I recently purchased an A270, which is the customized version of the A690's predecessor. Same 17" display, look & feel, etc..
Personally, I love it. The display is what makes a laptop and this one truly is amazing. The build quality also appears to be excellent. The ONLY thing I'm not happy about is the fact a high capacity battery is not available. The current battery provides a little over 2 hours run time, which is a bit shorter than I'd like.
fyi- This is my first Sony. I've only owned Dells previously but switched to the A270 after trying and returning two Inspiron 9200s.