My wife's old Dell Latitude D610 started acting up on her just before the holidays so I decided to surprise her with a new one. She had seen the older pink Sony's in a newspaper insert and commented on how cool they looked and asked why she was stuck with an ugly gray thing. So, after much research and with just a few days before Christmas, I went to Sonystyle.com and purchased the CR-290 on Cosmopolitan Pink. I went with the pre-configured model since they promised delivery by December 24th. The ordering process was a snap. I decided to opt for the additional 3 year accidental damage warranty since I have been burned in the past and am willing to pay for peace of mind. I received my confirmation email right away and the next day received the shipment notification email. FedEx dropped it off at my in-laws on the 23rd, a day earlier than promised! I had it shipped to my in-laws since I was afraid it might arrive when my wife was home and she would have to sign for a big box labeled SONY! Interestingly enough, the shipping box was completely unmarked. No where does it say Sony, not even on the shipping label. So all my sneakiness was for naught. I opened it up that night, plugged it in and made sure it was partially configured for her when she opened it on Christmas morning. Needless to say, she was quite surprised!
See Specs on the right.
What's in the Box:
In addition to the laptop, there was an accessory box with the AC adapter, a getting started guide, and a bunch of Sony flyers. No disks or paper manuals at all.
The laptop is well constructed. The outer shell is quite solid. The pink outer cover is a glossy deep rose color with a recessed Vaio logo in chrome. The inside pink colored parts (LCD bezel, touch pad & buttons, and palm rest) are all a lighter pink color. There is a chrome edge below the palm rest that has a bunch of buttons & lights (explained later.) The bottom & sides of the laptop are silver plastic. The palm rest plastic is quite thin though. It flexes in certain places when pushed down. The LCD hinges are quite solid and stiff. You have to open the lid with 2 hands or the base will lift up. There is no LCD latch, it just kinda stays shut, not magnetized though.
The 14.1" SXGA high-gloss screen is beautiful. It shipped with 0 dead pixels. Not as bright as my Dell's 17" WUXGA, but it has better viewing angle. Sitting next to it on my laptop, I can read the Sony's screen clearly. On my screen from the same angle, colors get wonky: grays turn brown and blacks get lighter. Video & DVD viewing is crisp and sharp, no blurring. Like all glossy screens, daylight viewing is a matter of preference. It doesn't bother me, or seem to bother my wife. The screen is so bright and clear that using it on our deck is a common occurrence for her lately.
The keyboard is a bit different. It has all the usual keys. Its very similar to the 13" Macbooks in that it has individual square keys on a flat exposed background. The keys have a very soft feel but I don't seem to make as many mistakes while typing as I do on a standard laptop keyboard. I have a tendency to press keys too lightly and the Sony seems to be more forgiving of that. The keys are very quiet and feel solid, not like the kind of loud, clickity feedback I get on my Dell. Even after hours of use, the keys never get hot. The system seems well vented.
The touchpad is a standard one. Just enough texture. It, like the rest of the interior plastic, is also pink. The touchpad buttons are clear plastic with pink plastic underneath. They offer a nice, solid click.
Above the keyboard are a series of 6 multimedia keys with an inch of space between them. In order from left to right, they are: AV Mode (allows playing DVDs & music without booting into windows); Mute; Volume Down; Volume Up; Capture (turns on the web cam) ; Display Off. In addition, there are 4 playback keys (start/pause; stop; skip forward & skip backward) below the touchpad that are supported by most media players as well as the built-in AV Mode
Above the keyboard are the 3 “lock” LED's. Below the palm rest, in the chrome trim, are the activity lights for: Power, Battery, Disk, Memory Stick access, SD Card access, and Wireless.
The laptop comes with 802.11B/G built-in. I have a D-Link DGL-4300 G router. The laptop normally sits about 2 feet away so it gets a full 54Mbps signal. Even when we move outside, about 50 ft through 3 old plaster walls, it still gets between 36 & 48 Mbps.
There are 2 speakers built-in just beside the keyboard on either side. They provide decent audio. Very clear and a bit of bass too.
Input and Output Ports
There are no ports on the front. There is, however, a strange 1 cm x 5 cm white light just below the touchpad that seems to glow when certain applications are running. They call it the Illumination Light. What its supposed to do is beyond me, as its glow points downward at an angle.
There is a built-in web cam in the top of the LCD bezel. The picture quality is good, but highly dependent upon the amount of light available.
Starting from the back: Ethernet, USB, DVD+RW, SD Card slot; Sony Memory Stick slot, Express Card slot.
Starting from the back: A security lock port; A large heat exhaust vent; VGA; S-Video; 2 x USB; 1394 Fire wire; Mic and headphones; Wireless on/off switch.
The left rear is where the AC plugs in. The battery takes up most of the rear. The right rear has another exhaust vent and the modem port.
The bottom is quite boring. Lots of stickers and vents. No sub-woofer to be seen. The battery has a lock that seems to keep it quite snug & secure. There have been problems with previous versions of the CR series where the battery doesn't sit snugly and can rattle enough to lose its connection, cutting power, even when locked.
This laptop is NOT designed for gaming. The Intel X3100 GPU does not have the horsepower to render any intense 3D content. The CPU, however, is a beast. It powers through most day-to-day applications with ease.
For those interested:
3DMark06 Score: 476 3DMarks
SM 2.0 Score: 141 Marks
SM 3.0 Score: 188 Marks
CPU Score: 1775 Marks
Size and Weight
According to our super-deluxe digital baby scale, the laptop weighs 5 lbs, 6 oz.
Heat and Noise
The laptop is virtually silent. Occasionally, I can hear the hard drive spinning. There is a good amount of heat exhausted out the left side. When the CPU is maxed, and the fan comes on (which it only does when I'm converting video files) a good warm breeze blows out, you can feel it up to a foot away. Normally, you have to stick your hand within 2-3 inches to feel any heat coming out.
I haven't timed the laptop other than by the seat of my pants. It gets about 4 hours when surfing the web, and about 2+ when playing DVD's.
The laptop came with Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit. There is no option to get Windows XP. In addition, there are no drivers available on Sony's website for XP even if you wanted to do it yourself. Sony ships with TONS-O-BLOAT (TM). There were about 70 processes running at startup. Some of the programs included are useful, but they are all duplicated by other software I prefer to use. Sony offers a reinstall DVD, but its stored on a recovery partition and you have to burn the DVD yourself.
Eye catching color (if you like pink. . .)
Good battery life
Slow Intel video card
Ethernet is 100MB, not Gigabit.
Lots of bloatware
Overall, I am very happy with the laptop and would definitely recommend a Sony to anyone. Ordering off the website was easy and quick. There aren't a million confusing options to slow the process down. The price I paid ($1200 + $300 warranty) is very reasonable for what you get. Every one of my wife's friends have commented on how cool the laptop looks and seem drawn to it. This makes my wife happy. When she's happy, I'm happy :-)