The quality of the VAIO VGN-FS115Z's design is mixed. We like the wide keyboard and the big, firm keys, but we found it noisy to type on. We also appreciate much of the keyboard layout, such as the Delete key in the easy-to-find upper-right corner. The size of the touch pad is adequate, though the mouse buttons are small. The keyboard sits lower than the wrist rest, which is a nice ergonomic touch; however, it also creates a gap between the closed lid and the keyboard that's big enough for a paper clip (or other laptop bag detritus) to slide through and nick the screen. The VAIO VGN-FS115Z has two programmable quick-launch buttons and a Wi-Fi on/off switch, but all of them are tiny.
Sony sells the VAIO VGN-FS115Z through local retail stores, various online resellers, over the phone and on its own shopping site. While in-store configurations are largely fixed, buying via phone or the Web gives you the opportunity to pick and choose from a variety of components.
The VAIO VGN-FS115Z model we tested offers decent components. There's a new 1.73GHz Sonoma Pentium M CPU; 1GB of slowish 333MHz memory (the basic package offers 512MB -- doubling it costs an additional £170); an absolutely huge, 100GB hard drive spinning at a sluggish 4,200rpm; a double-layer, multiformat DVD burner; and a lower-end Intel 915GM chipset with an integrated GME 900 graphics engine that borrows up to 128MB of video memory from the main RAM.
The VAIO VGN-FS115Z's very bright, 15.4-inch wide-aspect display features an average 1,280x800 native resolution; its reflective covering gives colours vibrancy but is annoyingly reflective. We also noticed some uneven backlighting along the bottom edge of the display. Our test unit included an Intel Pro Wireless 802.11b/g Wi-Fi card.
The VAIO VGN-FS115Z offers a decent array of ports and slots. You get one four-pin, unpowered FireWire and three USB 2.0 ports. There's a VGA connection for hooking up to an external monitor and one headphone and one microphone jack. For getting online, there's both Ethernet and 56Kbps modem ports. A docking port on the bottom lets you connect to an optional port replicator.
The FS series also sports two slots, one for a Type II PC Card, the other for Sony's Memory Stick flash-media cards (which would be more convenient if it supported other, more common types of flash media, such as SD). On top of Windows XP Home, our VAIO VGN-FS115Z test unit came preloaded with a tonne of software, including the pared-down Microsoft Works 8.0 productivity suite, as well as a slew of multimedia apps, including PictureGear Studio for photo editing, SonicStage for organising your tunes, and DVGate Plus for video editing.
Slower components, particularly the RAM and the hard drive, took their toll on the VAIO VGN-FS115Z's performance in our benchmark testing. Even though it had the most memory of the machines in our test group, it trailed behind other comparable 1.7GHz Pentium M laptops, such as the Dell Inspiron 6000 and the Gateway M460; the VAIO VGN-FS115Z could not even keep up with Sony's smaller VAIO VGN-S260. The VAIO VGN-FS115Z turned in an adequate score in our battery-drain testing, clocking 218 minutes -- better than the Gateway but far short of the Inspiron 6000's 320 minutes.
||BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating|
||BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes|
Dell Inspiron 6000
Windows XP Pro; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M 730; 512MB DDR2 PC3200 SDRAM 400MHz; Intel 915GM Graphics Media Accelerator 128MB; Hitachi Travelstar 40GNX 40GB 5,400rpm
Windows XP Home; 2.13GHz Intel Pentium M 765; 512MB 533MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon X600 128MB; Fujitsu MHT2080AH 80GB 5,400rpm
Sony VAIO VGN-S260
Windows XP Home; 1.7GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 32MB; Toshiba MK6025GAS 60GB 4,200rpm
Sony VAIO VGN-FS115Z
Windows XP Home; 1.73GHz Intel Pentium M 740; 1GB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Intel 915GM/GMS 910GML Express 128MB; Fujitsu MHU2100AT 100GB 4,200rpm
Edited by Justin Jaffe
Additional editing by Nick Hide