Most low-cost laptops are old models that simply end up having their price cut when something newer and faster comes along, but Sony’s Vaio Fit 15E is a brand new model specifically designed to provide attractive multimedia features at an everyday price. See Laptop Advisor.
It’s neatly designed too – not quite in Ultrabook territory, but at just 25mm thick it’s still relatively svelte for a 15-inch laptop with a built-in DVD drive. It’s a bit hefty at 2.45Kg but the Sony Vaio Fit 15E is still reasonably portable and the large, comfortable keyboard and trackpad are definitely a cut above average for a laptop in this price range. One nice touch is that the surface of the trackpad – like those on Apple’s more expensive MacBook range – functions as a single large button, so you can quickly click and select items without having to move your fingers down to the conventional buttons. See all budget laptop reviews.
The glossy screen has a resolution of just 1366x768, but that’s an acceptable compromise for a laptop in this price range, and image quality is very good – bright and colourful, with good viewing angles both horizontally and vertically. The Sony Vaio Fit 15E's real standout feature, though, is the quality of the speakers, which produce higher volume and a fuller sound than many laptops we’ve seen costing twice as much. It’ll be a great choice for watching video, browsing your photo library or listening to music without needing external speakers. Also see: Group test - what's the best budget laptop?
The processor is a fairly modest Ivy Bridge i3 running at 1.8GHz (although Sony tells us that this may be upgraded to 1.9GHz quite soon). That’s very much an entry-level processor these days, and the Sony Vaio Fit 15E produces a relatively modest score of 2172 when running the general-purpose PCMark 7 benchmark. However, that will still be more than adequate for basic tasks such as web browsing, running MS Office and playing music and video.
Our Sony Vaio Fit 15E review unit included 4GB of memory and 500GB hard disk for a total price of £438, but Sony also provides a really wide range of build-to-order options for the Fit 15E. The i3 processor may not be great for gaming – it’s integrated HD 4000 manages just 23fps when running Stalker with medium graphics settings at 1280x720 – but you can add a GeForce GT740M graphics card for another £50.00 and still scrape in at just under £500.00. A Blu-ray player will only cost £40.00, although the £80 touch-screen option unfortunately takes the price just past our £500.00 limit.
If we do have a complaint about the Sony Vaio Fit 15E is that the battery life isn’t what it could be. The 40Wh battery pack is very small and managed just four hours (240mins) when streaming video off the BBC iPlayer. You could probably stretch that to five hours for more modest tasks, but that’s still a little disappointing and it’s hard to believe that Sony couldn’t squeeze a slightly larger battery into that roomy 15-inch chassis.