A relative newcomer to the notebook PC market, Sony made a real splash last year with its sexy little Vaio portable. Aiming to build on the success of that product, the company has launched a couple of additions to the line-up. This one, the PCG-F190, is the most powerful of the Vaio models, based on a 366MHz Pentium II processor. There’s also a 6.4GB hard drive and 64MB of SDRAM memory onboard, all of which means that this machine is considerably larger than its predecessor.
Dominating the case when you open the lid is the 14.1-inch TFT LCD screen, which is bright and sharp and offers plenty of workspace. Underneath this screen, which can handle a top resolution of 1024 x 768, is a keyboard whose keys are nearly all full-sized. Coupled with the large wrist-rest area, in which there’s a track-pad mouse device, this means that touch-typing is a comfortable affair on the Vaio, although the notebook is probably a little too heavy to be used on the lap for very long.
Where the original Vaio lacked features, the PCG-F190 more than compensates. There’s a built-in floppy drive, a built-in DVD-ROM drive, an i.Link (IEEE 1394) port for downloading still images from Sony’s DV cameras, as well as USB and infra-red connectivity and a pair of PC Card (PCMCIA) ports. Sony includes a 56K PC Card modem with the notebook, and this can be upgraded to GSM, Ethernet and ISDN if required. Software supplied with the new Vaio includes a MiniDisc editor, video capture software, video editing software and Windows 98.
What is potentially more important than mere specifications, however, is the perceived and actual quality of this new notebook. In both respects, Sony has done well. The Vaio PCG-F190 looks every inch an expensive, stylish PC, with a design that sets it apart from most other notebooks in a very samey market. It feels pretty solid, too, with thick plastic used in most places, and no rattles or creaking noises from the case. And despite its comprehensive range of features and powerful processor, the battery life appears to be very good. The new range is backed by a one year warranty.
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