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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 7:13 pm 
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This follows on from this thread. The laptop I ordered has arrived.

To recap the specs:
It is a Sony E series custom configuration.
Core i5-460M
15.5 inch 1920x1080 screen
ATI mobility HD5650
4GB ram
320GB 7200 rpm hard disk
Gloss black body
Blu-ray player

It wasn't my original desire for this form factor, but looking at what was available in smaller sizes, the price/performance trade off was excessive so I gave in and went for the 15-inch typical size instead.

The box it came in was rather minimal in contents. You got a local mains cable, power brick and the laptop itself. Apart from that were the usual bunch of guides, warranty/support info and accessory brochure.

The laptop looked damn nice, even better in reality than web images. I went for the gloss black scheme since the only colour I wanted, purple, wasn't an option on this model. It's not just shiny plastic. There's translucent bits and textures adding depth. But it has the standard drawback of any gloss surface - greasy fingerprints appear in no time and it would be a losing battle to keep it clean.

I plugged it in and fired it up. The screen looks great. I was a little concerned the relatively high pixel density might result in an eye test, but it is clear and sharp. The gloss finish of the screen I'm not a fan of isn't bad either. In an indoor environment, you can hardly see any reflections unless the screen is particularly dark, or you're reflecting a light. I haven't done any stress tests on it as such, but the few images I put up on it look good. Sharp, nice contrast and colour balance. There's a bit more brightness variation moving my head in the vertical direction than I like, but it is minimal in the horizontal direction within the width of the screen at typical viewing distance.

After starting up it went through the usual random configuration options and stuff, and I was on the familiar Win7 desktop. Mostly. Sony added their own launcher bar which seems a bit like duplicating effort. Maybe it has some neat tricks but the Win7 taskbar works for me regardless.

It wasn't long before the million pre-installed utilities started bleating on about updates, configuration and activation. I'll have to uninstall that later.

The keyboard feels good. There's nice separation between the keys so pushing two wont be any more of an issue than I have on a full sized desktop one. And a first for me, this has a dedicated number pad! Finally, laptop I can play Civ2 on comfortably... (yes, I'm that old...) Likewise the touchpad feels nice. A little unsual perhaps, it is implemented as a textured bump surface rather than the smooth ones.

Not uncommon in this age, it didn't come with recovery media, so I have to create my own. The guide recommends doing a Sony software update first, which was fine apart from timing out the first time, and going really slowly the second. Fortunately food distracted me long enough for it to pick up to sensible speeds and the remaining bits downloaded and installed quickly enough. Creating the recovery disks requires 3 regular DVDs or two DL ones. Just as well I got a pack of DVD-RW recently. This is in progress as I type... I really wish they supplied the option of buying it or even better including it as standard.

Once the recovery disks have been made, I'll finish uninstalling the excess crap, and configuring it how I like it. Then I'll start benchmarking and using it with real applications. That reminds me, where did I put my Photoshop CDs?...

_________________
Canon DSLRs: 7D, 5D2, 1D, 600D, 450D full spectrum, 300D IR mod
Lenses: EF 35/2, 50/1.8, 85/1.8, 135/2+SF, 28-80 V, 70-300L, 100-400L, TS-E 24/3.5L, MP-E 65, EF-S 15-85 IS
3rd party: Zeiss 2/50 makro, Samyang 8mm fisheye, Sigma 150 macro, 120-300 f/2.8 OS, Celestron 1325/13
Tinies: Sony HX9V.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2011 6:13 pm 
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*still* in the process of configuring it... this could take a while to load all my software on it.

On software, as mentioned there is a ton of bundled stuff. Going over a few items:

Acrobat reader - uninstalled and replaced with foxit reader. No bloat please!
McAfee Internet Security trial - uninstalled and replaced with MS Security Essentials. They use McAfee at work and it really kills browsing performance.
Norton online backup trial - uninstalled and not replaced. The Vaio specific trial gives you 5GB space for 60 days before you have to pay. If you go to Norton direct, you get 25GB for 30 days anyway.
Google Chrome is the main browser, although IE8 is lurking in the background. IE8 was a challenge to find as they removed the links to it. I tried to go to MS for a reinstall, no download for Win7. Ok, what about the EU browser choice screen? Nope, that points you to the MS download page I saw before. Eventually I found a link to it in Sony's own launcher from which I could pin it to the taskbar. Why do I want IE8? Sooner or later, you will come across a site which only works properly on IE, so even if not a main browser, I like to have it available on any system I use.
Office Starter edition - I'm keeping this... from 1st looks the main difference between it and the full version is a non-removable bar on the right side of the screen from which adverts may appear.

Onto the Sony own brand stuff, there is... I think it was called Sony Care. This is an all in one tool, which appears to offer various cleanup operations similar to ccleaner. In there you can also create the backup DVDs and check for Sony software updates.
Sony Gate is a combined application launcher and it appears to support some kind of notification/RSS feeds too. To me it doesn't really deliver any more than I want from the standard Win7 taskbar so that's off.
Finally there are two Playstation related features. You can set up the laptop for remote play, which lets you access the PS3 remotely, and also work as a wireless keyboard for the PS3. Albeit a rather expensive keyboard! I set up both although I'm not sure I have any need for either...

Hardware wise, I had a quick peek under two covers on the base. one houses the 2.5 inch SATA hard disk, the other has two SODIMMs. So replacing/upgrading either is physically very easy.

Power consumption, at desktop idle, I'm measuring 18W with screen at minimum brightness, and 22W at maximum brightness. Battery was fully charged at this time.

From my use so far, I think I'll have to pass on the SSD plan, as I'm not willing to pay for a big enough SSD. Maybe that'll be one for the future. Also I'm going to try sticking to 4GB ram. Buying 2x4GB modules isn't that much more, but I fear it'll affect battery life for insignificant day to day usage advantage.

_________________
Canon DSLRs: 7D, 5D2, 1D, 600D, 450D full spectrum, 300D IR mod
Lenses: EF 35/2, 50/1.8, 85/1.8, 135/2+SF, 28-80 V, 70-300L, 100-400L, TS-E 24/3.5L, MP-E 65, EF-S 15-85 IS
3rd party: Zeiss 2/50 makro, Samyang 8mm fisheye, Sigma 150 macro, 120-300 f/2.8 OS, Celestron 1325/13
Tinies: Sony HX9V.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2011 7:55 pm 
How much are you going to spend on SSD? What are you going to run on your SSD?


Overclockers.co.uk have a new SATA-Hybrid for laptops, its also fast its really comparable to SSD and its much cheaper.

http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showprodu ... ubcat=1894


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2011 8:37 pm 
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Hybrids don't seem to have much point for my usage pattern. I tend to work on large data sets so the 4GB flash part will never get a chance to cache much. Plus I wouldn't knowingly buy a Seagate anyway. As a brand I find they're most prone to sudden death. That and Maxtor, which they now own too!

I'll bite when SSDs hit around £200 for 250GB+. Right now, we're looking at around £150 for half that. Another year or so ought to do it. I could stuff in a 120/128GB model right now but I think space limiting would be a bigger deal than the performance difference. Oh, I know in the other thread I thought an 80GB SSD would be "enough", but that was on the assumption of a small laptop. Since I went for a big one, the usage model is very different! Those assumptions don't necessarily apply now.

_________________
Canon DSLRs: 7D, 5D2, 1D, 600D, 450D full spectrum, 300D IR mod
Lenses: EF 35/2, 50/1.8, 85/1.8, 135/2+SF, 28-80 V, 70-300L, 100-400L, TS-E 24/3.5L, MP-E 65, EF-S 15-85 IS
3rd party: Zeiss 2/50 makro, Samyang 8mm fisheye, Sigma 150 macro, 120-300 f/2.8 OS, Celestron 1325/13
Tinies: Sony HX9V.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2011 4:51 pm 
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Getting near the end of the software install now! Sure takes a while to find and update everything.

Even threw some graphical benchmarks at it. Let's see how the mobility HD5650 compares against a desktop GTS450 (CPU Q6600).

Scores following will be for the laptop then desktop. All at "as installed" defaults, other than switching to benchmark mode in FurMark.

3DMark2003: 19058, 39816
3DMark2005: 12331, 13642
3DMark2006: 6232, 12301
FurMark: 907, 3063

So... not setting any records, but plenty enough for casual gaming. I forgot to look at the power consumption at the time it was running.

I also tried running it on battery only to see how long it goes. I did this during the software install so arguably that might be higher power consuming than just web browsing. Looking and extrapolating at various points, I was looking at 2.5 hours with the screen set to a brightness level of 3 out of a maximum 8. On that note, I decided the screen is too bright for my tastes at maximum. Indoors I find I have to back down to 6 of 8 to be more comfortable.

_________________
Canon DSLRs: 7D, 5D2, 1D, 600D, 450D full spectrum, 300D IR mod
Lenses: EF 35/2, 50/1.8, 85/1.8, 135/2+SF, 28-80 V, 70-300L, 100-400L, TS-E 24/3.5L, MP-E 65, EF-S 15-85 IS
3rd party: Zeiss 2/50 makro, Samyang 8mm fisheye, Sigma 150 macro, 120-300 f/2.8 OS, Celestron 1325/13
Tinies: Sony HX9V.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2011 7:30 am 
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Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2009 11:24 am
Posts: 1822
Ah - the battery - the weak point of my last 2 Sony laptops (and therefore my last Sony laptops)

From full charge to battery flat = 2 minutes at present

Hopefully the keyboard is more solidly built on current Sony laptops as well - I've been through two (one of my damned cats decided to use the keyboard as a makeshift scratchpole, lovingly throwing keys and the gubbins under the keys all over the place!)


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 8:55 pm 
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Joined: Sun May 25, 2008 12:48 pm
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Location: UK
My first trip out with the laptop! Currently in yet another hotel room for work...

One minor gripe for me is the power button. It goes all the way to the edge of the body towards the back of the right side. Where I like to hold the laptop when moving it powered up. So I keep knocking it into suspend.

Another minor gripe is the positioning of USB ports. One on the left side doubles as e-sata is ok, but there's three on the right side right at the front so gets in the way if you use an external mouse. I wish they put some on the back, but the way the display hinges it obscures the back so you can't put anything there.

Having grown up with Acers, I'm used to their layout so the Sony is taking a little getting used to. Especially the page up/down which is right on the top right of the numpad. As I use them a lot it does mean I have to reach for them now, as opposed to being placed near the cursor keys on Acer layout. The keyboard feel is good though. Responsive and tactile, so better than Acer there which sometimes doesn't register keys when typing very fast.

And finally, the 1080p screen at this size is taking a little getting used to in one respect - mouse pointer movement! I haven't found a setting I like yet, as it is both too fast and too slow. I'm used to a lower density I guess, so the speed can be right for either pixel level or frame relative level, but not both...

phil, how old was your laptop/batteries? And what sort of usage profile? e.g. continuous charging, frequent full charge/discharge? I've found Acer batteries to be good as is the brand value, just everything else about them is rather boring. Dells at work never inspired me to get one, likewise when they had Toshibas before that. I used to have a... Vaio QR10 I think in the distant past. Unusual for its time but I like it.

_________________
Canon DSLRs: 7D, 5D2, 1D, 600D, 450D full spectrum, 300D IR mod
Lenses: EF 35/2, 50/1.8, 85/1.8, 135/2+SF, 28-80 V, 70-300L, 100-400L, TS-E 24/3.5L, MP-E 65, EF-S 15-85 IS
3rd party: Zeiss 2/50 makro, Samyang 8mm fisheye, Sigma 150 macro, 120-300 f/2.8 OS, Celestron 1325/13
Tinies: Sony HX9V.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 7:24 pm 
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Posts: 1822
Hi popo

My battery and laptop are 3 years old, with varied use (i.e. occasionally plugged in all the time, and occasionally fully drained)

Unfortunately the local dealer charges a fortune for batteries, replacement keyboards etc.

It's had it's day now - mine is a 15.4 inch and the screen has been fantastic for photo work, but other sides of ownership and dealer support have let me down - I'm going to the dark side (Mac) next...


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2011 7:29 pm 
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Joined: Sun May 25, 2008 12:48 pm
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3 years is a long time for a laptop battery in regular use. Still sucks if you can't find a cheap replacement. I wouldn't count on Apple being any better there! Laptop batteries in general are overpriced for what they are.

_________________
Canon DSLRs: 7D, 5D2, 1D, 600D, 450D full spectrum, 300D IR mod
Lenses: EF 35/2, 50/1.8, 85/1.8, 135/2+SF, 28-80 V, 70-300L, 100-400L, TS-E 24/3.5L, MP-E 65, EF-S 15-85 IS
3rd party: Zeiss 2/50 makro, Samyang 8mm fisheye, Sigma 150 macro, 120-300 f/2.8 OS, Celestron 1325/13
Tinies: Sony HX9V.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 12:32 pm 
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Posts: 1822
True, popo! I've enjoyed the screen for photo editing but my Vaio's had its day now.


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