Review Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B

Mirror, Mirror…Notebooks of the VGN-FE31 are presumably Sony's most sold notebooks. As a representative, you can loot at a review of the FE31B with Core 2 Duo CPU and Geforce 7400 video card here.

Sony Vaio VGN-C1 Logo

Case

Not for nothing, Sony notebooks found a lot of fans, because of their design. Sony again did a good job on design of the VGN-F31B.

The colors of the notebook (top side: gray, trough: black) and the forms (gentle curves and curved lines) make it very attractive.

Besides a couple of stickers near the region of the hand balls (which of course can be removed), the surfaces looks clear and straightened up. Above the keyboard there are 5 sunken additional keys, three of them to control audio and two oft them which are configurable by the user.

Another strong point of the notebooks is that its case is out of magnesium. This gets especially obvious on the bottom side, because of its unique haptic. This material is not only great to touch, it also has a lot of important advantages:
The case is very stiff and resistant against deformations. Magnesium is a brilliant heat conductor. Therefore the waste heat is distributed over the whole case and emitted. This avoids disturbing hot spots.

The Sony Vaio VGN-F31B is of good workmanship. It is of no avail to search for inhomogeneous gaps. Nevertheless, one can find a wobbling battery. It only slightly wobbles, but one can't completely ignore it.

The hinges of the display are, as those of other Sony notebooks, reversely connected. This is the moving parts are connected to the base unit and not to the display cover. A clear disadvantage of this elegant solution is that the back side of the notebook can no longer be used for ports and that the battery can't be taken out while the display is open.

Even though the hinges look wispy, the keep the display in its position for certain and can be moved with applying comfortable power. Nevertheless, we could detect a slight seesaw.

As already mentioned above, the backside of the notebook does not keep any ports, because of the hinges. Only the vent hole is at the backside.
At the left side near the back there are the RJ11 and the RJ45 port (modem, LAN), immediately in front of them are the DVD drive and near the front the Kensington lock.

At the front side there are both audio ports (microphone, headset) as well as the Cardreader. Furthermore, the FE31B has its WLAN switch and the locking mechanism at the front side.
During our review, we observed that the hook often jumped out by itself, and disturbed our work with the notebook. In order to prevent this, one has to move the slide over the first resistance, so that it snaps in.

The right side keeps all the other ports (from front to back): PCMCIA Slot, 34mm Expresscard Slot, Firewire Port, 3x USB 2.0, S-Video out, VGA out to connect an external monitor or beamer.  Nearly at the back, there is the power connector.

These accumulation of nearly all important interfaces at the right side, can easily lead to too many cables at the right side, which in turn limits the place for mouse motions.

Interfaces at the left side
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Interfaces
Interfaces at the right side
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Interfaces
Interfaces at the front side
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Interfaces
Interfaces at the back side
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Interfaces

Input Devices

I do not want to mention the peculiarities of Sony's keyboards time and again. Still a hint:

flat + angular = Sony's keyboards <=> a matter of taste.

The typing feels similar as those of the Sony Vaio VGN-C1. When typing, one feels an early and jerky feedback, a long travel, and finally a hard stop. At some places we could observe a low possible deflection. The typing noise is nearly too loud.

The touch pad is nicely formed, because it is at the plane with the hand ball supports and nearly of the same color than them. Furthermore, it is comfortable in use, reacts sensible and shows good sliding properties.

Both touch pad buttons are nearly too loud and too much power is needed to use them. So, its better to use them with both hands.


Touch pad
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Touch pad
Keyboard
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Keyboard

Display

Color diagram
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Display measurement

Sony's Vaio VGN-FE31B is equipped with a  reflecting 15.4 inch WXGA display and a  maximum resolution of 1280x800 pixels.  In the center of the display we measured an excellent maximum brightness of: 187.5 cd/m². The illumination is average at:  80.6%.

The color diagram showed a good red and green color curve, but deviations of the blue color curve. This leads to warm colors.

150.3
cd/m²
184.6
cd/m²
164.3
cd/m²
155.0
cd/m²
187.5
cd/m²
151.1
cd/m²
170.8
cd/m²
168.5
cd/m²
158.0
cd/m²
Information
Maximum: 187.5 cd/m²
Average: 165.6 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 80 %
Black: 1.0 cd/m²
Contrast: 188:1
Distribution of brightness

The measured minimum brightness (black) was 1.0 cd/m². This leads to a contrast ratio of 187:1, which is an acceptable result.

Use outdoors
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Outdoors

The heavy reflections of the display were not only a problem outdoors. Even indoors one felt like sitting in front of a mirror again and again. Especially, this was true with dark display contents. The display seemed unlike other Sony notebooks not AR coated.
Because of the good brightness of the display, it is possible to work outdoors, but, because of reflections, not very comfortable.

Horizontally, the display has a good stability to the vantage point. Unfortunately, one realizes heavy reflections at very acute angles.
Vertically, the display has a stretched area of operation. One can't nearly detect any deviation within this range. At an acuter angle, one observes that the display turns more and more green, if looking from bottom to top. Furthermore, the display gets brighter, when looking top-down.

Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Stability to Vantage Point
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Stability to Vantage Point
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Stability to Vantage Point
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Stability to Vantage Point
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Stability to Vantage Point
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Stability to Vantage Point
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Stability to Vantage Point
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B Stability to Vantage Point

Performance

If the Sony Vaio FE31B with Geforce Go 7400 video card is compared to other multimedia notebook which are equipped with a Geforce 7600 or a ATI X1600 video card, it rates relatively moderate regarding its 3D performance.

On the contrary, it clearly won against notebooks with integrated graphic solutions (GMX 900/950) in the fields of office applications.

 

The comparison of PCMark benchmarks led to similar results. The notebook rates clearly worse than notebooks with better video cards. But it must be admitted that FE31's Intel Core 2 Duo processor is a high-performance CPU, which has sufficient computational power for all office works.

The weak point in the fields of graphics is surely its NVIDIA Geforce Go 7400 video cards.

Besides the following benchmarks, we checked the notebook with some games.  The action-shooter Serious Sam 2 was only playable at a resolution of  1024x768 with medium details and without AA. Still, the display flickered sometimes.

Fifa 2007 Demo run at about 50-60 fps (default resolution of the demo). Still, we could observe slight streaks.

Further information about the video card can be found here and in our Comparison of mobile video cards. Detailed information about the  Core 2 Duo T5500 CPU can be found here.

Please also look at our benchmark list of mobile processors and at our benchmark list of mobile video cards, in order to compare this notebook to other configurations.

Benchmark comparison 3DMark
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B benchmark comparison
Benchmark comparison PCMark
3D Mark
3DMark 2001SE12761 points
3DMark 034187 points
3DMark 051782 points
3DMark 06
 
803 points
Help
3DMark 06 in comparison
Sony Vaio VGN-FS485B (min)
 740, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 900
54
   ...
MSI Megabook PR211
 QL-60, Radeon HD 3200
783
Asus K50IJ-SX
 T4300, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 4500MHD
803
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B
 T5500, GeForce Go 7400
803
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13 (NUE2UGE)
 L625, Radeon HD 3200
807
Asus A8JR
 T5500, Mobility Radeon X2300
808
   ...
Alienware M18x R2 (max)
 3920XM, Radeon HD 7970M Crossfire
29496
PC Mark
PCMark 045146 points
PCMark 053516 points
Help
PCMark 05 in comparison
Acer Aspire One 751 (min)
 Z520, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 500
692
   ...
HP Compaq 6735s NA853ES
 RM-72, Radeon HD 3200
3479
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
   ...
Fujitsu Celsius H710 WXP11DE (max)
 2820QM, Quadro 1000M
13842
80 GB - 5400 rpm
Transfer Rate Minimum: 14.4 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 39.1 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 30.3 MB/s
Access Time: 20.9 ms
Burst Rate: 54.8 MB/s
CPU Usage: 3.5 %

Emissions

Loudness

The emissions are rather low, because of the moderate performance of the video card. The Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B was very quiet in idle mode. Even under load we could only measure 35.8 dB. The loudest part of the notebook is its optical drive, with noise emission of 39.9 dB in play-back mode, with is just acceptable.

Noise Level

Idle 33.7 / 35.8 / 33.7 dB(A)
HDD 34.3 dB(A)
DVD 39.9 / dB(A)
Load / 35.8 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:     (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Because of the CPU, the GPU and also the magnesium case the notebook gets only slightly warmer and is nearly free of hot spots. At the upper side the maximum measured temperature was 31.6°C, at the bottom side it only slightly increased to 36.1°C.

Upper side

palmwrist: 30.7°C max: 31.6°C avg: 30.6°C

Bottom side

max: 36.1°C avg: 33.6°C

Speakers

The speakers have an acceptable clear sound at a passable loudness. The maximum loudness is good, but the speakers sound tinny and the basses are missing at maximum loudness.

Battery Runtime

The battery runtime of the Sony Vaio VGN-FE 31B was moderate, only at minimum brightness and using power save mode, the battery runtime was acceptable. The battery runtime is between 1,5 and slightly above 3 hours.

Energy demand

Without load (Idle), min. brightness, without WLAN: Watt (not possible to measure)
+ max. brightness: 27.1 Watt
+ WLAN: 28.4 Watt
Full load (+WLAN, max brightness): max. 53.6 Watt

Battery runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
3h 20min
WiFi Surfing
2h 00min
DVD
1h 44min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 35min

Verdict

Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B

Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B is a notebook of very good workmanship, that looks rather good and convinces through a robust case. Especially, the magnesium case is a clear surplus. 

On the one hand the display was bright and of an acceptable illumination, but on the other hand the weak point is its heavily reflecting surface.

The 3D performance could be better, but for applications of all kind, the Core 2 Duo CPU and the Geforce 7400 are sufficiently powerful. In the fields of games, its video card rates clearly worse compared to other notebooks of the medium-class which are equipped with an Geforce 7600 or an Radeon X1600.

The temperature and noise emissions are positively low, which makes it an ideal office notebook. The battery runtime is rather moderate, and therefore, its mobile use is limited.

Many thanks to the company Notebook-Shop.de, who provided as with a test notebook.  You can configure and also buy this notebook here.

Reviewed: Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B
Reviewed: Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B

Specifications

Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel 945PM
:: Memory
1024 MB, DDR2 PC4300 SDRAM, max. 2048MB, 2x512MB
:: Graphics adapter
:: Display
15.4 inch 16:10, 1280x800 pixel, X-Black WXGA LCD Display, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
80 GB - 5400 rpm, 80 GB 5400 rpm Fujitsu MHV2080BH PL: 80GB, 5400rpm
:: Connections
ExpressCard (34mm), PCMCIA, IEEE1394 Firewire (i.LINK), Mikrofon, Kopfhörer, 3x USB 2.0, S-Video out, VGA-out, Kensington Lock, LAN, Modem, Docking Station
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 26 x 366 x 275
:: Weight
2.74 kg
:: Battery
, 4800 mAh Lithium Ionen Akku
:: Price
1199 Euro
:: Additional features
HDD: 80GB, 5400rpm, Fujitsu MHV2080BH PL, SigmaTel Audio, DVD +/-R (DL) Matshita DVD-RAM UJ-850S,

 

Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B convinced through its design...
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B view
...which is consequent in all details.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B view
Even the good workmanship...
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B view
...and the robustness of the case convinced.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B view
We were pleased by the magnesium case.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B view
The display's hinges are small, but good.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B view
An innovative, but not problem free solution: The hook was placed in the Base-Unit.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B view
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B is equipped with a Docking Port.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B view
Flat and angular: the keyboard of the Sony notebook.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B view
Even the additional keys were designed and placed beautifully.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B view
The display is excellent, but reflecting.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B view
In the notebook there are a Core 2 Duo CPU and a Geforce 7400 at work...
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B view
... but the Geforce 7400 could not convince us.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B view
The fans were rather quiet all the time.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B view
Just sufficient: 4800 mAh battery in Sony FE31B.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B view

Pro

  • beautiful design
  • good workmanship
  • Magnesium case
  • low weigth
  • bright display
  • low temperature and noise emissions
  • Contra

  • nearly all interfaces at the right side.
  • display refects heavily
  • moderate performance
  • moderate battery runtime
  • Similar Notebooks

    Bewertung

    Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B
    08/31/2007
    J. Simon Leitner

    Chassis
    90%
    Keyboard
    84%
    Pointing Device
    86%
    Connectivity
    82%
    Weight
    79%
    Battery
    65%
    Display
    88%
    Games Performance
    65%
    Application Performance
    91%
    Temperature
    85%
    Noise
    87%
    Add Points
    94%
    Average
    83%
    83%
    Multimedia *
    Weighted Average

    > Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Sony Vaio VGN-FE31B
    Author: J. Simon Leitner, 2006-12- 7 (Update: 2013-05- 8)