Running the show inside the silver chassis of the FW48E/H is a Core 2 Duo T6400 running at 2.0GHz. It’s not exactly the fastest CPU on the planet, but should be more than up to multimedia duties and everyday tasks. It is backed by 3GB of RAM, which has probably already led you to conclude that the installed version of Vista Premium is 32-bit, since that’s about as much memory as the OS can access.
As you’d expect from a machine that’s marketed as a multimedia powerhouse, the FW48E features a discrete graphics card in the form of AMD’s ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470. It only comes with 256MB of RAM yet puts in a good performance; you should be able to run older games at lower detail settings without a problem. Just for reference, the 3470 managed a decent 30.9 frames per second (fps) in TrackMania Nations Forever at the screen’s native resolution and medium detail, however, Call of Duty 4 was barely playable at 22fps on the same settings.
Though 500GB hard drives are becoming more common on laptops, 320GB is still quite generous and for those who want more, external USB-powered storage is becoming cheaper by the day. Finally, Draft N Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0 are both on hand to help out with wireless duties.
In terms of mobility, the FW48E’s 4,400mAh 49Whr battery only lasted three hours and 50 minutes in the Reader benchmark. This could be considered disappointing compared to the Sony’s VAIO NS30E, which managed an extra hour onto that using the same battery, but that’s the price to be paid for the FW’s bigger screen, dedicated graphics and more powerful processor. In actual fact for a machine of this size, the battery life is fairly good, though at 3.3kg the FW is not exactly the most portable Sony should also be commended for under-quoting the machine’s battery life on its website at “three hours”.
Overall then, is Sony’s FW48E entertainment laptop worth getting? At around £740 it’s in the upper ranges of its category for price: for just over £700 you can easily get a multimedia laptop from a big brand name such as Acer (similar to the Aspire 6935G) with a significantly faster CPU, more RAM, 64-bit OS, far better graphics card and a Blu-ray drive, not to mention niceties like eSATA. Moreover, if you don’t care about battery life that much, Toshiba’s Satellite A350D should offer a similar experience for just £526.
Strangely enough, if you insist on an FW VAIO, another cheaper, better option is to select “Build-your-own” under the FW-series section of Sony’s website, where you can get essentially the same machine with a larger 400GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM for less: £729 including delivery to be exact. Go figure.
Sony’s VAIO VGN-FW48E/H is a generally good multimedia laptop severely let down by its steep price, for which you can get far more from other manufacturers – or even from Sony itself.