Review Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Notebook

Vaio Vista. The Vaio FE41Z is in general similar to the FE31, still it is interesting because of its very bright display using dual lamp technology, and its stylish design, and last but not least because of the brand-new Windows Vista. The performance of the Geforce 7600 (GT?!) under Vista arouse our interest, too.

Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Logo

Case

Sonys current design of the  FE series pleases the eyes and is popular. "Never change a running system" - This might be one of the reasons, why the F41 is - at least regarding its case - equal to the F31 series.

However, the operating system is different. The Sony Vaio FE41Z comes with Microsoft's latest development, Windows Vista. I do not want to discuss about it in detail, still I cant deny myself of writing some paragraphs about it.

Windows Vista

Everybody has presumably already heard a lot about Vista, and made up his/her own thoughts and expectations. I personally watched the whole Vista hype relatively calmly, because I was inherently satisfied with XP and the operating system is only a means to an end for me...

What are your first impressions of Vista? Were your expectations satisfied, or are you already waiting for a service pack, which is hopefully available soon.

But let's return to the reviewed notebook, the Sony Fe41z. As already mentioned the design is typical Sony and goes down well.

The base unit out of magnesium gives the notebook a flexural rigidity and robustness which is worth-seeing. Because even the display cover is out of magnesium, the display is especially flexural rigid.

Both hinges are, as usual for Sony notebooks, attached reversely and move the display over the back edge upon opening. This looks great, however, it makes a placement of interfaces at the notebook's back side impossible. This is the main point of criticism.

Nearly all interfaces are at the right side of the case, which is not very comfortable for me as I am a right hander. Despite the producer apparently tried to place the ports as far back as possible, the three consecutive USB ports reach already the middle of the right side.

In general the workmanship of the notebook is alright. Still one can detect some weaknesses, e.g.,  irregular and a little too big gaps, but also the partly poor pressure resistance of the case.

The most annoying weakness was definitely that the battery is rather loose and wobbles again. Dear Sony engineers, trueing up the battery so that it won't wobble should really be possible. I admit that we reviewed a pilot notebook and chances are that this problem is fixed at the time the notebook is actually mass-produced. However, I want to mention that Sony is contacted already frequently regarding wobbling batteries.

Front side: Audio Ports, WLan Switch, MemoryStick Reader
Sony Vaio VGN FE-41z Interfaces
Left Side: Modem, Lan, DVD drive, Kensington Lock
Sony Vaio VGN FE-41z Interfaces
Back Side: No Ports
Sony Vaio VGN FE-41z Interfaces
Right Side: PCCard, ExpressCard 34mm, Firewire, 3x USB 2.0, S-Video Out, VGA-Out, Power Connector
Sony Vaio VGN FE-41z Interfaces

Input Devices

Hardly any other designed notebook feature is able to raise more disagreements than Sony's keyboards. Some hate them, others love them.
We talk about the very flat and angular keys with relatively short travel. Well, tastes differ and that's alright.

Working with the notebook, it got apparent that the plane surfaces allows the fingers to slide trouble-free and therefore, a fast typing is possible. However, the loud noise during fast typing turns out not so well.

Some more properties of the keyboard: The size of the keys is alright. The layout is reasonable and user-friendly. Because of the geometric order and sticking to a rectangular grid, a clear structuring is not apparent. This does not really increases the lucidity.

The touch pad is very comfortable in use, last but not least because of the  good sliding properties of its surface. Response and precision are also alright. Both buttons are easy to reach, because they are at a slightly higher level, however, the force needed is in our opinion a little too high.

Touch pad
Sony Vaio VGN FE-41z Touch pad
Keyboard
Sony Vaio VGN FE-41z Keyboard

Display

Measurement Diagram
Sony Vaio VGN FE-41z Display Measurement

With its 15.4 inch display the Sony Vaio Fe41z is again outstanding regarding  TFT displays. The display is illuminated by Sony's dual lamp technology and reaches an outstanding maximum brightness of 443.6 cd/m². Although the illumination of 70.2% seems to be rather below-average, it is still alright, because of an excellent minimum brightness of 311.3 cd/m².

In the contrary to the usual deviation of the blue color curve, the measurement diagram uncovers a slightly inflated green and red color curve. Subjectively the display seems to be very colorful and rich in contrast.

370.1
cd/m²
443.6
cd/m²
320.8
cd/m²
337.8
cd/m²
355.9
cd/m²
311.3
cd/m²
413.8
cd/m²
425.6
cd/m²
390.4
cd/m²
Information
Maximum: 443.6 cd/m²
Average: 374.4 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 70 %
Black: 0.4 cd/m²
Contrast: 890:1
Distribution of brightness

The excellent maximum brightness together with the also very good minimum brightness (black value) of only 0.4 cd/m² leads to a maximum contrast ratio to the tune of incredible 1109:1.

Operation Outdoors
Sony Fe41z Outdoors

Depending on the vantage point and on the lightning conditions the purple  AR-coating gets more or less apparent. This coating has compared to reflecting  displays some advantages, however, it can especially outdoors only slightly lessen reflexions.

The Sony Fe41z's display provides horizontally as well as vertically an adequate area of operation. Outside it, reflections impair horizontally the view, vertically, the contrast diminishes and the colors slightly alter, but within reasonable limits.

Sony Vaio Fe41z Stability to Vantage Point
Sony Vaio Fe41z Stability to Vantage Point
Sony Vaio Fe41z Stability to Vantage Point
Sony Vaio Fe41z Stability to Vantage Point
Sony Vaio Fe41z Stability to Vantage Point
Sony Vaio Fe41z Stability to Vantage Point
Sony Vaio Fe41z Stability to Vantage Point
Sony Vaio Fe41z Stability to Vantage Point

Performance

As already mentioned above the Fe41z especially attracted our attention because of its 7600 with GT GPU. Well, this is what Sony mentions on their homepage. We quickly discovered that only a standard Geforce 7600 was used. Too bad - a GT would have been another pro for the Fe41z and of special help with Vista.

Be that as it may. Even with the current configuration the notebook rates relatively high regarding its performance. A Core 2 Duo T7200 CPU with 2 GHz, 2GB Ram and also a Geforce 7600 mid-range video card make this sure.

Despite this, we want to mention, that the benchmark results are clearly below  those of notebooks which are comparably equipped. Furthermore, we were unable to run the PCMark benchmark, because of conflicts with Windows Vista.

It seems as if Windows Vista takes actually up a lot of performance. This is another aspect which makes me iffy about Vista.

Furthermore, the notebook comes with a huge 200GB hard disk with average transfer rate and below-average access time of about 20ms, as usual for 4200 revs models.

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

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

Benchmark Comparison 3DMark
Sony Vaio Fe41z Benchmark Comparison
3D Mark
3DMark 2001SE15420 points
3DMark 036540 points
3DMark 052661 points
3DMark 06
 
1501 points
Help
3DMark 06 in comparison
Sony Vaio VGN-FS485B (min)
 740, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 900
54
   ...
Sony Vaio VPC-EE4J1E/WI
 P360, Radeon HD 4200
1465
Acer Aspire One 522-C5Dkk
 C-50, Radeon HD 6250
1480
Sony VGN-FE41z
 T7200, GeForce Go 7600
1501
Sony Vaio VPC-EB3E4E/WI
 P6100, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) HD Graphics
1515
Zepto Znote 3414W
 T7250, GeForce 8400M GS
1527
   ...
Alienware M18x R2 (max)
 3920XM, Radeon HD 7970M Crossfire
29496
200 GB - 4200 rpm
Transfer Rate Minimum: 15.1 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 35.8 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 28 MB/s
Access Time: 20.4 ms
Burst Rate: 74.7 MB/s
CPU Usage: 5.5 %

Emissions

Loudness

Something at the beginning, the Sony Vaio Fe41z is a very quiet and decent companion, at least regarding its loudness. During idle mode or with only light office load the fan runs quietly and sounds like a quietly soughing wind.
This might sound dramatically, but this is not how it really is. The noise caused by the fan is regarding frequency and constantly changes similar to the draft in an apartment.
Even under load it's similar. The only difference is that the fan can be clearly heard, if it is turned up.

Noise Level

Idle 31.3 / 37.3 / 33.7 dB(A)
HDD 31.8 dB(A)
DVD 38.1 / dB(A)
Load / 37.3 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:     (15 cm distance)

Temperature

The measured surface temperature are a maximum of 33.6°C at the top side and a maximum of 37.8°C at the bottom side of the notebook. In total, we could not detect any noticeable hot spots.

Upper side

palmwrist: 31.6°C max: 33.6°C avg: 28.8°C

Bottom side

max: 37.8°C avg: 32.4°C

Lautsprecher

Die beiden Speaker sind links und rechts oberhalb der Tastatur unter einer perforierten Leiste angebracht. Ihr Klang kann als leicht verhalten und relativ basslos beschrieben werden. Die maximale Lautstärke kann sich sehen lassen, der Klang dabei jedoch eher nicht.

Battery Runtime

The measured battery runtime is slightly above-average. Under load the minimum runtime is about 1.5h. The maximum runtime of the Fe41z is slightly above 3 hours and the runtime during DVD playback is about 2.5h.

Battery runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
3h 15min
DVD
2h 32min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 33min

Power consumption

Idle 22.4 / 32.7 / 34.4 Watt
Load 59.4 / 57.6 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         

Verdict

As already mentioned also the Sony Vaio Fe41z is in general of good workmanship. However, at a closer look, one can detect one or the other weakness, e.g. a wobbling battery, pressure sensitive parts of the case and a slight see-saw of the display hinges.

The design is nice to look at, and also the materials, e.g. the trough and the display cover are out of magnesium, seem to be of high-quality.

The input devices are typical Sony and we recommend to try them before purchasing - with the theme: One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

The display astonished by excellent brightness and contrast. Sony's dual lamp technology makes this outstanding brightness and contrast possible. Another matter of taste: reflecting display.

We were somewhat disappointed by the performance of the notebook. First of all the video card was not a Geforce 7600 GT (as wrongly headlined on Sony's homepage) and the pre-installed Windows Vista takes up a lot of the power, so the applications lack of performance.

The emissions are within reasonable limits. The noise emissions as well as the temperature emissions of Sony Fe41z are adequate.

The battery runtime is passable and should also allow to use the notebook unplugged for some time.

Sony Vaio VGN FE-41Z
Sony Vaio VGN FE-41Z
Reviewed: Sony Vaio VGN FE-41Z
Sony Vaio VGN FE-41Z

Specifications

Sony VGN-FE41z

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel 945PM
:: Memory
2048 MB, DDR2 PC5300 SDRAM (667MHz), max. 4096MB, 2x1024MB
:: Graphics adapter
:: Display
15.4 inch 16:10, 1280x800 pixel, WXGA X-Black Duallamp TFT Display, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
200 GB - 4200 rpm, 200 GB 4200 rpm Fujitsu MHV2200BT: 200GB, 4200rpm
:: Connections
PCCard Typ I/II, ExpressCard 34mm, Mikrofon, Kopfhörer, 3x USB 2.0, VGA-Out, S-Video, Firewire, Kensington Lock, LAN, Modem, Docking Connector
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 26 x 366 x 275
:: Weight
2.83 kg
:: Battery
, 5200 mAh Lithium Ionen Akku
:: Price
1699 Euro
:: Additional features
HDD: 200GB, 4200rpm, Fujitsu MHV2200BT, SigmaTel HD Audio, DVD +/-R (DL) Pioneer DVR-K16M,

 

The Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z pleases the eyes...
Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Image
...because of its elegant design...
Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Image
...and high-quality materials...
Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Image
...e.g. the trough and the display cover out of magnesium.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Image
Still there are some weaknesses...
Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Image
...e.g. uneven gaps near the DVD drive.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Image
Interesting mechanism: the display hook of FE41Z.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Image
Most of the interfaces are at the right side of the case.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Image
Nice feature: Integrated Webcam at the display.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Image
The form of the keyboard is with its flat geometric keys typical Sony.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Image
Very bright and outstanding contrast - the Fe41z's display.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Image
In general the hardware equipment is alright...
Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Image
...but Vista takes up too much of the performance.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Image
The notebook's noise and temperature emissions convinced us.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Image
The battery runtime is average between 1.5 and slightly above 3 hours.
Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Image

Pro

  • Nice design
  • High-quality materials
  • Robust and flexural rigid case
  • Very bright and rich in contrast display
  • Low temperature and noise emissions
  • Windows Vista
  • Contra

  • Wobbling battery
  • Some deflections of the case under pressure are possible
  • Most of the interfaces at the right side
  • Reflecting display
  • Below-average performance caused by Vista
  • Similar Notebooks

    Bewertung

    Sony VGN-FE41z
    08/31/2007
    J. Simon Leitner

    Chassis
    86%
    Keyboard
    84%
    Pointing Device
    86%
    Connectivity
    82%
    Weight
    78%
    Battery
    72%
    Display
    96%
    Games Performance
    78%
    Application Performance
    85%
    Temperature
    81%
    Noise
    92%
    Add Points
    92%
    Average
    84%
    85%
    Multimedia *
    Weighted Average

    > Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Sony Vaio VGN-FE41Z Notebook
    Author: J. Simon Leitner, 2007-02-13 (Update: 2013-05- 8)