Glance at the benchmark results and you'll see the big problem with the Sony VAIO VPC-F21Z1E: 3D. The numbers don't lie: the GeForce 540GT just doesn't have the brawn to handle stereoscopic 3D work. In games it doesn't quite cut the frame rate in half as it did with 3DMark, but 3D is certainly a detriment to quality. Frame rates drop significantly, anti-aliasing switches off and, honestly, you start noticing the edges. It's not the quality experience we were hoping it would be.
Blu-ray movies are great, of course, but again we felt underwhelmed by their fancy 3D effects, no matter where we put the software 3D slider. At its recommended point, the depth was shallow and almost felt pointless. Meanwhile, higher up the scale our brains took over, which made the 3D image on the Sony VAIO VPC-F21Z1E quite difficult to look at, even with the shuttered 3D goggles.
Switch off the stereoscopic view and things get significantly better. The 540GT can handle itself, even if it's not the highest end card. You're unlikely to be too disappointed by the combination of CPU, GPU and RAM on offer, and the screen has an impressive dot pitch.
It does get a bit fine and fiddly for desktop use, but you can tweak Windows' settings to get past this if it's an issue.
Desktop performance is predictably unfaultable. The Sony VAIO VPC-F21Z1E is a machine that stands up to every mundane task without even the tiniest complaint, and it will stand up for a long time.
The real issue isn't with its ability to handle everyday use – that's something a low-end Core i3 can manage without much trouble – but with its inability to act like a £1500+ notebook.
The Sony VAIO VPC-F21Z1E's many slick features – the environment-sensitive backlight on the full-size keyboard, the pair of USB 3.0 ports, the touch-sensitive media playback buttons, for example – are very nice, but not over-£1500 nice. We feel like we're being ungrateful (this is a very first-world review, certainly) but that's a lot of money to spend on something that might leave you cold.
It won't leave your legs cold, mind; dial it up and the Sony VAIO VPC-F21Z1E could fry an egg on its underside (figuratively, at least), and it has the desktop-esque fan noise to match.