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

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers



Our Score:


In terms of connectivity this VAIO is fairly average. All of the machine's three USB ports are located to the right together with the DVD-Rewriter, though thankfully they're well-spaced to leave room for 'fat' memory sticks. On the left we have Gigabit Ethernet and modem ports, while video is catered for with VGA and HDMI. A mini-FireWire port and 34mm ExpressCard slot make up the rest of the connections here, with the latter sporting a flap; a superior solution to the placeholder cards most manufacturers use.

At the FW48E's front are headphone and microphone sockets, LEDs for battery, hard drive, wireless and memory card, as well as a wireless switch and separate memory card readers for SD and Sony's MemoryStick. Using the wireless switch brings up VAIO Smart Network, a handy utility that lets you (de)activate not only WLAN and Bluetooth but also LAN and modem with a single click. One noticeable absentee from the list is eSATA, which is a pity but not essential, while there's also no support for standby power on the USB ports - another non-essential but highly useful feature.

With the FW series, Sony claims you'll get the "Ultimate Screen Experience", so the "revolutionary" 16:9 16.4in screen has a lot to live up to. In reality it doesn't even merit the tag of evolutionary - which is not to say it's particularly bad either. Though other FW models come with Full HD displays, the resolution of the FW48E is a more modest 1,600 x 900. This is still an improvement on the 1,366 x 768 found on many contemporaries though, so caters well for productivity and multimedia tasks.

Due to its X-black finish the laptop's screen is very reflective, yet it does help to give colours some extra verve. Depending on the viewing angle black detailing isn't that great, but by lowering the brightness (muddying whites a little) you can get decent results if you're careful about how you angle the screen. On the positive side there's hardly any banding, backlight distribution is even and text invariably sharp. However, if you want the "Ultimate Screen Experience" on a consumer laptop, Dell's Studio XPS 16 with its RGB LED display is still the only remotely affordable option.

We expected good things from what might be hidden under the impressive-looking speaker grill, and to an extent the VAIO's speakers lived up to our expectations. Their maximum volume is disappointingly low, but within that range they produce audio with a genuine sense of depth thanks to a mix of clear trebles and a hint of bass - as long as you remember to turn on Dolby's Natural Bass processing.

You see, whether you're using the onboard speakers or - better still - external speakers or headphones, Dolby Sound Room (which we're seeing on ever more laptops and even netbooks these days) makes a perceptible difference. Without it, the FW48's speakers are not much better in the bass department than those on most laptops.


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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