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Sony VAIO VGN-NS20E/S - 15.4in Laptop - Sony VAIO VGN-NS20E/S
For software the aforementioned Windows Vista OS is joined by Microsoft Works 9 SE and a 60 day trial version of Office 2007 for productivity duties, while a trial version of McAfee takes care of virus protection. One thing unique to Sony is its Me&My VAIO suite - "the portal for your personal contents" according to the company. This is a multimedia-focused suite for the viewing, organising, editing, sharing and burning of video, music and photos. It's a nice touch for beginners, but as with the XMB-like AV Mode it's nothing the experienced computer-user couldn't easily do without.
One of the few good things about the Sony VAIO VGN-CS11S/W was its strong battery performance and despite using the same-capacity 4,400mAh 49 Watt-hour battery as that machine, the NS20 far surpasses it with a class-leading four hours and five minutes in the semi-intensive Productivity benchmark. Altogether it's quite easy to get over five hours of light use out of this VAIO, albeit with the screen's brightness set to the usable minimum and wireless turned off. This could prove very convenient when out and about, although at 2.76kg the NS20 isn't exactly light.
Finally, then, we come to the question of value, which at this end of the market is never a straightforward one. Going purely by specifications, it's quite easy to find a 15in notebook with better specs (such as a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo and 4GB of RAM) from a brand-name like Acer or MSI for around £400. For the £475 the Sony demands, you could even get a Blu-ray drive thrown into the bargain. However, we haven't had a notebook at anything close to this price-point that could beat the Sony's battery life through our labs and we doubt any of above mentioned could match it.
Keep in mind, though, that you can currently get the newly refreshed Dell Studio 15 in a variety of colours, with a slightly faster CPU, a higher resolution (1,366 x 768) 15.6in screen, more generous 4GB of RAM, bigger 320GB hard drive, HDMI-out, discrete 512MB Radeon 4570 graphics card and higher-capacity 56 Watt-hour battery for exactly the same money. This is a pretty good spec for a nicely designed machine, so were one looking at the Sony you'd be foolish not to look at the Dell as well.
This laptop does much to restore the VAIO name after the disappointing CS Series. Its durable, unique-looking chassis and excellent ergonomics will win it many friends, as will its outstanding battery life and affordable price. Only niggles like the lack of HDMI and the limited integrated graphics hold it back, but if these are of little concern to you then this is worth looking at.