Review Sony Vaio VGN-FE21M Multimedia-Notebook

The Sony Vaio VGN-FE21M Multimedia Notebook is to unite gaming performance owing to Intel core duo and GeForce Go 7600 with an outstanding display. Whether this is true you can read in our detailed review.

Review Sony Vaio VGN-FE21M Multimedia-Notebook

Chassis

The chassis of the Sony Vaio VGN-Fe21M is very similar designed like the Sony Vaio VGN-FS485B. Unfortunately Sony uses only plastic instead of a resistant magnesium alloy for the overhead panel whereby the quality suffers noticeable. However, the lower shell and the display cover are implemented very rigidly and are manufactured from magnesium. Unfortunately the plastic parts have the unpleasant characteristic to flex and crunch under pressure (right front corner). In addition, the battery is inserted somewhat wobbly in the case. The screen bolting device is habituation needy with the Sony Notebook. Since the touchpad was positioned very far in front, the bolting device had to be placed on the right wrist rest. In order not to be disturbing when tapping, the hook must be driven out manually. Nevertheless generally the design of the VGN-FE21M succeeded well and seems high-quality. Workmanship and design are obliging.

Interfaces

Most interfaces are positioned on the right side. The equipment is a bit better than average, although with 3 USB 2.0 and only one analogue monitor connection not necessarily sumptuous. The allocation is ok, only the audio connections attached in front can disturb when connecting loudspeakers.

connections at the left side
connections
connections at the right side
connections at the front
connections at the back

Input Devices

The keyboard implemented in the Sony Vaio VGN-FE21M has a pleasant layout that permits immediately 10-finger writing without errors. The keys are formed pleasantly large, but rattle during the operation relatively loud. The keyboard is inserted very firmly in the chassis. The somewhat roundish form of the normal sized keys is strange, but is not unpleasant.

The Alps touchpad in the Sony Vaio VGN-FE21M is only moderately precise. The 2 deep-sitting touchpad keys are not perfectly positioned. Blindly one always tries to press on the plastic bar between touchpad and keys. Naturally that does not lead to success. The inserted scroll function of the touchpad worked only moderately in the test. Maybe, that this can be optimized in the settings.

Above the keyboard are 3 switches for audio (off, quieter, louder) and two freely definable quick keys. The "sound off" button conviniently has inserted an LED, which informs immediately, whether the Vaio is muted. At the front there is still another practical mechanical switch for the WLAN connection. LEDs for WLAN and Bluetooth are integrated, which can't be seen well (from above).

touchpad
touchpad & keyboard of the Sony Vaio
keyboard

Display

The reflecting 16:10 widescreen is characterized by outstanding brightness values. We could measure up to 391.4 cd/m² (in the battery mode 390 cd/m²) in the center - new optimum. Unfortunately, the illuminating with only 56,3 % is a new negative record in our rating. 171 cd/m² difference from the center to the left lower corner is debt for this misery. Sony supplied the reflecting display with a "coating for antireflection". All reflectings are shifted into the violet. Thus they should be less disturbing. Owing to the very good brightness the reflections can rarely be noticed and the display is suited for the  outdoor usage.

Also the contrast of 782:1 is very good owing to the very good brightness and the good black value of 0.5 cd/m². Generally the screen shows bright colors and beautiful skin tones (after a calibration with our Colorimeter). Compared with a matt MacBook Pro 15" display photos seem clearly more alive. This also proves the relatively large triangle in the color sail and the (not calibrated) color curves.

The images are good with lateral viewing angles and unfortunately rather bad from above and down (as usual for notebook displays).

colour diagram
296.5
cd/m²
355.2
cd/m²
269.6
cd/m²
278.5
cd/m²
391.4
cd/m²
287.0
cd/m²
220.0
cd/m²
277.7
cd/m²
231.4
cd/m²
Information
Maximum: 391.4 cd/m²
Average: 289.7 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 56 %
Black: 0.5 cd/m²
Contrast: 783:1
Distribution of brightness
stability with viewing angles

Performance

Owing to the NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 a good game performance of the Sony notebook is expected. Here unfortunately, you will be a bit disappointed, since the video card is lower clocked than usual. With 350 MHz core clock and 350 MHz memory clock it is clearly below the usual 450 MHz/500 MHz. This explains also the lower benchmark score. Thus in 3DMark it is equal with a X1600. Nevertheless, it is still better than a GeForce Go 7400 (predecessor model). During games the quite bad Quake 3 performance was remarkable (however still fully playable). In Doom3 it showed again good values.

The office performance in PCMark is not good despite that relatively fast hard disk (however in our test sample only a 100 GB hard disk was implemented). Nevertheless, all applications can be used without problems.

benchmark comparison 3DMark
benchmark comparison
benchmark comparison PCMark
3D Mark
3DMark 037255 points
3DMark 052873 points
3DMark 06
 
1679 points
Help
3DMark 06 in comparison
Sony Vaio VGN-FS485B (min)
 740, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 900
54
   ...
Asus U6S
 T8300, GeForce 9300M G
1665
Lenovo Thinkpad T60p
 T7600, Mobility FireGL V5250
1672
Sony Vaio VGN-FE21M
 T2300, GeForce Go 7600
1679
Samsung P580 Pro Penfield JA03DE/SEG
 430M, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) HD Graphics
1699
Dell Latitude E4310
 560M, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) HD Graphics
1703
   ...
Alienware M18x R2 (max)
 3920XM, Radeon HD 7970M Crossfire
29496
PC Mark
PCMark 053577 points
Help
PCMark 05 in comparison
Acer Aspire One 751 (min)
 Z520, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 500
692
   ...
Toshiba U300-114
 T5450, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) X3100
3501
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B
 T5500, GeForce Go 7400
3516
Sony Vaio VGN-FE21M
 T2300, GeForce Go 7600
3577
Dell Vostro A860
 T2390, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) X3100
3596
Dell Vostro 1710
 T8100, GeForce 8600M GS
3596
   ...
Fujitsu Celsius H710 WXP11DE (max)
 2820QM, Quadro 1000M
13842
100 GB - 5400 rpm
Transfer Rate Minimum: 2.5 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 38.5 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 29.7 MB/s
Access Time: 18.6 ms
Burst Rate: 80 MB/s
CPU Usage: 2.8 %

Emissions

Because of the low clocked video card and the good heat management the Sony Vaio VGN-FE21M remains relatively quiet. A quiet rushing noise with max. measured 36.2 dB with full load is outstanding. However the keyboard rattles  with up to 46 dB, thus nothing for quiet environments (library). Here the measured values in the detail:

idle (without load): 33.9-34.5 dB (silent rushing noise)
+ hard disk: 35.3 dB (a silent noise is audible)
DVD playback: 40.3 dB
load: 35.4-36.2 dB
The keyboard clatters with up to 46 dB!

Also the temperatures of the Sony laptop remain absolutely uncritical. With max. 34°C at the top side (touchpad) here no particular heating up is noticeable. The bottom becomes noticeably hotter, however also uncritical with maximally 41°C.

Loudspeaker

The stereo loudspeakers, which are inserted in front of the display are not able to play very loud. Also they miss any basses due to the small size of the loudspeakers.

Upper side

palmwrist: 33°C max: 34°C avg: 32°C hotspot: touchpad

Bottom side

max: 41°C avg: 35°C hotspot: in the center a bit at the right side

environment: 25

Battery Runtime

The battery runtime is moderate. Perhaps the reason is, that our test sample is a pilot sample. For example the system setting "battery life span" could not be adjusted in the Vaio power management. Only the runtime without load could convince with scarcely 4h. While surfing with WLAN connection the battery keeps up 2h below average and 19 minutes (full brightness). Here are the values in the detail:

Batteryeater Classic (full load): 122 minutes
Batteryeater Reader (without load, min brightness, no WLAN): 237 minutes
DVD playback: 105 minutes (2h film only with reduced brightness)
WLAN surfing: 139 minutes (full brightness), 144 minutes (reduced brightness)

Nice feature: with low battery charging condition the LED in the power button and the LEDs at the front light for alert.

Current Consumption
idle + min. brightness: 18-20 Watts
idle + max. brightness: 28.6 Watts
idle + WLAN + max. brightness: 30.1 Watts
full load + WLAN + max. brightness: 56 Watts

Verdict

Vaio VGN-FE21M
Vaio VGN-FE21M

A very good display except a bad illuminating probably is the highlight of the Sony Vaio VGN-FE21M multimedia notebook. It is delivered with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 and so is ready it for all multimedia tasks (a TV-tuner is missing). The performance of the Core Duo is well as expected, only the GeForce Go 7600 disappoints because of their lower clocking.

Specifications

Sony Vaio VGN-FE21M

:: Processor
Intel Core Duo T2300 1.66 GHz (Intel Core Duo)
:: Memory
1024 MB, DDR2 SDRAM, 533 MHz, 2x512MB, max. 2048MB, 5-4-4-12
:: Graphics adapter
:: Display
15.4 inch 16:10, 1280x800 pixel, X-Black mit 2 Hintergrundleuchten (Dual Lamp Technology), glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
100 GB - 5400 rpm, 100 GB 5400 rpm Fujitsu Mobile MHV2100BH SATA-150 8MB Cache: 100GB, 5400rpm
:: Connections
3x USB 2.0, Texas Instruments IEEE 1394 (TI TSB41AB1/2), Dockingstation Anschluss, Cardbus und Express Card, Toshiba Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, Sony Visual Communication Camera VGP-VCC1 "Motion Eye", S-Video aus, Monitor, Memory Stick, ext Cardreader
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 26 x 366 x 274.5
:: Weight
2.8 kg
:: Battery
, 5200 mAh Lithium Ionen Akku
:: Price
1600 Euro
:: Additional features
Intel 945PM + ICH7-M DH, HDD: 100GB, 5400rpm, Fujitsu Mobile MHV2100BH SATA-150 8MB Cache, SigmaTel STAC9225, Pioneer DVD-RW DVR-K16M (DVD+R9:4x, DVD-R9:4x, DVD+RW:8x/8x, DVD-RW:8x/6x, DVD-RAM:5x, DVD-ROM:8x, CD:24x/24x/24x DVD+RW/DVD-RW/DVD-RAM),

 

The design of the Sony Vaio laptop pleases.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE21M
The "down hinge" display keeps firm in every position,...
but can't be inclined completely to the back.
The display hinge is at the right wrist rest and must be moved manually.
The interface equipment is good, only the frontally positioned audio connections can be disturbing.
The keyboard can be handled comfortably, the touchpad is somewhat unprecise.
Above the keyboard are 3 audio quick keys and 2 free configurable quick keys.
A LED is implemented in the power switch. It blinks, when the battery charging condition is low.
The very bright display shows mirroring in blue colours...
...but has a miserable illumination.
The fan of the Sony Vaio VGN-FE21M is very silent even with full load.
The performance of the Core Duo is as expected...
...but the GeForce Go 7600 is very low clocked and therefore it presents...
...only modest benchmark values.
The battery runtime of the 5200 mAh big battery is rather short (despite a relative low current consumption).

Pro

  • brightness
  • lateral viewing angle
  • display cover
  • good keyboard
  • Contra

  • slow GeForce Go 7600
  • DVD battery runtime
  • Rating

    Sony Vaio VGN-FE21M
    08/31/2007
    Klaus Hinum

    Chassis
    90%
    Keyboard
    92%
    Pointing Device
    77%
    Connectivity
    84%
    Weight
    78%
    Battery
    80%
    Display
    88%
    Games Performance
    80%
    Application Performance
    80%
    Temperature
    72%
    Noise
    89%
    Add Points
    87%
    Average
    83%
    85%
    Multimedia *
    Weighted Average

    > Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Sony Vaio VGN-FE21M Multimedia-Notebook
    Author: Klaus Hinum, 2006-08-20 (Update: 2013-05- 8)