The Sony VAIO CW Series laptop is quite stylish and comfortable to use. We like its keyboard and also the software that comes preinstalled on it, but it could use better connectivity options such as eSATA and a full-sized ExpressCard/54 slot.
If we have one overwhelming opinion about the Sony VAIO CW Series, it's that it should not be available in pink. Everyone who saw it in our Test Centre despised the colour, wishing instead for black or white (or even the champagne colour that adorns part of the base). The good news is that the CW Series is available in black or white and it's a fine notebook with plenty to offer.
Sony VAIO CW Series: Configuration
The Sony VAIO CW Series is a 2.4kg, 14in laptop with a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 CPU, 3GB of DDR3 SDRAM and it runs Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit edition. This is a solid configuration for all types of work, but we're disappointed that Sony stopped short of including 4GB of RAM for this model considering the operating system could use it all.
However, you can easily upgrade it yourself down the line, as there are two memory slots, one with 2GB and one with 1GB. Sony offers another model with 4GB of RAM installed as standard, which also has a more powerful graphics adaptor, a faster CPU, and runs Windows 7 Professional, but it'll cost you extra.
The Sony VAIO CW Series also includes a 320GB, 5400rpm hard drive, a DVD burner and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 230M graphics adaptor with 256MB of GDDR3 memory. It has a fair gamut of ports around its edges, but it doesn't include eSATA or a full-sized ExpressCard/54 slot. Instead, you get three USB 2.0 ports for attaching external hard drives and other devices and an ExpressCard/34 slot, which can be used to install a 3G data card or a digital TV tuner, for example.
Sony VAIO CW Series: Preinstalled software
The lack of eSATA and a full-sized ExpressCard/54 slot, as well as the amount of RAM, are only minor blemishes and can be overcome easily. So unless you're a tech head - and if you're looking at a pink laptop, you're probably not - this shouldn't phase you. In fact, the Sony VAIO CW Series is aimed at users who are looking for an easy-to-use solution for managing and editing media files. It has both SD and Memory Stick PRO card readers, as well as software that can help manage and edit videos and photos. It includes a nifty little pop-down dock application that has shortcuts to that software. In many ways, it's a very Mac-like device.
The dock is called VAIO Gate and it includes a calendar function, a media gallery (which looks like it would be fun to use with a touch screen), as well as quick links to all the other VAIO software that's installed on the computer. This includes VAIO MovieStory, which allows you to piece together movies from different video files, and a DVD creation utility.
If you own a Sony camcorder or digital stills camera, there are utilities installed that will allow you to transfer files off those devices quickly and import them into the appropriate editing programs (you can just use the card slots for the same purpose). The notebook also comes with an AVCHD player installed, so you can view videos shot with your high-definition camera if it uses that format (it's normally a pain to have to install the camera's software just to watch the movies you've shot).
Sony VAIO CW Series: Keyboard and screen
Using the Sony VAIO CW Series is a joy; it has a full-sized keyboard with isolated keys that have plenty of travel. It feels very comfortable to use and there are no keys in awkward positions, nor any undersized ones. However, the gap between keys does take some adjustment. There are some shortcut buttons above the keyboard, including ones to launch a web browser and the VAIO Media Gallery, and there is also a button for switching off the screen.
The glossy screen is reasonably bright, but reflections can be annoying. It has a native resolution of 1366x768; you can also use the notebook's HDMI port to plug in a bigger monitor or TV. For networking, you get Gigabit Ethernet, as well as dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi. Bluetooth is available for connecting phones and cordless peripherals.
Sony VAIO CW Series: Performance
While the marketing blurb for the Sony VAIO CW Series says that it's suitable for gaming, we won't go as far as endorsing it for that sort of activity. You can play games with it, as its score of 3495 in 3DMark06 can attest, but not the latest titles, and definitely not at lush detail levels.
The 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU gives the Sony VAIO CW Series plenty of grunt for manipulating photos and piecing together movies, and it will be relatively swift when transcoding files. This was shown in the Blender 3D test, in which the VAIO recorded a time of 1min 23sec. With its speed and dual CPU cores, it will breeze through any office, web, social-networking and communications tasks you throw its way.
The battery that ships with the Sony VAIO CW Series is listed on Sony's website as lasting for two hours. In our battery rundown test - during which we loop an Xvid-encoded video while power management is disabled, the wireless radio is enabled and the screen brightness is maximised - it lasted 2hr 4min. This is the only time we can think of that a manufacturer has actually been accurate with a laptop battery rating. You can get approximately 30-40min more if you implement a power management strategy.
NEXT: our expert verdict >>