchmark Comparison PCMark
Benchmark Comparison PCMark
3D Mark
3DMark 054235 points
Help
3DMark 05 in comparison
Nokia Booklet 3G (min)
 Z530, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 500
120
   ...
Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Xi2428
 T7700, GeForce 8600M GS
4206
Samsung Q320
 P7450, GeForce G 105M
4218
Sony Vaio VGN-AR51M
 T7250, GeForce 8400M GT
4235
Asus G1
 T7200, GeForce Go 7700
4237
Lenovo B575e
 E2-1800, Radeon HD 7340
4258
   ...
Alienware M18x R2 (max)
 3920XM, Radeon HD 7970M Crossfire
36878
PC Mark
PCMark 054683 points
Help
PCMark 05 in comparison
Acer Aspire One 751 (min)
 Z520, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 500
692
   ...
Acer Aspire 5552G-P344G50Mnkk
 P340, Mobility Radeon HD 5470
4664
Asus PL30JT-RO030X
 520UM, GeForce 310M
4682
Sony Vaio VGN-AR51M
 T7250, GeForce 8400M GT
4683
HP nx9420
 T7400, Mobility Radeon X1600
4683
Apple MacBook Aluminium
 P7350, GeForce 9400M (G) / ION (LE)
4704
   ...
Fujitsu Celsius H710 WXP11DE (max)
 2820QM, Quadro 1000M
13842
2x 160 GB - 5400 rpm
Transfer Rate Minimum: 6.5 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 49.9 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 36.6 MB/s
Access Time: 17.9 ms
Burst Rate: 80 MB/s
CPU Usage: 3.1 %
Doom 3
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1024x768Ultra, 0xAA, 0xAF59.8 fps
 800x600High, 0xAA, 0xAF89.7 fps
 640x480Medium, 0xAA, 0xAF113.8 fps
 640x480Low, 0xAA, 0xAF114.2 fps

Emissions

Loudness

As already mentioned the advantages of the AR51M are low noise emissions at office tasks and even under load. Especially in ideal mode you can hardly hear the notebook.

Under load the fan frequently changes its speed level. Still, the noise level stays overall very low and not at all annoying.

Temperature

Maximum temperatures of 34.5°C at the top side and 40.6°C at the bottom side  of the base unit are alright and prove that Sony's strategy was successfully implemented.

Max. Load
 32.1 °C32.3 °C34.5 °C 
 30.9 °C35.8 °C34.2 °C 
 27.8 °C29.3 °C30.1 °C 
Maximum: 35.8 °C
Average: 31.9 °C
32.1 °C37.3 °C36.4 °C
32.8 °C37.1 °C36.4 °C
33.2 °C37.9 °C40.6 °C
Maximum: 40.6 °C
Average: 36 °C
Room Temperature 21.0 °C

Battery Runtime

Not only the size of Sony AR51M's provided 4800 mAh battery is small, it is also considering mobility not first class. Under load it is empty in just 35 minutes. With maximum energy saving settings, i.e., minimum brightness, deactivated WLAN, and without load, a maximum runtime of up to 3.5 hours is possible.

Depending on the demands this notebook's mobility ranges from very restricted to to some degree possible. Still, it is reasonable, to stay next to a power plug.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
3h 40min
Load (maximum brightness)
0h 35min

Verdict

The Sony Vaio AR51M does not only impress by its elegant and aesthetically pleasing design. Even at a closer look it proves to be of high quality. We could not find any weaknesses regarding workmanship and the robustness of the case is also alright.

The stylish look of the AR51M is also supported by covered interfaces, but, these could not completely convince in practice. Especially the location of some ports near to the front at the right side, can cause limitations of the available area of operation right beside the notebook.

The keyboard and the touch pad harmonize well with the AR51M's total appearance, and their user-friendliness could also convince. Maybe a separate numerical pad would also be desirable, because the standard keyboard utilizes only some of the available space.

The highlight of the AR51M is its brilliantly bright display, which also scores points with good viewing angles and excellent contrast. A maximum of 434.8 cd/m² is seldom measured for notebook displays.

Daily office and multimedia tasks can be easily handled with the provided performance. However, if you demand more 3D performance, especially for current computer games, the Geforce 8400M GT is not really first class.

Another positive aspect of the Sony Vaio AR51M are its special low emissions. This is true for noise and surface temperature which stay always alright.

The battery is more or less just alike a standby-set, if there is an outage for some minutes. It can not really ensure mobility. Be this as it may, with reduced power demands an unplugged operation of one to two hours is quite realistic.

Sony Vaio AR51M
Sony Vaio AR51M

 

 

Many thanks to the company MediaMarkt Wels, which kindly provided us with the reviewed notebook. You can also buy this notebook for currently 1799.- Euro there.

Reviewed: Sony Vaio AR51M
Sony Vaio AR51M

Specifications

Sony Vaio VGN-AR51M
Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GT - 256MB MB, Core: 450 MHz, Memory: 600 MHz
Memory
2048 MB 
, DDR2, PC5300, 667 MHz, 2x1024MB, max. 4096MB
Display
17.1 inch 16:10, 1440x900 pixel, X-black LC-Display Duallamp, glossy: yes
Mainboard
Intel PM965
Harddisk
2x 160 GB - 5400 rpm, 160 GB 
5400 rpm Hitachi HTS541616J9SA00
Soundcard
SigmaTel CXD9872AKD
Connections
1 PC-Card, 1 Express Card 54mm, 3 USB 2.0, 1 Firewire, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 S-Video, V92/V.90 Modem, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: Headphones, Microphone, S/PDIF, Card Reader: Memory Stick Reader, SD Cardreader, AV in
Networking
10Base-T/100Base-TX/1000Base-T (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN (a b g n ), 2.0 + EDR Bluetooth
Optical drive
Matshita BD-MLT UJ-220S
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 34 x 300 x 416 ( = 1.34 x 11.81 x 16.38 in)
Weight
3.9 kg ( = 137.57 oz) ( = 0 oz)
Battery
53.3 Wh Lithium-Ion, 4800 mAh, 11.1V
Price
1650 Euro
Operating System
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium 32 Bit
Additional features
Adobe Premiere Elements 3, Adobe Photoshop Elements 5, Microsoft Works 8.5 , 24 Months Warranty, Blu-ray Disc Drive, 1.3 mp webcam

 

[+] compare
The Sony Vaio AR51M is a desktop replacement notebook with big dimensions.
Sony Vaio AR51M Image
...and also the surface temperatures stay low.
Sony Vaio AR51M Image
In return, the Sony Vaio AR51M stays always comfortably quiet...
Sony Vaio AR51M Image
The hardware ensures good office and multimedia performance. However, it is less suitable for games.
Sony Vaio AR51M Image
The absolute highlight: A brilliantly bright and high-contrast display with good viewing angles.
Sony Vaio AR51M Image
Despite a separate numerical pad is not provided, the keyboard is user-friendly.
Sony Vaio AR51M Image
...some interfaces are hidden behind covers, which are only opened on demand.
Sony Vaio AR51M Image
In order to not disturb the elegant look of the notebook,...
Sony Vaio AR51M Image
Another elegant solution:
Sony Vaio AR51M Image
E.g., the hinges, which move the display a little to the front at opening.
Sony Vaio AR51M Image
It would not be a Sony notebook, if there weren't some fine design aspects.
Sony Vaio AR51M Image
...also the robustness is alight, so, contributing to the high-quality impression.
Sony Vaio AR51M Image
Not only the aesthetically pleasing design and the choice of forms,...
Sony Vaio AR51M Image
...make the 4kg notebook look elegant.
Sony Vaio AR51M Image
Still, Sony could,...
Sony Vaio AR51M Image
The battery runtime is rather poor.
Sony Vaio AR51M Image

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Price Comparison

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Sony Vaio VGN-AR51M

Pro

  • Aesthetically pleasing design
  • High quality haptics
  • Comprehensivly equipped with interfaces
  • User-friendly input devices
  • Very bright and high-contrast display
  • Low temperature and noise emissions
  • Contra

  • Intefaces behind covers
  • No separate numerical pad
  • Limited 3D performance
  • Low battery runtime
  • Rating

    Sony Vaio VGN-AR51M
    10/08/2007
    J. Simon Leitner

    Chassis
    90%
    Keyboard
    90%
    Pointing Device
    86%
    Connectivity
    90%
    Weight
    58%
    Battery
    55%
    Display
    95%
    Games Performance
    84%
    Application Performance
    95%
    Temperature
    74%
    Noise
    88%
    Add Points
    90%
    Average
    83%
    87%
    Gaming *
    Weighted Average
    > Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Sony Vaio VGN-AR51M Notebook
    Author: J. Simon Leitner, 2007-10-25 (Update: 2013-05- 8)