Sony's comprehensive VAIO range covers a spectrum of laptop designs. The Sony VAIO VGN-FS315Z aims to combine multimedia power with mobile freedom.

While many multimedia laptops use 17- inch chassis designs to pack in all home-entertainment features, the FS315Z instead opts for the use of an external docking station. The chassis weighs 2.8kg.

Via the docking station, users can connect a VHF/UHF antenna for receiving analogue TV signals, as well as synchronise the laptop to external audio equipment via both optical and analogue audio outs. For simpler audio output, a pair of external stereo speakers is also included.

Providing power for its multimedia aims is an Intel Pentium M 740 processor running at 1.73GHz. Combined with 1024MB of DDR2 memory, the Sony is well specified. A high-capacity 120GB hard drive is also in place, but its slow 4200rpm rotational speed hinders performance.

While sufficient for basic multimedia use, high-powered video and audio editing tasks will be impractical on the VAIO. A battery life of just 150 minutes under test also placed the Sony at the bottom of the table.

Less pleasing still is its graphics performance. Sourcing graphics from a dedicated nVidia GeForce Go 6400 chip, performance is intended for basic multimedia use. With a score of just 2753 points from 3DMark 2003 tests, this means that modern 3D gaming will only be possible at the lowest screen resolutions, if at all.

However, all compatible media options can be viewed in luxury via the impressive 15.4-inch Super-TFT screen. Using Sony's X-Black screen technology, images are clearly displayed at a WXGA resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels with vibrancy and clarity.

Usability is just as pleasing, with the user interface of the VAIO containing no notable flaws. All keys on the keyboard are strong yet responsive, and the inclusion of a wide touchpad that mirrors the screen's 16:9 aspect ratio further aids usability.

For creating DVD and CD discs, a dual-format DVD optical drive is in place on the left-side of the chassis. High-speed wireless networks can be configured using the internal 802.11b/g Wi-Fi card, but fixed networks are limited to the slower 10/100 Base-T, rather than Gigabit, speed.

The limited ability of the Sony VAIO VGNFS315Z makes it a tough sell as an all-in-one multimedia solution. However, for consumers seeking a functional home-entertainment laptop with mobility for short journeys, the Sony may be worth a test run.