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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
|3DMark 05 Standard||4235 points|
|PCMark 05 Standard||4683 points|
|1024x768||Ultra, 0xAA, 0xAF||59.8 fps|
|800x600||High, 0xAA, 0xAF||89.7 fps|
|640x480||Medium, 0xAA, 0xAF||113.8 fps|
|640x480||Low, 0xAA, 0xAF||114.2 fps|
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.
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.
(+) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 35.8 °C / 96 F, compared to the average of 39.2 °C / 103 F, ranging from 21.6 to 68.8 °C for the class Gaming.
(±) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 40.6 °C / 105 F, compared to the average of 41.6 °C / 107 F
(+) The palmrests and touchpad are cooler than skin temperature with a maximum of 30.1 °C / 86.2 F and are therefore cool to the touch.
(±) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 28.7 °C / 83.7 F (-1.4 °C / -2.5 F).
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.
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.
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.