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REVIEW: Sony Vaio VGN-FW11M Notebook

Centrino 2 Kino.

The Sony Vaio FW11M is one of the currently low priced models and offers therefore only a blu ray ROM drive (reader, no writer) and decreased hardware devices. Also, one must do without the well known Sony Dual Lamp Technology. In the following short review you will find out if they saved at the right corners.

Sony Vaio VGN-FW11M

CASE

Following Acer, Sony releases their first notebooks with a 16:9 formated 16.4'' screen. The Vaio FW11M is a representative of this new category of notebooks positioned in between 15.4'' and 17'' and thanks to integrated blu ray - tailored for home movies. 

Just like the 16:4 inched Acer Aspire 6920G, the design of the sunken display hinge dominates. Unlike the Acer, in the Sony FW series the ends are optically enhanced and the middle section disappears under the loudspeaker bar. The right end of the hinge stands out through the illuminated power button, which reflects the position of the notebook in different colors.

A further highlight is the keyboard which has, like presently common by Sony, several keys integrated in the case. This looks optically like that of the Apple MacBook Air.

The entire case seems, at first sight, very flat. This is accomplished by the fitted silver top face plate. However, the FW11M does not quite reach the slimness of the Apple MacBook Air Pro.

The workmanship of the Sony notebook is not its strongest aspect. For instance, the material of the wrist support is not of particularly high quality and gives away considerably under pressure. The loudspeaker bar is not very pressure resistant either - especially when the battery ist out - but this, is however, not particularly demanded. A further point of critism is the arising creaking sound when opening the laptop. Many competitors can do this considerably better. There are, however, also positve points in the Vaio case. For example the display lid is extremely buckling resistant and protects the sensitve panel outstandingly. The input devices are also worked well and leave a positive impression.

As already mentioned, Sony uses a sunken display hinge in its FW11 series. This has the disadvantage that the maximal inclination angle is limited. The FW11M has no closure latch and therefore one has to be careful during transportation - so that no small parts shove themselves between the display and the keyboard whereas to  damage the screen.

CONNECTIVITY

There are as good as no criticism points concerning the port options. Actually the only thing missing is an eSATA connection and a card reader which supports other formats than the built in reading device, as this only works with Sonys Memory Stick (Pro) and SD Cards. The built in HDMI port for digital video and audio signals and the Firewire 400 connection are pleasant. Fitting the multimedia "theme", the FW11 series has the MotionEye webcam with good image quality built in the lid.

The connection order is o.k. to an extent. The single ports are maybe a bit to close to the front edge (especially the 3 USB ports), which could lead to an annoying cable salad.

Front side: WLAN switch, IRDA, MS(Pro)Cardreader, headphone, microphone
Front side: WLAN switch, IRDA, MS(Pro) & SD Cardreader, headphone, microphone
Left side: Express Card 34, Fire Wire 400, HDMI, VGA, V.93 Modem, Gigabit Lan, Kensington Lock, power connection
Left side: Express Card 34, Fire Wire 400, HDMI, VGA, V.93 Modem, Gigabit Lan, Kensington Lock, power connection
Right side: 3x USB 2.0, blu ray drive
Right side: 3x USB 2.0, blu ray drive
Back side: no connections
Back side: no connections

Sony equips the FW11M with a considerable software package for Audio, Video, photo, and DVD burning. Highlights are Adobe Premiere Elements 4 (video editing), Microsoft Works 9 (Office) and Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 (image processing). Besides that, there is quite a bit of Sony Vaio software included (Music Box, SonicStage Mastering Studio, Media Plus, Movie Story). Also there are a few preinstalled trialware programs (MS Office 2007 and McAfee Internet Security).

 

INPUT DEVICES

The slighlty sunken keyboard of Vaio FW11M is kept in its single key design like that of the MacBook Air and offers a good layout. The keyboard device is sufficiently fixed in the case and doesn't clatter when in use. The single keys are normal sized and allows a soft stroke. Altogether the keyboard completely pleases at use.

The large touchpad offers good gliding qualities and can be used precisely. The two touchpad buttons underneath are also fixed tightly in the case and offer a good pressure point combined with a very audible click noise.

Furthermore, Sonys Vaio notebook offers an extra bar with multimedia hotkeys over the keyboard. This warrants a quick access to the multimedia functions (whereas "mute" is only accessible with FN+F2). Also one can start and use the well thought - out "AV mode" with it, too.

Touchpad
Sony Vaio VGN-FW11M Touchpad
Keyboard
Sony Vaio VGN-FW11M Keyboard

DISPLAY

We were curious about the new 16.4" wide screen in 16:9 format (up till now 16:10 is usual). A sticker on the notebook lures with the description "Dual Lamp Technology". A smaller * weakens the promise with the supplement "... selected models only". Unfortunately, the VGN - FW11M does not belong to these selected models. The user must therefore be content with only one background light. The consequence of this "economizing measure" is the considerably weaker brightness of the display. Averagely we could only measure 146 cd/m² (136:1 at maximum contrast). This, with the reflecting traits of the display surface suffices for not too light interiors. According to external tests from other media the models with Dual Lamp Technology shine up to 360 cd/m². The constant high resolution of 1600x90 pixels offers the user a broad desktop and a good overview.

Nonetheless, the image makes a good impression, although it seems a bit lutescent. Skin colors were regiven acceptably. The grey gradient comes across a bit stepped, though.

140
cd/m²
157
cd/m²
144
cd/m²
156
cd/m²
171
cd/m²
160
cd/m²
127
cd/m²
137
cd/m²
129
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Maximum: 171 cd/m²
Average: 146.8 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 74 %
Black: 1.35 cd/m²
Contrast: 127:1
Referenzbild
HP Pavilion dv5-1032eg Perspective stability
HP Pavilion dv5-1032eg Perspective stability
HP Pavilion dv5-1032eg Perspective stability
HP Pavilion dv5-1032eg Perspective stability
HP Pavilion dv5-1032eg Perspective stability
HP Pavilion dv5-1032eg Perspective stability
 

PERFORMANCE

Somewhat was also saved in the performance of the FW11M. In comparison with the more expensive models, a weaker processor and a weaker graphic card have been used. In our case the Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 with 2.26 GHz an a 3 MB L2 cache has been installed. The Penryn already belongs to the newest CPUs manufactured in 45nm with an FSB1066 and should deliver enough performance for most applications.

The built in ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470 is rather the weak point at games. As a graphic card for beginners it is only suitable for restricted gaming pleasure. Up-to-date games are only smooth with low detail settings. Even older games like F.E.A.R. can only be played smoothly with a middle detail setting. The advantage of the HD 3470, is however, the integrated video decoder Avivo HD. The graphic chip can relieve the CPU in the decoding of high density videos. In the test the CPU remained by the blu ray film "Cars" at merely 15 - 22 %.

The Sony FW11M gets a small devaluation from us since neither the 3D Mark 06 nor the PC Mark 05 started.

For Office, image processing and unpretentious video editing, Sony offers sufficient performance reserves, thanks to the 4 GB RAM on board from which on 3 GB are useable in the 32 Bit version of Vista.

PC Mark
PCMark 054865 points
Help
PCMark 05 in comparison
Acer Aspire One 751 (min)
 Z520, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 500
692
   ...
Sony Vaio VGN-SZ61WN/C
 T7500, GeForce 8400M GS
4845
Fujitsu-Siemens H240
 T7200, Mobility FireGL V5200
4857
Samsung X60 Pro Boxxer
 T7400, Mobility Radeon X1700
4859
Sony Vaio VGN-FW11M
 P8400, Mobility Radeon HD 3470
4865
Apple MacBook 2009-10
 P7550, GeForce 9400M (G) / ION (LE)
4946
Lenovo Thinkpad T61
 T7300, Quadro NVS 140M
4989
Sony Vaio VPC-S13X9E
 370M, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) HD Graphics
4991
   ...
Fujitsu Celsius H710 WXP11DE (max)
 2820QM, Quadro 1000M
13842
3D Mark
3DMark 054865 points
Help
3DMark 05 in comparison
Nokia Booklet 3G (min)
 Z530, Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 500
120
   ...
Fujitsu LifeBook E751 vPro/UMTS
 2620M, HD Graphics 3000
4788
Lenovo IdeaPad G580-MBBG3GE
 B960, HD Graphics (Sandy Bridge)
4807
HP Compaq Presario CQ58-148SG
 B950, HD Graphics (Sandy Bridge)
4832
Sony Vaio VGN-FW11M
 P8400, Mobility Radeon HD 3470
4865
Samsung X65 Bekumar
 T7500, GeForce 8600M GS
4894
Sony Vaio VGN-AR11S
 T2500, GeForce Go 7600 GT
4918
Lenovo IdeaPad N581-MBA4YGE
 B970, HD Graphics (Sandy Bridge)
4921
   ...
Alienware M18x R2 (max)
 3920XM, Radeon HD 7970M Crossfire
36878
F.E.A.R.
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1024x768GPU: max, CPU: max, 0xAA, 0xAF38 fps
 640x480GPU min, CPU min, 0xAA, 0xAF271 fps
Cinebench R10
 SettingsValue
 Rendering Single 32Bit1760 Points
 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit3257 Points
 Shading 32Bit601 Points

The built in Hitachi HTS542525K9a serial ATA disc with 250 GB belongs to the average speed notebook hard discs. Where the hard disc performance is particulary important, it is advisable to exchange the Hitachi with a quicker HDD - model.

Hitachi Travelstar 5K250 HTS542525K9SA00
Transfer Rate Minimum: 29.8 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 59.2 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 47.4 MB/s
Access Time: 19.6 ms
Burst Rate: 77.7 MB/s
CPU Usage: 3 %

LOUDNESS

Our volume measurements were constrained. The test was executed in an air conditioned room which unfortunately had a ambient noise of about 38dB. Because of this, it is not possible to say too much about the minimal system noise.

The fans of the Vaio VGN FW11M sometimes run in static condition but have to be classified as audibly low. During activity the fans got a bit louder, in which we sometimes distinguished a slight pulsating noise. This could be a disturbance in quiet surroundings.

 

TEMPERATURE

The temperature of the case from the FW11M always remained in an unproblematic level at all times. Even the important wrist supports stayed by 29°C or respectively 31°C almost cool. The maximal temperature of 42.9°C on the bottom side can't yet be called critcal, either.

 

Max. Load
 35.9 °C36.2 °C32.8 °C 
 33.5 °C33.1 °C29.2 °C 
 30.8 °C33.5 °C28.8 °C 
Maximum: 36.2 °C
Average: 32.6 °C
29.7 °C31.3 °C42.9 °C
29.8 °C33.0 °C33.3 °C
32.6 °C33.2 °C33 °C
Maximum: 42.9 °C
Average: 33.2 °C
Room Temperature 22 °C

SPEAKERS

For a mobile cinema like the Vaio notebook, the loudspeaker quality is of utmost importance. The built in stereo loudspeakers can only convince partially in this discipline. Due to the lack of a subwoofer, we missed the audible basses in the test. Besides that, the maximal volume could prove to be too quiet for film viewing. The sound is, however, o.k. in consideration of the size of the notebook.

BATTERY LIFE

The relatively small 53 Wh lithium ion battery in the FW11M held for about 1.5h under full performance. The battery life should be considerably higher in normal application scenarios.

 

CONCLUSION

The Sony Vaio VGN FW11M is one of the low priced models of the FW11 series. One can overcome the saving of the blu ray ROM writer (there is "only" a ROM drive built into the FW11M) conscience - proof. The missing second background light, however, leads to a Sony-atypical dim image. Especially by films one would wish for a bit more brightness (except in darker surroundings). The light reflections in luminous surroundings also disturb on the panel. The only thing left is the high resolution and the beautiful color of the 16:9 display.

As in the case of all models of the FW11 series, the FW11M is affected by a mediocre workmanship. One has to accept the creaking sonds and the yielding wrist supports.

Of course there are also some positve aspects to this Sony mulitmedia laptop. For instance, an extensive software package for music, videos and photos. The emissions, typical for Sony, are rather minor.

Gamers and users who want to use the notebook outside should pick one of the stronger models with Dual Lamp Technology (e.g. FW11ZU).

Sony Vaio VGN-FW11 Serie
Sony Vaio VGN-FW11 Serie

Many thanks to MediaMarkt Wels, who kindly provided us with the reviewed notebook. You can buy this notebook here.

 

 

Under review: Sony Vaio VGN-FW11M
Under review: Sony Vaio VGN-FW11M

Specifications

Sony Vaio VGN-FW11M

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel PM45
:: Memory
4096 MB, 2x 2048 DDR2 PC2-6400 Samsung
:: Graphics adapter
ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470 - 256 MB, Core: 680 MHz, Memory: 800 MHz, GDDR3, 7.14.10.0567
:: Display
16.4 inch 16:9, 1600x900 pixel, X-black (no Dual Lamp!), glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
Hitachi Travelstar 5K250 HTS542525K9SA00, 250 GB 5400 rpm
:: Soundcard
Realtek ALC262 HD Audio
:: Connections
1 Express Card 34mm, 3 USB 2.0, 1 Firewire, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Modem, 1 Infrared, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: Headphones, Microphone, Card Reader: MS Pro, Webcam (Motion Eye - SXGA)
:: Networking
Marvell Yukon 88E8055 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5100 (a b g n ), 2.0 + EDR Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
Optiarc BD ROM BC-5500A ATA
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 37 x 384 x 261
:: Weight
3.1 kg
:: Battery
53 Wh Lithium-Ion, VGP-BPS13A/S 11.1V 4800mAh
:: Price
1200 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium 32 Bit
:: Additional features
VAIO Music Box, SonicStage Mastering Studio 2.4, Adobe Premiere Elements 4, Vaio Content Importer/Exporter, WinDVD 8.0 for Vaio, DivX, Vaio Movie Story, Adobe Photoshop Elements 6, Easy Media Creator 9, Click to Disc/Editor, Vaio Media Plus, MS Works, 24 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
The Sony Vaio VGN-FW11M ...
The Sony Vaio VGN-FW11M ...
Pleasing is the complete software components ...
Pleasing is the complete software components ...
A webcam completes the multimedia configuration.
A webcam completes the multimedia configuration.
... and the temperature can't be called critical.
... and the temperature can't be called critical.
For that, the rejected heat is kept within a limit...
For that, the rejected heat is kept within a limit...
However one has to cut back on performance by this smaller model. The weaker HD 3470 isn't really recommendable for gamers.
However one has to cut back on performance by this smaller model. The weaker HD 3470 isn't really recommendable for gamers.
On the other side the plug found its new home.
On the other side the plug found its new home.
Status LED and the power switch were conjoined with the hinge.
Status LED and the power switch were conjoined with the hinge.
Above one finds multimedia hotkeys and a shortcut to the AV mode.
Above one finds multimedia hotkeys and a shortcut to the AV mode.
The keyboard looks good and it can be used efficiently.
The keyboard looks good and it can be used efficiently.
... but there is only one lamp built in, whereby only a mediocre brightness is reached.
... but there is only one lamp built in, whereby only a mediocre brightness is reached.
The sticker lures with the Dual Lamp - slogan ...
The sticker lures with the Dual Lamp - slogan ...
For cinema enjoyment, proper Speakers are needed. In the FW11M they are only moderate.
For cinema enjoyment, proper Speakers are needed. In the FW11M they are only moderate.
... indulge in cinema enjoyment, like Cars here.
... indulge in cinema enjoyment, like Cars here.
For that purpose it offers a blu ray ROM driver in order to ...
For that purpose it offers a blu ray ROM driver in order to ...
.... comes in a new design and Centrino 2 technology in order to entertain the user.
.... comes in a new design and Centrino 2 technology in order to entertain the user.
with some "Vaio only" programs.
with some "Vaio only" programs.

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Price Comparison

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Pro

+Blu ray drive
+16:9 high resolution display
+Design
+Extensive software additions
+
 

Cons

-moderate display brightness
-mediocre workmanship

Rating

Sony Vaio VGN-FW11M
08/11/2008
Klaus Hinum

Chassis
74%
Keyboard
88%
Pointing Device
87%
Connectivity
87%
Weight
73%
Battery
74%
Display
72%
Games Performance
79%
Application Performance
85%
Temperature
88%
Noise
85%
Add Points
80%
Average
81%
81%
Multimedia *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Sony Vaio VGN-FW11M Notebook
Author: Klaus Hinum, 2008-08-19 (Update: 2012-05-26)