Sony's VAIO brand has consistently turned out gorgeous-looking laptops and the VPCEB3J0E/WI is no exception.

The design and usability are excellent and the reasonable price is great for a starter laptop that all the family can use. However, average storage space and poor battery life mean travelling users might want to look elsewhere.

Lifting the solid silver lid reveals a stylish white chassis complete with a palmrest sprinkled faintly with glitter. It won't appeal to everyone, but we rather liked it.

The chassis feels sturdy and durable but, at 2.72Kg, is one of the heavier machines around.

Sony

Solid keyboard

The isolation-style keyboard that spreads across the chassis and is one of the best features of the laptop. The keys are solid and comfortable and will score points for anyone facing countless hours typing at their machines. Their size and space mean you rarely encounter a miss-hit, and a dedicated numeric keypad is also included.

The textured touchpad supports multi-touch gesturing and the three traditional VAIO hotkeys offer quick access to your multimedia collection, the internet and Sony's own troubleshooting database.

The 15.5-inch screen has a Super-TFT coating that gives movies a clean and crisp look, but causes annoying reflections in bright environments.

We've always found the VAIO range to be great for multimedia and the vibrant colours are backed up with punchy audio from the speakers. Under the hood, the VAIO packs an Intel Core i3 370M processor and is more than a match for everyday applications.

Multitasking, web browsing and multimedia software can all be handled comfortably and the 4GB of on-board RAM keeps things running smoothly. But the lack of a dedicated graphics card will temper any expectations of hard-core gaming or top-end photography editing.

tech labs

Benchmarks

Battery life: 176 minutes
MobileMark 2007: 237
3DMark 2003: 3502

The 320GB hard drive should be ample storage for most users. Connectivity is taken care of with an 802.11n wireless connection, as well as Bluetooth. Wired ports include HDMI and VGA Out ports, three dedicated USB 2.0 connections and an eSata port doubling as a fourth USB.

On looks and usability alone, not to mention the price, the Sony VAIO VPCEB3J0E/WI is a great choice for a family laptop to handle everyday typing and multimedia tasks. Even though the battery life is below average, we would still recommend the VAIO to any beginner looking to combine great performance with that extra touch of style.

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