Sony has a different VAIO range for each type of user, but has always valued solid multimedia performance and good looks for all its laptops.

Curiously, though, the Sony VAIO VPCEEL1E1E (E Series) didn't produce the usual spark of excitement for us. By shunning an Intel processor and instead opting for an AMD E-350 Vision CPU, Sony has kept the cost down. And while there's no dedicated graphics card, AMD's Vision brand of CPUs includes the integrated graphics chips in the form of the Radeon series.

The VAIO has an integrated Radeon HD 6310 that will handle some pretty demanding programs. We got a respectable score of 5651 from our 3D benchmark program, and were impressed when we loaded up some high definition (HD) video.

Tech Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater '05: 177 minutes
Cinebench: 1237
3DMark 2006: 5651

The screen is well suited to watching movies or light gaming, thanks to the Super-TFT coating that gives it that distinctive reflective sheen. The native 1366 x 768 pixel resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio are standard nowadays for comfortable movie watching without the letterbox black boxes at the top and bottom of the screen. We also found we could get good viewing angles from the screen.

Good usability

When it comes work, you'll find the usability is pretty decent. The touchpad has a textured coating which makes it comfortable to use and stops you slipping or brushing it accidentally. It is responsive and both the left and right-click buttons are chunky and feel solid.

The same can be said of the full-sized keyboard, which is designed with Sony's favoured isolation-style keys and gives you plenty of space, so you won't end up hitting the wrong button when typing at speed. There's a dedicated numeric keypad added in, as well as Sony's now standard VAIO, ASSIST and WEB hotkeys.

The chassis is sturdy, apart from the lid, which flexed quite badly when we pressed on it. The black embossed design unfortunately does little to stand out from the crowd.

Connectivity is standard fare, with four USB 2.0 ports, VGA and HDMI sockets for connecting to an external monitor, and an Ethernet cable for hardwired internet access – something you might not need, because the VAIO is equipped with 802.11n wireless capability.

Admittedly, we are so used to seeing Sony turn out brilliant high-end laptops, that when it produces a simple mid-level machine (at a reasonable price) we are left feeling somewhat underwhelmed.

There are a number of positives to take away from the laptop, however, particularly if you plan to watch a lot of HD video from services such as the BBC iPlayer, or if you want to use your machine for working at home. The keyboard is up to Sony's usual high standard and will benefit students or writers.

All in all, this is a good, if unremarkable, mid-level laptop from Sony, especially if you value the VAIO brand.

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