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Sony VAIO F12 MOE/B - Build Quality, Usability and AV

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Build quality on this F12 is surprisingly average for a high-end VAIO. Though most of the chassis feels quite solid there is a little too much creak for comfort in the plastics, and it suffers from the same problem as the Acer Aspire 5745G, where pushing centrally on the base of the lid results in the bezel separating from the screen – something that most laptops do to an extent, but not as noticeably as here.

Inevitably – considering Sony helped to popularize it - the F12's keyboard is isolation-style, also known as chiclet. Feedback is excellent with more travel than we're used to finding in this type, but we do have a list of annoyances. First of all, while basic layout is good with large Enter and right-shift keys and a full number pad, the positioning of the secondary functions isn't as intuitive as with most competitors. Keys also feel slightly too spaced out, making typing a less comfortable experience than you would expect given the F12's size. Finally, despite being well-positioned, the touchpad occasionally moves the cursor accidentally due to movement of your palms.

Ironically the touchpad isn't the most sensitive we've come across, and occasionally we found ourselves needing to tap an icon or button more than once. Aside from this it's good, with a large, smooth surface and individual buttons that offer a positive click.

One touch we really do appreciate is the set of dedicated physical multimedia controls above the keyboard. As well as track controls there's a button for turning the screen off that's hardware-based rather than software dependant (always handy on a laptop), an S1 button that can be user-assigned and a VAIO button that launches a media browser, while an 'Assist' button accesses VAIO Care, providing help and tips in case of problems.

On a laptop primarily geared towards entertainment, its screen is an important factor, and – glossy finish aside - on that account we've few complaints with the F12's 16.4in example. As already mentioned it sports a Full HD resolution which gives you plenty of desktop space and is ideal for Blu-ray films.

It doesn't hurt that the display's general performance isn't too shabby either, with viewing angles that are above average and good dark detailing, though this comes at the expense of detail at the lighter end of the scale. Backlight distribution is also even, there's no obvious sign of banding, colours are vibrant and sharpness is excellent, thanks in part to the low dot pitch provided by 1,920 x 1,080 on a screen that's relatively small.

The cinematic screen isn't put to shame by the speakers, which get surprisingly loud without distorting, while producing a soundstage with clarity and depth. However, they're held back from matching the superb harman/kardon speakers found on Toshiba laptops such as the Toshiba Satellite A660 by a distinct lack of bass, leaving things sounding too sharp and tinny.

Overall though, the F12 does a reasonably good job of letting you enjoy video and other multimedia. Its only major negative is the amount of noise it produces. Even at idle this is an audible laptop, and once under stress it produces a constant fan noise that can occasionally be distracting. It's one of the prices of the relatively slim chassis, but we would rather have a bulkier and quieter machine where desktop replacements are concerned.

meeto 0

August 27, 2010, 12:50 am

I have a custom model which I bought through sony's website. If you look online occasionally sony offer a free bluray writer which is what I got. My only regret is not paying for the faster hard drive or better still the SSD drive.





I love the minimalist design and have no problem with the keyboard but I could not agree more with the comments regarding the trackpad. I will often write something and my sentence will end up being broken because of the pad reacting to my palms. Its really annoying.





I love the number pad for Photo shop. And the speakers are good too.


As for creaking my only concern is with the underneath where the drive is.

StuartH

August 27, 2010, 3:11 am

Twice in the review and in the feature table it says that the HDD is 7200 rpm but on the official Sony website the VPCF12M0E/B is clearly descibed as having a 5400 rpm HDD.

StuartH

August 27, 2010, 3:15 am

I really interested in this laptop. Can I ask a couple of questions?


How easy is it to see the text in web broswers or Word with the full HD resolution on a 16.4 screen?


How loud is the laptop? Is the noise offputting?

ffrankmccaffery

August 27, 2010, 8:35 am

Nice to see the power and ethernet ports on the same side. Although the rear would be more preferable it still hinders the laptop a lot less.

Carlos

August 27, 2010, 8:17 pm

How can you give this a value score of 8/10, when you gave the acer aspire 5553G 6/10?





Lets look at the facts:





According to you PCMark results, this sony is on average, 18.68% faster than the acer. So if we say the acer "scores" 100 and the sony 118.7 then the price to performance figures (lower = worse) are as follows:





Acer 100/£600 = 0.0983


Sony 118/£1200 = 0.103





so in actual fact, based on current prices, the acer 5553g is 69.5% better value. So how do you translate this as being worse value than the sony?

Nicholas Phan

August 28, 2010, 4:34 pm

@Carlos





That's not a fair way to calculate value at all. There is always diminishing returns to price, and especially so when it comes to technology and computing power. For example the most expensive CPU chip may be much more expensive than the second most expensive, however the performance difference is not that much.

Carlos

August 29, 2010, 9:52 pm

@Nicholas





Its perfectly fair to calculate value based on price/performance ratio. Thats how the value of cpus and graphics cards are calculated in most reviews. Its common knowledge that the high end cpus are not good value.





For example, I doubt there are many people in the world who would call the most expensive core i7 excellent value, because it isn't. It has excellent performance, but its terrible value in terms of the price you pay for that performance.





If you are going to give value a score, it must be based on facts, or the score is meaningless, and the best way to go about this is to base it on price/performance ratio, or bang for buck if you're stateside.

Stewart

August 30, 2010, 6:31 pm

@Carlos





Who said value is purely based on performance?


For a media oriented machine I would certainly 'value' the larger screen, the higher screen resolution and the overall better performance of the Sony screen. I would also 'value' the Blu-Ray drive, the better keyboard, Bluetooth, a physical wireless switch etc....





Ultimately though, the 'value' score is subjective (as are the other scores). I don't think you should get hung up on the headline scores.


If performance is important to you there's enouth information in both reviews to at least let you know which laptop you might want to consider and the features you might value.

Stewart

August 30, 2010, 6:31 pm

@Carlos





Who said value is purely based on performance?


For a media oriented machine I would certainly 'value' the larger screen, the higher screen resolution and the overall better performance of the Sony screen. I would also 'value' the Blu-Ray drive, the better keyboard, Bluetooth, a physical wireless switch etc....





Ultimately though, the 'value' score is subjective (as are the other scores). I don't think you should get hung up on the headline scores.


If performance is important to you there's enouth information in both reviews to at least let you know which laptop you might want to consider and the features you might value.

StuartH

August 31, 2010, 3:04 am

It seems that the only problem with this laptop is the noise that this, and some other reviews, have mentioned. How does thte noise-level compare to other equivalent laptops?

TechVegan

September 1, 2010, 7:32 pm

@meet_0:


Thanks for your comment and feedback!





@StuartH:


It would appear some of the models being sold through 3rd party retailers, such as the model sold by play, have faster hard drives.


As to your questions, text is perfectly legible though you need good eyesight. You can always zoom in a little or increase the default fonts size, so there's no real downside.





As to noise, as mentioned it can be off-putting, but then I prefer my PCs virtually silent - it might not bother you and is certainly not dramatic. However, a larger chassis like that of the http://www.trustedreviews.com/... is quieter despite hotter components, and I'd say the Sony is slightly noisier than some of the more immediate competition.





@Carlos:


Stewart has made all my points for me twice over - thanks Stewart :)

StuartH

September 3, 2010, 4:49 am

Thanks for your feedback Ardjuna. Can I be a pain and ask another question?


On the Sony site you can down-spec to a i5-450M - would having a less powerfull processor reduce the noise? I would also consider an SSD.

BobaFett

December 10, 2010, 8:13 pm

A colleague at work just bought one of these but discovered that it can't power his 27" Dell screen at its native resolution of 2560x1440, as it only has a VGA port and does not operate at the higher frequencies enabled by HDMI 1.3. This is despite the NVidia GPU being capable of supporting this resolution and appears to be a limitation that's common across all current VAIOs.

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