Sony – Vaio GRX316SP review

a huge screen on a chunky notebook
Photo of Sony – Vaio GRX316SP
£2,299 + VAT

Want a notebook with a full-size LCD panel attached? Well at first glance, that’s what the brand new, top-of-the-range Vaio GRX316SP from Sony gives you. Dominating the whole unit is a massive 16.1-inch TFT panel, the first 16-inch screen on any notebook.

Powered by Intel’s new Mobile Pentium 4 Processor-M, rated at 1.7GHz, combined with Intel’s new 845MP mobile chipset and a massive 512MB PC2100 DDR memory, the performance of the GRX316SP when tested using mainstream business applications is actually not particularly impressive. However, like its desktop cousin, the Mobile P4 Processor-M’s performance improves when tested using more demanding applications such as video editing tools.

Disappointingly for a desktop replacement notebook, there is only one modular drive bay and that’s used by the optical drive so there isn’t room for a built-in floppy drive. The optical drive is a Sony DVD/CD-RW combo drive with 8-speed DVD read, 24-speed CD-ROM read, 16-speed CD-R write and 10-speed CD-RW rewrite speed. For internal storage there is a 40GB Toshiba 4,200rpm hard drive. Although there isn’t a floppy drive, there is a MagicGate Memory Stick slot.

The massive screen has a native resolution of 1,600 by 1,200 pixels (UXGA), and is powered not by the most obvious choice – Nvidia’s GeForce4 Go – but by an ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 chipset, with 32MB of DDR SDRAM. This is not quite as powerful as the Nvidia product, but still a very capable 2D/3D accelerator.

The Vaio GRX316SP’s battery life of two and a quarter hours is pretty poor, but then at 3.75kg it’s not likely to get carried around much anyway. But if you are feeling strong enough, the modular bay will accept a second battery.

Sony has tried to make the Vaio GRX316SP as legacy-free as possible when it comes to the I/O ports; there are no serial, PS/2 or infrared ports for example. What you get are parallel and VGA ports, three USB ports (one on each side and one at the back), an i-LINK (IEEE 1394) port and a video-out port. There’s also integrated Ethernet and a (software) modem but strangely and disappointingly for a notebook that costs this much, no built in wireless networking. Instead, one of the two PC Card slots will have to be used if you want this function.

As with most of Sony’s high end notebooks there’s a huge range of software bundled with the Vaio GRX316SP, including DVGate, PictureGear, WinDVD, PictureToy, Digital Print, ArcSoft Panorama Maker, Visual Flow, Smart Capture, MovieShaker, SonicStage, Real Jukebox / RealPlayer, Acrobat Reader, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Beatnik Plugin, Adobe Premiere 6.1LE, Quicktime 5.0, Norton AntiVirus and more. The notebook comes with a year’s warranty.

Company: Sony

Contact: 0990 424424


Verdict
The Sony Vaio GRX316SP is an expensive general office desktop replacement notebook, especially when you can get better performance at a lower cost. But it is perfect if you need huge amounts of screen space for tasks such as video editing, something to which its combination of power and graphics performance is ideally suited.