Sony VAIO VGN-AR61ZU – Entertainment Notebook Review - Sony VAIO VGN-AR61ZU Review

It’s commonly accepted that Vista is something of a memory hog, so it’s good to see that Sony hasn’t skimped on the RAM, although the configuration is a little curious. What you get is a generous helping of 4GB of memory, made up from 2x 2GB modules. On the surface this looks like a smart decision – a nice large complement of RAM configured in two modules for dual channel performance. Unfortunately this setup is tempered by the fact that Sony has installed the 32-bit version of Vista, which means that only about 3.5GB of that memory can actually be addressed, leaving half a gigabyte sitting around twiddling its thumbs. At least Sony admits on its website that some of the memory can’t be addressed, but perhaps this is an indication that the company should consider 64-bit Vista for its high-end machines.

Storage is also generous with two 250GB hard disks in place. The default configuration is RAID 0, giving you the full 500GB of storage to play with, but RAID 1 is also supported if you’re more concerned with the safety of your data than overall storage capacity. Considering that a RAID 0 array basically ensures two points of failure instead of one, I’d be tempted to go for the volume redundancy offered by a RAID 1 array. That said, since this machine can be used to record TV directly to hard disk, I can understand why the prospect of half a terabyte of storage is attractive. Of course if you need to free up some hard disk space, you can just offload data using the integrated Blu-ray writer.

Graphics are handled by an nVidia GeForce 8600M chipset with 512MB of video memory. This is a reasonable mid-range graphics solution that will have a good stab at 3D gaming – although not the latest hardware killing titles like Crysis. You’re not going to be able to play at the native 1,920 x 1,200 resolution without turning pretty much all the IQ settings down though, even in Source based games.

Connectivity is also well catered for, with 802.11a/b/g and Draft-N wireless on offer. Of course you’ll need a Draft-N router or access point to make the most of the high-speed wireless, but these are pretty much commodity items these days. There’s also integrated Bluetooth 2.0 EDR, which means that you’ll be able to make use of stereo Bluetooth headsets or headphones. You can also connect to high-speed wired networks, with a Gigabit Ethernet controller thrown in. Finally, if you’re stuck in the dark ages, you can connect up using the 56k modem.

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