The Sony VAIO VGN-FW11ZU is a Blu-ray Disc-enabled laptop with a 16.4in screen.

Technology-followers will remember the format war that kept the pundits guessing even less than one year ago, when two rival formats were vying for our high-def attention. Sony was the inventor of the Blu-ray format, while Toshiba was behind the HD DVD format. So if anyone knows how to make a Blu-ray laptop like the Sony VAIO VGN-FW11ZU, it should be Sony.

The Sony VAIO VGN-FW11ZU takes a 16.4in screen of 1600x900 resolution. Note, then, that the ‘Full HD' sticker applied to the laptop's body is a deceptive practice worthy of Trading Standards' attention - this machine cannot display 1080 lines of horizontal resolution without downscaling.

Build quality is average, if a little plasticky, with the Sony VAIO VGN-FW11ZU's main chassis finished with silver paint to emulate real metal. Inside is a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, with a 300GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM. This quota of RAM will be underutilised as 32-bit versions of Windows cannot use more than 3GB.

In addition to three USB ports and a mini-FireWire connector, the Sony VAIO VGN-FW11ZU adds an ExpressCard/54 slot, 56K modem and memory card reader.

To play Blu-ray films, Sony includes InterVideo WinDVD software. This is relatively easy to use and provides quick access to a title's chapters, but playback quality is not particularly inspiring. Colours look over-saturated, and when playing fast moving action, colours could be seen to trail behind the main object, somewhat like low-quality analogue video. We also experienced lip-sync issues which rendered singers with words out of time with the mouth.

Sound quality from the Sony VAIO VGN-FW11ZU's built-in speakers was clear and controlled, but overly bright and tinny. Enjoying soundtrack playback was further hindered by the almost-always-on cooling fan.

In lab benchmarking, the Sony VAIO VGN-FW11ZU had reasonable 3D graphics performance through its ATI HD 3650 graphics card, showing a just-playable 23fps in FEAR gaming tests. Battery life fell well short of the three-hour mark, at about two and a half hours. Our WorldBench 6 benchmark test gave an unusually low figure of 89 points, which preliminary investigation suggested was due to an anomaly with the Nero 7 component of the test.

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Sony VAIO VGN-FW11ZU: Specs

  • 1 year 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400
  • Windows Home Premium SP1 32-bit
  • 2 x 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 3x USB
  • 1 x mini FW400
  • 300GB SATA 4200rpm hard drive
  • 2.9kg
  • 384x261x37mm
  • 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth
  • 16.4in, 1600x900 screen, 16:9 screen
  • ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650, 256MB
  • HDMI, VGA
  • BD-ROM
  • BD-R/RE
  • DVD±RW
  • DVD-R9
  • ExpressCard/34, 56K modem
  • 4800mAh battery
  • 1 year 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400
  • Windows Home Premium SP1 32-bit
  • 2 x 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 3x USB
  • 1 x mini FW400
  • 300GB SATA 4200rpm hard drive
  • 2.9kg
  • 384x261x37mm
  • 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth
  • 16.4in, 1600x900 screen, 16:9 screen
  • ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650, 256MB
  • HDMI, VGA
  • BD-ROM
  • BD-R/RE
  • DVD±RW
  • DVD-R9
  • ExpressCard/34, 56K modem
  • 4800mAh battery

OUR VERDICT

With a 2.53GHz processor, the Sony VAIO VGN-FW11ZU should be a nippy machine, and the ATI graphics card allows the use of some modern games. Blu-ray playback was short of expectation though, especially given Sony's weight behind the format.

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