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