Another important aspect of any notebook is the display and again the Sony is something of a mixed affair. It has an unremarkable 1,280 x 800 resolution and an ever more common glossy “high contrast” finish, but this is no substitute for a quality panel and the one here is merely average. For most purposes it does the job fine but it’s not the brightest or most vibrant display, while the low resolution on a relatively large display means it’s not all that sharp either.
Internally, though, you’ll find a notebook capable of dealing with most things the average user is likely to throw at it. At its heart is an Intel Core 2 Duo T8100, one of the new breed of 45nm Penryn CPUs that runs at 2.1GHz with an 800MHz Front Side Bus and 3MB L2 Cache – see Inside Mobile Penryn for more details. Sony has also included a generous 3GB 667MHz RAM, though it’s configured in 2GB and 1GB sticks so you don’t get the benefit of dual-channel memory support. A 250GB 5,400 rpm hard drive means you shouldn’t be lacking for storage space, though.
Unlike the Dell, with its integrated graphics only approach, the NR Series also comes equipped with discrete graphics in the shape of a 128MB nVidia 8400M GT. This does have some benefits but it’s not really fast enough for gaming and without a Blu-ray drive its superior video processing is somewhat moot. Moreover, since its power requirements are greater, it means this system can’t touch the battery life offered by integrated graphics.
In addition you get Intel Draft N capable wireless, 10/100 Ethernet and Bluetooth, so you’re network connectivity is well catered for. Four USB ports are evenly spread on both sides of the chassis, while on the on left edge you’ll find a fairly standard 8x DVD+/-RW optical drive. As this is a Sony there’s a dedicated memory card slot for MemoryStick, along with one for SD and MMC – both on the front. There’s also a hardware wireless on/off switch.
Meanwhile, on the right, you’ll find a 34mm ExpressCard slot, a mini-FireWire port, headphone and microphone jacks and a D-SUB (VGA) output. There is, however, a fair amount lacking in this arrangement. There seems little argument for not fitting in a 54mm ExpressCard slot rather than the 34mm offered, while there’s no S-Video or HDMI output either.
There’s also no webcam, a fairly significant oversight in any notebook these days. It also lacks some of the niceties found in Dell’s offering like the ExpressCard remote and infrared receiver for said remote. None of these factors in and of themselves means you shouldn’t consider the NR Series, but it’s noticeably less flexible and feature rich than its competition due in no small part to Sony having another 15.4in range with these features already included.