Sony VAIO CB Series (VPCCB15FG) laptop
Sony VAIO CB Series (VPCCB15FG) review: A colourful Sandy Bridge-based desktop replacement
- Good performance, comfortable to use, great screen, USB 3.0, good battery life
- Touchpad sometimes unresponsive, the available colours can make the laptop look quite ugly
If you can get over the audacious colours (and let's face it, you probably won't), the Sony VAIO CB Series (VPCCB15FG) is actually a very capable desktop replacement notebook with good speed and useful battery life. We hate its green, orange and pink colours, and think it should only be considered in black or white, but it's comfortable to use and has a great screen.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
When your eyes catch sight of Sony's latest desktop replacement-style Sony VAIO CB Series laptops, you'll probably go blind. The CB Series is the most colourful we've seen to date and it stands out like no-one's business. And we're not talking dull colours either: the CB Series is available in fluoro orange, green and pink (we saw the first two), which didn't get favourable responses from the people in our office who saw them. Thankfully, Sony hasn't gone completely mad and it is also offering more palatable white and black models.
Once you get over the colours of our review model (see the pictures), the Sony VAIO CB Series (VPCCB15FG) is one of the most competent desktop-replacement notebooks around. It's a 2.75kg, 15.6in laptop with a glossy Full HD screen (1920x1080 pixels) and it runs Intel's 2nd Generation Core i5 CPU. It's a fast laptop and it can be used for practically any computing task you throw its way, except for hardcore gaming.
Sony VAIO CB Series (VPCCB15FG): Specifications and performance
The notebook has a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M CPU, 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, a 7200rpm, 500GB hard drive, and dual graphics consisting of integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics and an AMD Radeon HD 6630M. The system switches between these two adapters automatically, depending on the load it detects, and sometimes a pop-up box appears asking you which adapter you would like to associate with a just-launched application. It did a good job at auto-switching in our tests: when we launched 3DMark06, it used the Radeon graphics to attain a score of 6446, and when we unplugged the unit and prepared it for our battery rundown test, it used the Intel HD graphics and lasted a respectable 2hr 30min.
In our performance benchmarks, the 2nd Generation Core i5-2410M CPU showed off its speed. It recorded times of 46sec and 55sec in the Blender 3D rendering and iTunes MP3 encodings tests, which are only 3sec and 5sec slower, respectively, than what the Sony VAIO SB Series notebook recorded in the same tests. The CB Series' comparatively fast CPU frequency allowed it to beat out the Dell XPS L501x in the MP3 encoding test, and it was only 3sec slower than the Dell in the Blender test, despite the latter system using a Core i7 CPU capable running eight threads simultaneously. In our video transcoding test, in which we use AutoGordianKnot to convert a DVD file into a 1.5GB Xvid file, the CB Series took 57min, which is exactly the same as the VAIO SB Series and only 6min slower than the Dell Latitude E5520.
Sony VAIO CB Series: User comfort and connectivity
We found the VAIO CB Series comfortable to type on; it has isolated keys that are easy to hit, and it also includes a number pad. The keyboard is backlit and it includes a sensor which can detect the ambient light in a room and enable or disable its backlight automatically. The screen also has an ambient light sensor, and it does a good job of adjusting the brightness of the screen depending on the amount of light it detects, making it comfortable to see the screen at all times. We did have some trouble with the touchpad on one of the models we tested (the orange one, if you must know): it was unresponsive a lot of the time, which made for a frustrating user experience. We had no such problems with the touchpad on the green model, but it's still a cause for concern.
Sony ships the CB Series with a rubber keyboard overlay that the backlight can shine through. We can only assume that it's supplied in order to make the keyboard spill-resistant, and not to improve its looks. It feels uncomfortable to type with the overlay present, as the keys will feel very rubbery, and it also adds even more colour to the laptop — the overlay is the same colour as the palm rest and without it the keyboard is black and looks much better. The screen is glossy and prone to reflecting room lights, but it's not as bad as many other laptops on the market, and the colours and brightness of the screen are excellent, making it suitable for photo and video work. The Full HD resolution of the screen allows you to easily sit two windows side by side, which we took advantage of when writing this review.
Connectivity in the CB Series is fairly standard for a modern laptop. You get four USB 2.0 ports (one of them is also a USB 3.0 port), VGA, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, an SD card slot, microphone and headphone ports, and there is also a built-in DVD burner and a webcam. A decent pair of speakers is built in to the base, just above the keyboard, but you will want to attach a good set of external speakers if you are serious about audio.
We're not fans of the orange, green and pink colours that Sony offers, but the black and white models are much friendlier to look at. We'd stick with those tried and true colours if we were to buy this notebook, which is definitely a very good desktop replacement. It offers good overall performance for office and multimedia tasks, it has good battery life for a notebook, and its screen is great.
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