Unlike most of the laptops we've reviewed recently, the Sony Vaio VPCEE3E0E/WI eschews Intel's chips in favour of AMD's processor and graphics technology. Our review model was supplied by Laptops Direct, where you can buy it for £495.
Easy on your wallet and your eye
Sony can usually be relied on to bring a touch of style to its laptops, and this Vaio model is no different. It may have a budget price tag, but its sexy curves and stylish glossy white and silver finish make it look much more expensive than it really is. There are also some clever touches here and there, including the slight sparkle effect that's been added to the keyboard wrist rest as well as the usual, circular screen hinges.
Weighing in at 2.7kg, it's far from the lightest 15-incher we've come across, but it is reasonably compact, measuring 370 by 284mm. As with many of the other Sony models we've reviewed recently, its build quality is top class and there's very little give in the chassis.
Isolated keyboard designs are fast becoming the norm on consumer laptops, and the EE3E0E continues this trend. This is no bad thing, however. The keyboard's combination of large, flat keys along with the generous space between them make it a pleasure to type on. It also feels very solid as there's almost no flex in the middle, so it doesn't suffer from the sponginess common on cheaper machines. The layout is excellent, too, and Sony has even managed to add a full numerical keypad on the right-hand side. We also like the way the trackpad is seamlessly integrated into the keyboard wrist rest so both appear to be hewn from a single block of plastic. Sony has cleverly added a slight dimpled pattern to the trackpad surface that helps to avoid the stickiness you get on some glossy pads.
The laptop's screen resolution of 1,366x768 pixels may be a little ho-hum, especially as many netbooks now manage to offer the same resolution on smaller screens, but what it loses in resolution it makes up for in its gloriously rich and vivid colour. That said, the screen's glossy coating is a little reflective, which can be distracting if you're using it indoors under bright lights.
For storage, Sony has kitted the laptop out with a fairly large 320GB hard drive, which will provide plenty of space for storing your applications and media files. The laptop also has a DVD writer, which you can use to burn your own DVDs and CDs, while the front lip is home to both Memory Stick and SD Card readers, which may come in handy when you want to transfer files from portable devices like cameras and mobile phones.
On the connectivity front, there's an Ethernet port as well as 801.11n Wi-Fi, but, sadly, Sony hasn't added Bluetooth to the mix. The range of ports on offer is also a little limited, as perhaps you would expect on a machine in this price range. There are four USB ports as well as HDMI and VGA sockets for hooking it up to an external display, but it lacks an eSata port and doesn't have an ExpressCard slot.
The Vaio has 3GB of RAM on board, which provides the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium with a decent amount of leg room. On the processor side, however, rather than relying on an Intel chip, it uses a dual-core AMD Athlon II P340 processor that's clocked at 2.20GHz. This managed to rack up a core of 3,968 in PCMark05, so it isn't the hottest performer around, but it will have enough grunt for most day-to-day tasks.
When it comes to graphics, the Vaio uses an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4200 solution, which is essentially AMD's equivalent of Intel's integrated GMA graphics. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's not all that impressive either, and managed to post a rather lowly score of just 1,929 in the 3DMark06 benchmark test. So if you're into gaming, this isn't a laptop that's going to appeal, although casual gamers will find it will cope with older, less demanding 3D titles.
Nevertheless, the EE3E0E put in a decent performance when it came to our Battery Eater test. It managed to keep running for an hour and 21 minutes, which is not bad by 15-inch laptop standards, especially as you're likely to get much longer battery life from it under real-world conditions.
The Sony Vaio VPCEE3E0E/WI is certainly no speed demon, as its relatively lacklustre PCMark05 performance shows, but it's a very stylish machine and has a great keyboard and good screen. If your computing needs don't extend much further than browsing the Web, watching a spot of iPlayer and sending a few emails, it's certainly worth a look. More demanding users, however, would be better served elsewhere.
Edited by Emma Bayly