Price: £2,550 plus VAT
Sony’s latest Vaio laptop, the PCG-FX109K, sits at the top of the FX100 all-in-one range. It’s the best of the best as far as Sony’s concerned, designed to take on both the PowerBook G4 and the powerful Dell Inspirion, and it manages to stand up well against the competition. The main thing that the FX109K has over its competition is a combination DVD and CD-RW drive. Choosing a laptop configuration often comes down to whether you want to take all but the smallest of media off it, or whether you want access to a DVD player. The combo drive allows for both without the extra cost of weight of another drive – it weighs an average 3.1kg. The Vaio’s only main competitor is the Inspirion 8000, which allows you to swap out the floppy drive for either type of drive or an extra battery. The FX109K also lets you swap out the floppy drive for a battery, but either way you’ve got one more accessory built-in and one less lump of metal to carry around. The rest of the machine is impressive, too. Sony may be one of the last manufacturers to offer Intel’s Pentium III 850MHz mobile chip, but it’s not wasted it. The FX109K matched most of the other laptops with the same 850MHz/128MB of RAM set-up with a PC WorldBench score of 157 but exceeded most of them by completing our Photoshop tests in 396 seconds (the Inspirion took 404). This was due to Intel’s 815EM graphics chipset and 3D hardware accelerator, which make good use of its 11MB of memory. Other notable features include a clear 15-inch screen with a maximum resolution of 1,400-x-1,050, a large 30GB hard drive and a good set of multimedia tools. These include capture software for both video and still images using the IEEE 1394 (FireWire, or iLink as Sony likes to call it) port and USB respectively. There’s also some basic image editing (Sony’s own) and video-editing (Premiere LE) software thrown in as well. That the FX109K includes features like the combo drive shows that Sony is aware of users’ needs, not just of looking flash for the sake of it – which raises it to a plateau above even the most silver of competitors.