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We've had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Sony's VAIO laptops over the years, really liking the high-end Sony VAIO Z Series, while cheaper efforts such as the VGN-NS30E/S left us completely unimpressed. Coming in at well over £1,000, we're hoping the company's new F12 falls into the former category.
Just like the Z-series, the F12 packs a boatload of impressive specifications, but rather than cramming them into as small a chassis as possible, this 16.4in laptop - measuring 263 x 41 x 387mm and weighing 3.1kg - sits firmly in the desktop replacement category. Gamers aside, it has plenty of power to be most consumers' primary machine. At its heart is an impressive 1.73GHz 740QM Intel Core i7 quad-core CPU which turbo-clocks to 2.93GHz. This is backed by 4GB of DDR3 RAM, which is as much as most users will need and plenty for the supplied 64-bit Windows 7 Premium to be happy with.
For storage there's a generous 500GB hard drive that spins at a speedy 7,200rpm, while optical duties are handled by a Blu-ray drive. Combined with the screen's 1,920 x 1,080 resolution and an Nvidia GeForce GT 330M graphics card, this makes for a very capable multimedia machine that should also have a modicum of gaming ability.
Connectivity is also well up to speed. For wireless duties we have Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 2.1, with the always-appreciated addition of a physical wireless switch. There are three USB 2.0 ports, one of which doubles as an eSATA connector. Then there's a four-pin mini FireWire port, which is becoming quite the rarity these days.
Other data ports, including USB 3.0, can be added through the laptop's 34mm ExpressCard slot, while two separate memory card readers take Sony's proprietary MS Pro and the more common SD/MMC card formats. Finally for video we have HDMI and analogue VGA, while audio is handled by 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks, the former of which doubles as an optical digital output.
When it comes to design, as usual Sony offers something a little different from the norm. For one, we're glad to find that the F12's lid features a semi-matt finish that's far more resistant to fingerprints than the glossy alternatives found on many competitors, though it can't hold a candle to the brushed metal finish of the Acer Aspire Ethos 8943G, which in its cheaper configuration costs around the same as this Sony.
Inside, the look is almost identical to that of the Y-Series – albeit gunmetal instead of silver – but, if it ain't broke… The screen's bezel and keyboard-surround feature the same smooth semi-matt finish as the lid, while the palm rests have a micro-tile textured pattern that prevents sweaty hands from slipping and does a good job disguising grease-marks. Sony's signature green-backlit power button is also present.