Review Sony Vaio VGN-NW11 Multimedia-Notebook
The Secret's in the Mix.
Sony sees its Vaio NW11 as a chic and elegant multimedia contemporary. At the same time, the chamfered and compact case shouldn't lack the necessary mobility. If these statements apply and how well the Vaio NW11 does in the other tests will be unveiled in our comprehensive review.
At the moment, there are three different, and yet fairly similar, Vaio NW11 models available. The VGN-NW11S/S (in review) and the VGN-NW11 S/T vary for instance only in their color: silver (S/S) and brown (S/T), the other components are just as alike as two peas in a pod. An Intel Core 2 Duo T6500 with 2.1 GHz that has four GByte DDR2 RAM available serves as a processor. The hard disk has a capacity of 320 GBytes and the display has a size of 15.5 inches. The graphic card comes from ATI and listens to the name: Mobility Radeon HD 4570. Both models cost around 700 Euros each.
For an additional 150 Euros, hence a total of 850 Euros, you can obtain the silver VGN-NW11Z/S. Whilst most components are the same, the hard disk capacity grows to 500 GBytes. The BluRay drive is the main argument for the more expensive model, though.
The fairly slim case of the Vaio NW11 has a proper weight of 2630 grams but is fairly compact with the dimensions of 370 mm (breadth) x 249 mm (depth) x 29 mm (height). The wave-like texture on the display's lid and notebook's upper side are the first things that strike you. It gives the case a high-end impression and distinguishes the Vaio NW11 from the monotony of other cases. A big plus point is also the matt and silver surface, which barely attracts fingerprints or similar grime.
In return, the applied materials aren't so nice. If it looks like the NW11 has been manufactured of high-quality aluminum from a further distance, it is quickly seen that it's "only" been made of cheap plastic at a short distance. Furthermore, the general stability discloses reason for complaint. The display lid can be bent strongly on the outer side, but which surprisingly doesn't lead to image distortions. The display bezel can also be bent evidently in the area between the hinges. Leading to the keyboard that yields disagreeably under strong pressure on the right in the area of the DVD drive. Applying pressure to the right keyboard frame lets this area creak noticeably and the case deflects unpleasantly at the edges of the DVD drive. In return, the rest of the case, just like the bottom, is fairly stable.
The fairly small hinges of the display lid are stable and require a well attuned measure of force. Unfortunately, they creak slightly at use. The fairly low weight is a reason why the case pivots strongly at opening the display lid. By and large, we haven't any reason for complaint as to the workmanship. Sony has literally done a clean job, as we couldn't find any sharp edges or varying gaps.
As it's not to be expected otherwise of a multimedia notebook, Sony has integrated an impressive selection of interfaces and connections into the Vaio NW11. We'll make a concise start with the wireless connections, where the Vaio NW11 can score with Wireless LAN (802.11 a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth 2.1.
Now to the wired connections. Starting on the left that has, aside from the power socket and a RJ-45 Gigabit LAN connection, a VGA and HDMI output, in order to present images on external monitors. Above that, a Firewire connection, an USB 2.0 port and a slot for 34mm ExpressCards are also found on left. On the Vaio NW11's front there are a practical WLAN/Bluetooth slider and a 6-in-1 cardreader, which is proficient of SD, MMC, MS, MS Pro, MS Duo and MS Pro Duo. On the right, there are two audio connections in form of a headphone-out and microphone-in. Finishing this alignment, two further USB 2.0 ports (thus there are three USB 2.0 ports available), a RJ-11 modem connection and a Kensington lock follow. The Vaio NW11's back is unfettered from any connections.
The interface placement didn't appeal to us much. The monitor connections, as well as the USB 2.0 ports, have been placed too far front for our taste and the correlating cables might prove to be detrimental at use.
Sony has definitely exaggerated with the software configuration. Alone 22! programs are listed that start with the word "VAIO" in the control panel's deinstallation routine. These programs mostly have cryptic names and reach from C as in "Content Folder Setting" to W as in "Wallpaper Settings". About the same amount of further tools and programs join in here. Also with the same frequent problem that it's barely obvious if these are necessary for the notebook's operation or not. The negative effect of such a stuffed installation is noticeable within a very short time. Booting and shutting down the operating system partly takes painstakingly long and Windows needs half an eternity till the operating velocity has leveled to an acceptable degree after booting.
Basically, a standard layout is used for the keyboard but the buyer has to waiver on a separate numerical block. It is, however, built into the "normal" keyboard and can be enabled via the Num-key. The white keyboard keys have a pleasant size and a good stroke. We also found the key noise as overall pleasant.
Aside from the power button and a small status lamp, there are also three further hotkeys above the keyboard. The display can be deactivated and the sound muted with these. The third key, named "Web", provides for an internet start within seconds via a kind of Express Gate. The "Web"-key only starts Internet Explorer under Windows, though. As already mentioned, the keyboard yields quite obviously in the area of the DVD drive at stronger pressure. This situation barely turns up at "normal", that being more gentle handling.
The NW11's touchpad is submerged and has a sufficient size. The touchpad's surface is slightly roughened by minute knobs, which provide for a good sensory feedback. Above this, the touchpad has an unmarked horizontal and vertical scroll bar. Generally, the touchpad's handling was nice. However, in the test slight inaccuracies were shown at use. The scroll function partly failed and every now and again the mouse's precision wasn't as good as it should have been. We couldn't find a button for deactivating the touchpad even after a longer search.
Fitting to the multimedia entitlement, the Vaio NW11's 15.5 inch display bids an HD resolution of 1366x768 and a cinematic-friendly 16:9 format. Apart from these facts, the multimedia claim is depleted. Already the average luminosity of 186.6 cd/m2 isn't very generous. The other values majorly don't look any better at all, either. Whilst the illumination of 73% can be seen as just still acceptable, the high black values of 1.98 cd/m2 as well as the low contrast of 113:1 aren't really presented from their best side.
The display is basically rather disappointing and doesn't do justice to the declared multimedia entitlement in any way. The so-called X-Black Technology that is supposed to, according to the manufacturer, provide for "sharp, bright and lifelike images in true-to-life colors and realistic depth" doesn't help much either. We found that the image looked too pallid and contrast poor.
The reflective display adds to this, which already makes a negative impression indoors. Consequently, there's almost nothing to be seen outdoors due to the intense reflections. Furthermore, the display's viewing angle stability isn't very impressive. It already comes to brightness deviations and color changes particularly on the vertical plane at even small angles.
Sony has used products of the middle class for the components without exception. An Intel Core 2 Duo T6500 serves as the CPU. This dual core CPU has a clock rate of 2.10 GHz and a 2 MByte L2 cache, respectively a 800 MHz FSB. The power consumption of the T6500 turns out decent with a maximum of 35 watts. A four GByte (2x 2048 MByte) DDR2-6400 RAM is on Intel's PM45 chip set. Due to the 32 bit operating system (Windows Vista Home Premium) , there are only about 3 GBytes available, though. The built-in hard disk with a capacity of about 320 GBytes comes from the manufacturer Western Digital and rotates with 5400 rpm.
And finally, an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 with 512 MBytes dedicated VRAM is employed as the graphic card. The Radeon HD 4570, manufactured in a 55nm structure width, is based on ATI's RV710 chip, has 80 stream processors and 242 million transistors and it's clocked with 680 MHz (core), respectively 800 MHz (memory). Furthermore, the Radeon HD 4570 supports DirectX 10.1 and is well-suitable as a multimedia card due to the UVD2 technology (supports the CPU at computing of high resolution video material). In view of performance, the HD 4570 should place itself at the same level as the competitor card Nvidia GeForce GT 130M, which we will check with numerous benchmarks in a moment.
But one thing after another: Let's start with the CPU-biased benchmarks. The Core 2 Duo T6500 achieved 2197 points in the single-core and 4161 points in multi-core rendering of Cinebench R10. For comparison: A Core 2 Duo P8600 (2.40 GHz, 3 MByte L2 cache, 1066 MHz FSB) reaches a far higher result with 2964 points in the single-core and 5563 points in multi-core rendering. In return, the difference in the PCMark 05 turns out significantly lower with 5278 points (T6500) to 5754 points (P8600). We would have liked to give you the results of the advanced PCMark Vantage here. But the benchmark collapsed even in several trials during the testing time of about one hour. According to PCMark, one or more active programs were allegedly responsible for these terminations. Unfortunately, it couldn't be established exactly which these were.
And now we come to the GPU-biased benchmarks, in which we mainly used the various versions of 3DMark. The Radeon HD 4570 achieved a good 7684 points in the 3DMark 05, merely an average 3638 points in the 3DMark 06 and, finally, a meager 1142 points in the 3DMark Vantage. A GeForce GT 130M (for instance in the Asus N51V, with the same CPU by the way) computes partly much faster with 9692 points (3DMark 05), 4716 points (3DMark 06) and 1595 points (3DMark Vantage). If the difference turns out just as evident in games will be shown by the gaming benchmarks.
Of course, the hard disk's performance values shouldn't be omitted. We established these with assistance from the HDTune tool. Thus, the transfer rate was between 34.8 and 69.2 MB/s, whereas the average was a good 54.2 MB/s. Also, the access rate of 17.1 ms and the throughput rate of 80.9 MB/s didn't show any irregularities. Altogether, the hard disk lines itself into the center field in comparison to the competition.
Furthermore, Windows Vista's Performance Index was used, for which the Vaio NW11 was rewarded with following ratings: 5.1 points for the CPU, 5.0 points for the RAM, 5.0 points for the graphics, 5.3 points for gaming graphics and finally 5.4 points for the hard disk.
Those who connect external devices, such as sound cards, to their notebook, should take a look at the latencies. If these are too high, it can come to synchronization or transmission errors, which can be expressed by a crackling sound of external sound cards, for example. In this regard, the Vaio NW11 passes quite adequately. The latency partly rocketed into the amber field of around 1000µs, but the applied DPC Latency Checker tool shows that it shouldn't come to problems in audio or video streaming.
Verdict: The application efficiency of the Vaio NW11 is generally quite good. The given performance is fully sufficient for the average user, or rather for a normal work day.
|3DMark 2001SE Standard||17934 points|
|3DMark 03 Standard||10995 points|
|3DMark 05 Standard||7684 points|
|3DMark 06 Standard||3638 points|
|3DMark Vantage P Result||1142 points|
|PCMark 05 Standard||5278 points|
If not noted otherwise, a resolution of 1280x1024 was used for our gaming benchmarks (which is about the computing performance of the native resolution of 1366x768). Note: Lower resolutions in the NW11 aren't stretched as it is usual but displayed in the original image ratio, so also including the black bars at the edges.
Call of Juarez
Despite its age, Call of Juarez is one of the most hardware demanding games. The Radeon HD 4570 was also affected by this, as it studdered along with an average of 12.9 fps in a resolution of 1024x768, high details and 4xAA. The comparative GeForce GT 130M also has a hard time and computes even a bit slower with 11.4 fps.
In opposition to Call of Juarez, Anno 1404 is brand new, but almost as hardware demanding in high details. Thus, very high settings and 4xAF were expressed in an unplayable 11 fps. The GeForce GT 130M is a bit faster in comparison with 14.8 fps. Medium details and a disabled anisotropic filter look a lot better on the Radeon HD 4570, as a smooth gaming was possible with an average of 35.5 fps.
Race Driver Grid
The Vaio NW11 faces a too great demand with the only race game in our benchmark course in high setting and 2x XMSAA. With an average of 18.5 fps the race ended fast in the stacks of tires. The GeForce 130M is a bit faster with 22 fps, but is also in an unplayable field. It looks different in medium details and a resolution of 1024x768 for the Radeon HD 4570. With an average of 34.5 fps, the race in GRID could be completed reasonably.
A similar picture in F.E.A.R. 2: High details and 4x AA overtaxed the Radeon HD 4570. With an average of 22.4 fps it's hard to knock the socks off the opponents. The GeForce GT 130M is about just as fast with an average of 24 fps. The Radeon HD 4570 teaches the enemies the meaning of fear a lot better in medium settings with a resolution of 1024x768 and 2xAA with 35.2 fps, with assistance from the gamer.
Call of Duty 4
Of course, the very popular Call of Duty 4 shouldn't be left out. The game ran good but not overwhelming with 30.2 fps in high details and 4xAA. First in medium details and a resolution of 1024x768 could Call of Duty 4 be adequately enjoyed with an average of 43.6 fps. The GeForce GT 130M computes almost just as fast in high details with 31 fps.
Left 4 Dead
Valve's Zombie banquet seems to be very wholesome for the Radeon HD 4570 because the game ran as smooth as silk over the display with an average of 48.3 fps in a resolution of 1024x768 even in high details. In comparison, the GeForce GT 130M again computes a lot faster with 63 fps.
Verdict: The given gaming performance is, in view of the reputed fairly weak Radeon HD 4570, of course not overwhelming, but at least reasonable. Almost all tested games ran smoothly in medium details, anyway. The comparative GeForce GT 130M is generally a bit over the Radeon HD 4570. Undemanding gamers or occasional gamers can, therefore, consider the Vaio NW11 with its Radeon HD 4570, in any case. Halfway ambitioned gamers should look around for more efficient alternatives, such as the Radeon HD 4650 or the GeForce GT 240M, though.
As long as the notebook isn't loaded, the soundscape of 33.5 dB(A) is very pleasant. The fan noise is audible but far from being loud. The hard disk also presents itself as quiet with 34.4 dB(A) and can only be persuaded to a slight clicking at a close-up. In return, the DVD drive attracts attention sooner. Whilst 37.6 dB(A) at DVD rendering is still acceptable, the drive partly roars at data accessing with up to a disturbing 49.9 dB(A).
The notebook presents itself very similar under load. At medium load, an acceptable 36.2 db(A) is reached, whereas the fan turns up to very audible maximum of 47.2 dB(A) under full load. All evaluations were made at a distance of 15 cm, as always.
33.5 / 33.5 / 33.5 dB(A)
||37.6 / 49.9 dB(A)|
||36.2 / 47.2 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: (15 cm distance)
The case's surface temperature is basically unspectacular. With maximum energy savings mechanisms and two hours of use in idle mode, the upper side warms up to a maximum of 34.2°C and the bottom to a maximum of 34.8°C. Under load (one hour Furmark + Prime95) the upper side heats up to a maximum of 41.3°C, whereas the bottom reaches a maximum of 49.3°C. Subjectively, the wrist rests get luke-warm. The Vaio NW11 warms up decently on its bottom when it's on the lap because of the too high temperature under load.
We could only measure the CPU temperature inside. The Core 2 Duo T6500 heats up to an acceptable 44°C in idle mode. Under full load it's a fairly high but still completely reasonable 70°C.
As typical for most notebooks, the sound quality of both integrated loudspeakers turns out rather meager. The maximum volume is alright, but the bass is too weak and indistinct in return. Furthermore, the trebles fray out easily and quickly make a drowned impression. Above this, the sound is extremely tinny when the volume is turned up. The sound quality suffices completely for everyday use, but the quality is quite sparse for the comfy movie night. If the alternative with the BluRay drive has the same sound hardware, it would be especially disagreeable.
The runtime of the six cell battery left us with mixed feelings after our test. The runtime with minimum brightness and maximum energy savings mechanisms was still quite impressive with 4 hours and 45 minutes (BatteryEater Reader's test). The runtime decreases significantly when the brightness is increased to the maximum. Whilst it's still possible to surf via WLAN in medium energy savings mechanisms for about 2 hours and 50 minutes, the Vaio NW11 already runs out of breath after 2 hours and 15 minutes of DVD rendering. The battery life only lasts a meager 64 minutes without energy savings mechanisms and under full load.
The notebook's power consumption presents itself accordingly. The Vaio NW11 is satisfied with 11.5 to 19.8 watts in idle mode. In opposition, the power requirement increases to 55.2 up to 62.3 watts by almost a three-fold up to a five-fold under load. The power consumption is, as expected, reduced noticeably to 0.6 watts in standby mode. The consumption in a deactivated state is exemplary: 0.0 watt speaks for itself.
|Off / Standby||0 / 0.6 Watt|
|Idle|| 11.5 / 17.9 / 19.8 Watt|
55.2 / 62.3 Watt|
Key: min: , med: , max:
The attractive Vaio NW11 makes an overall good, even if not a stunning impression.
On the pro side there is the unique design with its wave pattern, a clean workmanship and an impressive variety of connections.
The application and gaming performance settles in the center span. Neither the system noise nor the temperature development is positively or negatively striking, either. Also, both input devices as well as the battery life with minimum brightness, respectively in idle mode can be described as good.
Finally, the mediocre loudspeaker sound and a short battery life with maximum brightness and/or load are on the con side. The biggest minus point proves to be the disappointing image quality, though. The brightness with an average of 186.6 cd/m2, as well as the contrast of 113:1 are too low. In return, the black value of 1.98 cd/m2 turns out far too high.
Therefore, those who are looking for an affordable all-round-notebook and don't put too much value on a perfect image and sound quality can take the Vaio NW11 without hesitation. Passionate gamers or movie fans should look around for a faster alternative with a higher quality due to the weak graphic performance and display quality.