The CR uses an LED backlight behind its 14.1-inch panel. This type of screen couple of benefits over traditional CCFL displays, most notably improved brightness and fewer environmentally unfriendly components. It also uses Sony's glossy X-Black coating. This renders the laptop nearly unusable in direct sunlight, but enhances image quality in evenly lit rooms. Contrast is high and colours look great, but the native resolution is a relatively low 1,280x800 pixels. This isn't a major problem, but if you like to multitask with lots of windows, you'll start to wish you had more pixels to play with.
Whereas the blue, pink and white Vaio CR11S models come with 120GB hard drives, the flagship red CR11Z model comes with a 160GB drive. Sony makes a point of reminding us it's equivalent to 34 standard DVDs -- ample storage in a laptop of this type. You can never have too much storage space, however, so we'll remind you that it's possible to add an external hard drive to the CR via any of its three USB ports, or the four-pin FireWire port on the left side. The laptop also comes with Memory Stick, SD memory card and a 34mm ExpressCard reader, plus a dual-layer DVD rewriter drive. Blu-ray is not an option here.
All flavours of Wi-Fi are catered for: the adaptor supports 802.11a, b, g and even the 300Mbps 802.11 draft n standard. Bluetooth is also present, which is handy if you want to transfer files to and from your mobile phone without the hassle of cables. Infrared is absent, but really, who cares?
The CR ships with Windows Vista Home Premium edition, Microsoft Works 8.0, Intervideo WinDVD, Norton Internet Security, Picasa 2, Roxio Easy Media Creator Home and Skype software. This is a pretty good bundle considering the price -- you can start putting the laptop to good use straight out of the box. Sony provides a one-year return to base warranty as standard.
The Sony Vaio CR11Z -- our test model -- offers above average performance. This is unsurprising -- it uses the very latest Centrino Duo chipset. Sony has opted not to fit it with Intel's quickest mobile CPU (2.3GHz), but the 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo is definitely no slouch -- especially with 2GB of RAM backing it up. It scored 3,725 in PCMark 2007, which is in line with our expectations for a machine of this spec. It's fast enough to cope with pretty much everything except hardcore video editing and compression.
3D performance was slightly above average, for a laptop. It returned a 3DMark 2006 score of 762, and ran F.E.A.R at 12 frames per second with all the graphics settings on the maximum level -- anti-aliasing at 4x and anisotropic filtering at 8x. At the default F.E.A.R settings, the laptop ran the game at 19fps, which is just about playable. Just.
The CR's glossy screen means it's not the ideal outdoor laptop, but
its battery life is commendable nontheless. Sony quotes a figure of 3
hours 45 minutes, though we're guessing this is only possible when the
laptop is used for light desktop duties such as surfing the Web. Our
battery-testing software, Battery Eater, failed to record a result for
some reason, but we'll update this review when we can test the CR's
We've no reservations about recommending the Vaio CR series. It's stunningly attractive, well-equipped and affordable. It'll never be as trendy as a MacBook, but the two are comparable for features and price. Buy one now if you can.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide