Just where do you start? Best point would be to introduce this Vaio as the first commercial offering designed and built from the ground up for Windows XP. The next point is simply that this is the most visually stunning notebook we have seen in a long time.Just where do you start? Best point would be to introduce this Vaio as the first commercial offering designed and built from the ground up for Windows XP. The next point is simply that this is the most visually stunning notebook we have seen in a long time.
The sample that arrived on our doorstep, pictured above, is in fact a pilot machine built as a prototype. As a result, there were no final specifications or recommended retail price available at the time of writing. The hardware wont change dramatically but the software bundle might, so bear in mind any comments made in this review are subject to final specifications.
The PCG-R505AFT is quite a different beast to the Vaio PCG-FX880K reviewed last month (page 78), which was a full desktop replacement, general-purpose notebook. This Vaio is a much slimmer, slighter creature in the subnotebook class with a gunmetal-coloured magnesium-alloy case and slightly wedge-shaped in profile with a bevelled front. The bevel allows the notebook to hook into its docking station. Sony originally wanted to offer the dock as an option only, but all signs point to it being included in the package.
Modem and network ports can be found on the right side, covered by a rubber cap. The external iLINK (IEEE 1394) port, audio-out and microphone, a USB port and the single PC Card slot are also found on this side of the notebook. On the other side is another USB port, external VGA and memory stick reader. The rear holds the battery and no ports.
The dock is a contrasting dark blue colour and is reminiscent of the excellent slice that appears on the Hewlett-Packard OmniBook 500 (September, page 80) with the way the Vaio R505AFT nestles in and locks into place. Some of the ports are obscured when in the dock, but the provision for the bulk of the connections under the rear flap of the dock compensates for any loss.
The notebook opens up to an uncluttered workspace. There is only a power button on the otherwise plain keyboard, speakers and trackpad pointer. Above this is one of the brightest, most impressive 12in TFT screens weve ever seen. In fact its almost too bright. Some other 12in TFTs might be able to do that resolution, but not comfortably. The Vaio R505AFT does it in a canter and looks like it could do even better than the 1,024 x 768 resolution we had it running at with comfort.
Like its heftier brethren the Vaio FX880K, the R505AFT hides much of its value on the hard disk. The software bundle included is quite breathtaking and is geared towards home and entertainment use. Theres everything you need to create, edit, catalogue and view any sort of video or audio media. Specially appreciated was the Lord of the Rings movie trailer in RealMedia format. Communications and storage are ubiquitous, so the R505AFT lends itself to being as complete a portable workstation as the FX880K.
There is some concern over the choice of processor. This model is using the same Pentium III 850MHz CPU and 815EM chipset as the Vaio FX880K. Benchmark scores were not very flattering, so it might have been interesting to see how one of the newer Tualatin-class Pentium III-M processors would have fared in these Vaios. The Tecra 9000 (reviewed page 76) is a Tualatin, nominally running 83MHz quicker than the Vaio. Benchmarking them side by side in the Labs was no contest, and its not just the added CPU grunt that does it: the increased frontside bus speed of the Tualatins and the 830 chipset they use definitely gives any mobile notebook a lift.
Performance issues aside, its irrelevant in this case. The Vaio PCG-R505AFT didnt struggle with any media playback. Quite simply, its not just one single thing that makes this notebook so appealing; its the entire package something indefinable that makes this Sony notebook the one to turn heads on the commuter flight.
Slim, sexy, stylish and utterly appealing - turn heads and get the job done.
• Sony: unknown
• CPU model/brand: Intel Pentium III • CPU speed: 850MHz • Memory capacity: 128MB • Hard drive capacity: 30GB • Graphics type: Onboard • Graphics: integrated 82815 graphics • Sound card: integrated audio • Screen size: 12.1in • Weight: 1.7kg (not inc dock) • Dimensions WDH: 279.5 x 239 x 23 (not inc dock) • Ethernet: 10/100 • Memory card reader: MS • Operating system: Windows XP Home