The right side of the chassis is stacked with features – there’s the power socket, a D-SUB port, three USB 2.0 ports, and a four-pin FireWire port. There’s also a single Type II PC Card slot, which has a spring loaded flap rather than a spacer, saving you the hassle of losing the spacer when you’ve got a card in there. Finally there’s a Memory Stick Pro card slot, complete with a sliding cover to stop any dirt getting in there.
At the front are microphone and headphone sockets, along with a hardware switch for the integrated 802.11b/g wireless network adapter. I always like to see a switch for WiFi adapters, since you don’t want it running when you’re not using it and draining the battery.
On the left is the DVD writer, the modem socket and an Ethernet port for the 10/100 network adapter. And with the battery taking up most of the rear of the casing, that just about wraps everything up.
As usual, Sony has thrown in a generous bundle of software into the pot. The Adobe Companion Pack is always good to see, comprising Photoshop Elements 2.0, Premier Standard, Photoshop Album Starter Edition, Acrobat Elements 6.0 and Acrobat Reader 6.0. There’s also Norton Internet Security to give you some peace of mind while working online, while a copy of Microsoft Works will get you productive straight out of the box. There’s also Sony’s usual slew of Sony applications like SonicStage for music managing and SonicStage Mastering Studio for digitising analogue music.
Performance wise, the FS115B turned in some reasonable numbers. Running SYSmark 2002 it turned in an overall score of 194, which compares pretty well to the similarly priced Acer TravelMate 3201XMi. Running MobileMark turned in a very disappointing battery life of 117 minutes, but having tested Sony notebooks before I know that turning off VAIO power management has a big effect on battery life. I ran MobileMark again, this time enabling VAIO power management, and choosing a screen backlight level of four (which was still perfectly readable in all lighting conditions). Under these settings the FS115B turned in a far better battery life of 169 minutes, although this still isn’t amazing by Centrino notebook standards.
With dimensions of 364 x 265 x 36mm (WxDxH) and a weight of 2.9kg, the FS115B doesn’t sound too slim and sexy on paper, but don’t let the figures put you off. When you see this machine in the flesh it really does look and feel great, and it definitely doesn’t feel too heavy when you slip it in your bag either.
I did a straw poll around the office when the FS115B arrived and asked everyone to guess how much it cost – guesses ranged from around £1,300 up to around £2,000. It seemed that everyone was as shocked as I was when they found out that you can pick up this slim and stylish VAIO for only £915 on the street. With this price in mind, the FS115B represents a real bargain, especially when you consider the cutting edge technology inside it.
The VAIO VGN-FS115B marries the latest mobile technology with a design that looks slim and stylish, but is still large enough to be used as your sole computer. But it’s the price that makes this machine truly impressive and it proves that you don’t have to pay through the nose for a big brand laptop these days. If you can live with the decidedly average battery life, the FS115B is well worth a look.