We approach budget laptops from Sony with caution. The Japanese giant may have produced some of the most desirable high-end machines out there, but its budget offerings have always been a mixed bag. Thankfully, using the Sony VAIO VPCEH2F1E is a reassuring experience.
The keyboard and screen are both fantastic, and although the power tucked inside isn't mind-blowing, it's certainly enough for the vast majority of us.
When it comes to appearance, the E Series is the ugly duckling of the VAIO family. It goes for the traditional all-black look (or white, pink or blue), but tries to mix it up with a textured triangle design that overlays the plastic. Questionable design aside, the chassis does feel remarkably firm and we couldn't find any flex around the usual weak spots, such as above the DVD drive or around the screen hinges.
The E Series models aren't exactly light at 2.4kg, but you'll easily be able to put this laptop in a backpack and carry it around for a day.
The highlight of the E Series is definitely the firm, isolation-style keyboard. Even though this is a budget machine, Sony has installed highly usable keyboard that is a typist's dream. There's a great deal of space between the keys, as well as a dedicated numeric keypad and the three Assist, Web and VAIO hotkeys that Sony puts on all its models.
Typing is particularly easy: the keys have a solid weight to them, and the added space means there's no chance of a miss-hit. If we had to gripe, we'd say that the slightly raised keys could fall victim to dust, crumbs and other debris spilt over the chassis and that the touchpad is too small.
This laptop's screen is also worth touching on. It's reasonably bright, and pictures came out clear and detailed – if a little whiter than others with darker displays. What we did like is that the screen runs almost to the edge of the lid, giving you the impression you're looking at a screen larger than 15.6 inches.
It has to be said that you won't be loading up the latest games, mixing high-definition video or doing a lot of visual programming on the VPCEH2F1E. However, the Core i3 processor is still a second-generation model and, as such, will allow you to multitask with different programs and easily handle less-intensive tasks, like audio mixing or basic programming.
Battery Eater '05: 173 minutes
3DMark 2006: 3504
The keyboard will find favour with writers and the screen and speakers make watching movies a pleasant experience.
If, after a year or so you decide to boost this E Series model with an extra monitor, or a better keyboard or more storage, you can do so thanks to the number of connections available. Connectivity includes four USB ports, HDMI, VGA and Ethernet connections, as well as an SD Card slot and a Pro Duo slot.
Additionally, Sony has built-in 802.11n wireless and Bluetooth. While using the VPCEH2F1E heavily, we noted that it stayed both cool and quiet and that the battery gave us an average 173 minute life.
It's not hard to recommend the VPCEH2F1E as a good deal. It gets so many of the fundamentals right without feeling the need to shunt in excess power which adversely affects both battery life and price.
It's good to see a Sony VAIO laptop that the average person can afford and we have to say that, even if it's not especially pretty, the this E Series laptop certainly gets the job done.
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