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Sony VAIO VGN-FW48E/H - 16.4in Laptop review

Ardjuna Seghers



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Unsurprisingly, multimedia systems and desktop replacement laptops are one of the most popular categories for the average consumer, especially for those short on space. Today we're looking at the 16.4in Sony VAIO VGN-FW48E/H, part of Sony's FW Series that launched last year.

As far as the FW48E's design goes, it has opinions in the office divided. Some reckon it has style and panache, while others think it's just trying a little too hard. Either way the styling is unique, lending more credence to Sony's claims that getting a VAIO will help you express your individualism - provided you ignore all the other FW owners, that is.

While the gunmetal grey lid is reminiscent of Acer's Timelines, any similarities fade quickly when you open the Sony up. Inside the styling is aggressive, with the rounded hinges forming a sharp contrast to the raised rectangular speaker and control section.

One circular end of the hinge section gives access to the power plug, while the other end is dominated by a brightly backlit power button, which also has a thin lit-up section in the hinge. This feature does make things look a little unbalanced since it's not mirrored on both sides, but it looks nice and the green 'active' colour switches to a pulsating orange when the machine is on standby.

Overall, build quality is decent, with just a slight hint of creak here and there but nothing alarming. Another major positive is that the semi-matte overall finish doesn't pick up any fingerprints, so doesn't require much attention to keep looking its best.

Above the keyboard are media controls, which are a bit of a mixed blessing. Because they're physical buttons they're less finicky than touch-sensitive ones, but since they're all the same size, identically spaced and lack any backlighting they're difficult to use in the dark when watching a film.

In addition to the usual volume and playback controls, there is Sony's signature AV Mode button, which calls up an XMB-like interface similar to that found on the company's consoles. While this is quite handy for switching between various media activities 'on the fly', it's nothing you can't do through Windows. Handily there's also a customizable shortcut button marked S1, which is sensibly set to calling up the Dolby Digital Center by default.

Isolation keyboards are becoming ever more common, but Sony was one of the pioneers and it shows here. The matte black keys are just a little too far apart for ideal comfort, but nonetheless this is one of the best implementations we've come across. Layout is spot-on and the sparse shortcuts are sensibly spaced. The wrist rest is raised so that your fingers lie comfortably on the keys and feedback is truly excellent, with none of the shallowness that often afflicts isolation keyboards.

Likewise the FW48E's touchpad leaves little reason for complaint. It's large and very sensitive, while two nicely-integrated buttons below it are easy to reach and offer feedback on par with the keyboard - though if we were being particularly picky we would mention they're a tad noisy.

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July 22, 2009, 5:01 pm

Its nice to look at but you get the feeling from that review that Sony have gone for style over substance in the spec department. Sony seem to be trying to compete with Apple in making the most "stylish" laptop and shoot themselves in the foot with pricing much like Apple do.


July 22, 2009, 6:48 pm


The FW model reviewed here is over a year old. It's just had a spec upgrade (the 4th update hence the FW4 prefix), other than that the actual design is the same as last summer.

I've used one of the FW machines before, they are very good for the home user. I'd sooner pay a bit more for the Vaio brand than plump for a bloody Dell.


July 22, 2009, 10:45 pm


The FW series seriously isn't in the same league as any Apple product. Unlike with Apple style and build quality aren't quite as impressive, so you're really JUST paying for the brand here.


Would you really rather have a Sony badge than a significantly faster CPU, more RAM, 64-bit OS, far better graphics and Blu-ray from the second-biggest computer manufacturer in the world (Acer, never mind Dell), and pay MORE for the privilege?


July 23, 2009, 12:52 pm

Ardjuna, no but I pick a laptop to suit my needs. I current use a Vaio Z series & a MacBook (aluminium 2008 model). My preference is with the Vaio brand at the moment, so should I decide to get a new machine I'd be looking at the Vaio range before looking elsewhere.

It's not just about the specification for me. I find the screen, keyboard & build quality on my Vaio exceptional. The fact that it came with a 3 year warranty was another important factor. Sometimes it's worth paying a bit more for what I believe to be a premium product.

Regarding the FW model reviewed, I don't require huge processing power, so I would opt for the FW over the Dell/Acer/HP equivalent should I be in the market for a laptop like this.

It's all about personal preferences at the end of the day...


July 23, 2009, 2:16 pm


Always nice to get a reply, and your point about personal preferences is certainly true enough.

We agree that the VAIO Z is a great machine, as you can see: http://www.trustedreviews.com/.... Just keep in mind it's not indicative of the quality of Sony's entire range, though aside from the high price there's not much wrong with the FW.


July 23, 2009, 7:26 pm

£645 for something that is stylish and a decent performer seems to be alright. While the Acer offers better spec, at the end of the day it is much like buying a car. Sometimes people pay a little bit more for looks.

I do find Monkey's comment funny. Can you get a 16" notebook for £742 from Apple?


July 24, 2009, 1:02 am

i keep looking at my macbook keyboard and this keyboard and still can't figure why apple don't put those extra keys on their machines (end, pg up, pg down, a friggin' delete button)

and why the fn key is still in the wrong place.

Mike 30

September 25, 2009, 3:10 pm

I love this Vaio Laptop, my cosine bought one from this <a href="http://vaiousa.com/"&... Brand Laptops Website</a> and I think they have the best price on the market.


December 3, 2009, 8:27 pm

I am thinking of getting this now as the prices have decreased. May be able to get it for around the £570 mark.

Richard Collier

August 19, 2010, 8:45 pm

I've been using this laptop for a year now and would completely recommend it. I paid £599 in Sept 2009 and have since written a dissertation on it - which was a very easy process, and yes though the keys at first seem a little far apart you get used to this very quickly.

My one complaint may be that the media short-cut keys don't have a mute button in them, so I've had to store the mute function as the programmable function button. (s1)

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