We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
Laptops Reviews
15,609 Reviews

Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B review

£1799 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Sony

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

The Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B is a luxurious 16in-screen notebook PC that plays Blu-ray discs in 3D

We’ve seen laptops capable of rendering 3D before, but Sony’s luxurious – if perversely titled – Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B is undoubtedly the best so far.

It’s a heavy brute of a laptop, weighing over 3.1kg, with a striking high-gloss black plastic finish on its lid and top deck section. The latter area is offset by a raised rubbery platform that forms an extended wrist-rest area and incorporates the trackpad into its length. The trackpad itself has a useful patterned texture to help you keep your fingers on track.

The two mouse buttons below are covered by a single wide button that pivots in the middle.

The display of the Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B is a great example of what a modern screen should be like – and that’s irrespective of its high refresh-rate 3D credentials. But by god, the screen is thick. At 13mm deep, the lid alone is about as thick as a MacBook Air.

Yet it’s the image quality that stands out on this lovely matt anti-glare panel. Colours are deep and richly hued. Off-axis viewing angles are very respectable too.

The keyboard is the classic Scrabble-style pioneered by Sony, with an extra number keypad to help fill space on the top deck created by the wide widescreen form of the laptop.

On the left are gigabit ethernet, HDMI and VGA video outputs and two USB 3.0 ports. On the right is a single USB 2.0 port, mic-in and headphone-out jacks, and the tray drawer for the Blu-ray/DVD±RW drive.

And that BD drive can also write to Blu-ray BD-R and BD-RE discs too – a rare and unusual thing, even seven long years after the format was launched, since the price of recording BD drives is too rich for the market.

High-end notebook reviews

Sound quality from the built-in speakers is good, but you’d still be advised to pipe film sound into outboard speakers or a hi-fi system. We did try taking an analogue output from the headphone jack, but heard what sounded like just front left and right channels, minus the centre-channel dialogue.

The Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B is somewhat noisy, internal fans blowing out plenty of air even when the machine isn’t being stressed. And you can hear the intelligent fans constantly changing speed as they adjust to internal heat levels and try to vent accordingly.

Supplied with the Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B is a single pair of 3D active-shutter glasses – these Sony TDG-BR100/B specs are high quality, and reasonably lightweight frames, with a single CR2032 calculator battery as a replaceable power source.

A small button on the right switches them on, and they switch off automatically after a brief period of inactivity - that is, after sensing that the glasses aren’t pointed at the screen.

The 3D playback experience of the Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B can be quite compelling. To watch specially coded Blu-ray films in 3D just requires you to pop in the disc and fire up the included Corel WinDVD program.

We did notice some slight image frame wobbling when playing, but that could be more an issue with the only 3D film we had available, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, that Sony kindly loaned us with the laptop.

To get an idea of the laptop’s gaming potential, we tried our usual FEAR benchmark test. And were surprised to see that, without any user twiddling, the game was rendered in 3D. Here we saw framerates of 20fps at Maximum detail settings in 3D, rising to 32fps at High detail.

Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B Expert Verdict »
Sony Vaio VPC-F21Z1E Scores 7.6 out of 10 based on 17 reviews
2.0GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM
16in (1920x1080) LED-backlit display
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
tray-load BD-RW/DVD±RW optical drive
nVidia GeForce GT 540M graphics with 1GB memory
640GB 7200rpm 2.5in SATA HDD
2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0
SD/MS card slot
gigabit ethernet
802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 3.0
54Wh lithium battery
398 x 271 x 34–45mm
3142g
  • Build Quality: We give this item 9 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 9 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 6 of 10 for value for money
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

This entertainment-focused Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B laptop has just about everything you’d need for a domestic-bound desktop replacement. It’s heavy and a touch too noisy for our taste but if you want a luggable notebook with 3D playback – and you have the budget for this £1800 extravaganza – then there’s nothing else we’ve seen that boasts this feature set.

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.
  • Sony Vaio VPCS13V9E/B review

    Sony Vaio VPCS13V9E/B

    The Sony Vaio VPCS13V9E/B laptop combines a rather impressive array of business-friendly features with excellent performance, decent build-quality and tastefully understated style.

  • Sony Vaio VGN-FZ180EB laptop PC

    Sony Vaio VGN-FZ180EB laptop PC

    The Sony Vaio VGN-FZ180EB is a mid-size laptop PC with a nice screen.

  • Sony VAIO F13M0E/B review

    Sony VAIO F13M0E/B

    The Sony VAIO F13M0E/B crams a lot into its 16.4 inch frame. It's a bit of a dull, grey lump, but while it may not be as stylish as some of its competitors here or many other VAIO models, its capabilities far outshine its appearance.

  • Sony Vaio AW11Z/B review

    Sony Vaio AW11Z/B

    The Sony Vaio AW11Z/B is Sony's largest Vaio, and a very good-looking laptop indeed.

  • Sony Vaio X VPCX11Z1E/X review

    Sony Vaio X VPCX11Z1E/X

    The tiny Sony Vaio X is so undeniably cute that you’ll want one even before you’ve thought of what you might possibly be able to achieve with a laptop quite this small. What Sony has managed to do with the Sony Vaio X VPCX11Z1E/X is take the netbook concept and turn it completely on its head.


IDG UK Sites

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 vs Samsung Galaxy S5 comparison review: Samsung's best ever smartphones...

IDG UK Sites

Nostalgia time: Top 10 best selling mobile phones in history

IDG UK Sites

How Ford designs next-generation cars at its Melbourne Design Centre

IDG UK Sites

Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina review and the mystery of the processor benchmarks