Short Version: Sony has always had a way with big laptops. Their F-Series, starting at $999 and going all the way up to about $1700 on a good day, is a monster but doesn’t feel huge and his heavy without being a boat anchor. With only about two hours of battery life you’re not going to enjoy the uncut, 207 minute Criterion Collection version of Seven Samurai, but you will be able to play a game or two and watch most of a Blu-Ray blockbuster.
Netbook lovers can stop reading right now. Like a steak at a mid-range chain restaurant, the Sony Vaio F Series offers a lot of meat, sizzle, and some flash but at $999 you’re not getting quite a bit of fat. First off, this laptop is huge. Coming from an era of the thin and light, slapping this on your desk will visibly shake your coffee cup and don’t even think about taking this on the road. Just leave it at home, on your kitchen table, and you’ll be good.
That said, I can honestly say that this laptop isn’t quite a desktop replacement nor is it a travel notebook. Desktop replacements are just that – you throw away your desktop and buy one to do everything including video editing, gaming, and SETI@Home processing. This laptop, on the other hand, is sort of just big-boned and has enough chops to run a few things and enough battery life to be dangerous. Think of it as a Cafe computer, one you can take down to Starbucks to get a little work done on – provided Starbucks is within walking distance and you have a hand truck – and then you take it back to the home or office and set it back up with all of your USB devices.
The laptop can play games – it hit 2424 on Geekbench, a more than acceptable benchmark number especially among other i7 laptops – and the numeric keypad makes it great for keyboard/mouse gamers.
Interestingly, this laptop supports near-field communications with some Sony cameras, a feature that is not mentioned anywhere on the case.
The laptop does get a bit hot on your lap, but this really isn’t designed for the lap. Your best bet is to put it on a table and leave it there.
The laptop maxes out at 8GB RAM and holds up to 640GB. Sony also offers a solid state drive option and Blu-Ray costs $100. In all honesty I wasn’t amazed by the screen when watching Avatar on Blu-Ray so you may be a bit disappointed if you’re expecting things to really pop.
Ports. Come on, Sony! Ports! The laptop has two USB ports yet features an HDMI and eSATA port prominently on the right side. Heck, there’s even a Firewire port. However, if this thing is going to sit on my desk for most of the day, you couldn’t sneak in a few more USB ports? There’s enough real estate on here, even with the rounded hinge at the back, to allow for a bit more expansion.
Finally, the F Series is definitely not the most exciting-looking laptop I’ve seen. It doesn’t look as bad as some of the other guys’ “fleet” laptops – the ones your IT department buys for you – but this won’t win any beauty prizes.
At $999 at its cheapest model, it’s easy to tell who this laptop is aimed at. It’s a lower-priced gaming machine for a lower-priced market and it performs as advertised. It’s not so orotund as to be unacceptable and it’s not so small as to be portable – it’s almost just right. If you’re looking for a stable, strong laptop for a high schooler or someone who just wants a workhorse, this is an interesting consideration for your stable.