The CR series is is the latest in a line of colourful laptops from Sony, designed for the style-conscious user. They come in a range of colours, including white, pink, blue and the flagship red. Unlike the slightly tacky-looking C series, the CR promises a premium finish and modern components, without breaking the bank -- it comes in under £1,000. Is that even possible for a Sony Vaio?
The CR series' biggest selling point is that it comes in a range of colours, the best of which, in our opinion, is 'Blazing Red' (listed as the VGN-CR11Z/R.CEK on the Sony Web site). Unfortunately Sony's designers have made a horrible mistake -- they've forgotten to make it drool-proof. If the laptop's curved edges, glossy, metallic lid and chrome accents don't get your juices flowing, you're probably dead.
The front edge of the laptop protrudes about half a centimetre further than the lid, giving it a slight underbite. This lower lip section houses a set of media shortcut keys (play, pause, stop, rewind and fast-forward) plus six status lights that indicate power, hard drive activity, Wi-Fi, battery life and whether the laptop is reading from a memory card. These are nothing out of the ordinary, but the chrome backdrop makes them look superb.
There are a further six shortcut keys above the keyboard -- one for launching Sony's interpretation of Media Center, three for controlling the volume level, one for launching the webcam (situated above the screen), and another for switching the display off. The latter may sound pointless, but it comes in handy when the CR is attached to a second display or when you're feeling really anal about preserving battery life.
The CR's keyboard bears a resemblance to those on the MacBook. The keys are spaced approximately 3mm apart and don't have the sloping edges seen on a standard desktop keyboard. This means the CR is less likely to trap foreign particles between each button. Unfortunately there's not quite enough travel on the keys -- we'd prefer them to sink slightly more after each press.
The underside of most Windows-based laptops are usually cluttered with unsightly vents, screws and access panels. The CR is no different, but for one small detail: Sony has added a 45mm-long LED light strip that pulsates, showing different light patterns depending on what the laptop is doing (booting, shutting down, hibernating). This is ultimately quite pointless, but it'll help your tech-addled mind remember not to shove the laptop in to a suitcase or bag while it's still switched on.
We didn't expect much in the way of features from the CR. Why should we? It's a Sony, it's sexy and it costs less than £1,000. But we were pleasantly surprised: it uses Intel's latest Centrino Duo platform, a 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo T7100 CPU and 2GB of DDR2 667MHz RAM. That's generous, considering it has a massive Vaio logo on the lid.
Sony doesn't skimp on the graphics, either. You get an ATI Mobility Radeon X2300 video adaptor, which has 256MB dedicated memory, but can leech even more from system memory for a total of 831MB. It doesn't provide Alienware-level graphics performance, but it gives you the peace of mind that if you want to run a 3D game, you can. We were slightly disappointed, however, that the CR does not come with a DVI or HDMI port. Instead you get analogue D-Sub and S-Video video connectors.