Aimed at photography professionals, the VAIO VGN-AW31XY/Q is an exceptionally powerful laptop that offers great comfort and usability.
The 18.4-inch screen is the only panel in this group test not to feature a shiny Super- TFT coating. As a result, working in bright light is not an issue, as reflections are eliminated. The full HD 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution is exceptionally sharp and colour reproduction is excellent, thanks to the use of 3LED screen technology, which uses primary-coloured pixels for the best effect.
The large chassis is surprisingly light at 3.8kg. It also boasts excellent build quality thanks to its matt-black plastic, with both the screen hinge and large speaker grill built from aluminium. The palmrest is created from a soft rubber that Sony employs on its Alpha range of SLR cameras.
Sony's isolation-style keyboard is in evidence. Each key is cut through a hole in the chassis and it provides an excellent typing action.
Although not the fastest laptop at the high end, the Sony offers excellent performance for those looking to edit photos and video. A top-end Intel Core 2 Duo processor is in place, alongside an outstanding 8192MB of memory, so running very resource-intensive programs isn't an issue. There's also a powerful Nvidia graphics card included with 512MB of dedicated video memory, so editing HD footage is easy and the latest games also run smoothly.
To ensure maximum performance the laptop features a 500GB hard drive for storing all your data, and two faster 64GB SSDs (Solid State Drives) from which to run the operating system and all your software. This means that the processor can run the machine from the much faster SSDs and avoid having to access the slower rotational hard disks.
The integrated hybrid digital and analogue TV tuner is a nice touch. The bundled software is also excellent, with Adobe Photoshop Elements photo-editing software and Sony's VAIO entertainment tools included among others.
Connectivity is top of the range, with 802.11n Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet providing the fastest network connections currently available. There's also a host of card slots, including a CF card – a rarity on a laptop – which makes uploading photos from most digital SLR cameras quick and easy. VGA, HDMI, mini-FireWire and three USB ports round off the specification.
The Sony VAIO VGN-AW31XQ/Y is a fantastic multimedia machine and its great screen and performance are ideal for professional photo and video editing. Although expensive, its impressive level of quality is hard to ignore.
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