Sony VAIO VGO-LA38G
- New form factor, good speakers, half-screen display with Sony soundFLOW player.
- Small keyboard, poor viewing angles on the screen.
The Sony VAIO VGO-LA38G is a welcome change of form factor which retains its mobility while also being a mobile, stylish and functional addition to the household.
Price$ 2,799.00 (AUD)
The Sony VAIO VGO-LA38G, part of the VAIO L series, uses a unique form factor that Sony calls the "Panel PC". Sony has always been known for innovative style, which is why it's no surprise to see the VAIO label on this chic notebook. We were impressed by every facet of the design, especially the transparent frame, flip-up keyboard and half-screen display (with Sony soundFLOW music player).
The L series sits somewhere between a desktop replacement notebook and desktop PC. Built using notebook components, such as a Core 2 Duo T5600 1.83GHz CPU, a 120GB (5400rpm) notebook hard drive, a GeForce Go 7400 graphics card and a notebook battery (for mobile use), the L series offers a light, portable alternative to a desktop without conforming to the standard notebook chassis design.
When the AC power is disconnected, the VAIO L series seamlessly switches to the battery just as any other notebook would, so changing rooms in the middle of a task is quick and easy. A handle mounted at the top rear of the unit means it can be easily carried with one hand.
One of the best features of this Panel PC is the half screen display, which instantly turns on when the keyboard flips up. Initially the screen displays the time and a calendar showing the current date. However, positioned down the side of the keyboard (and parallel to the screen when in the half-screen mode) are a set of basic media controls. Hit play and any music that's loaded into the Sony soundFLOW software will start to play. When music is playing, the track details join the clock and calendar on-screen as well as an animated equaliser (depending on which soundFLOW background you've selected). A number of backgrounds can be chosen from and more can be manually added.
The soundFLOW software is fairly simplistic in itself, offering nothing more than skip, play, stop and volume controls as well as a basic filter by artist and album (albums also include playlists). Playing CDs requires nothing more than the disc to be inserted into the slot-drive DVD re-writer on the side. However, soundFLOW can't create playlists or add albums from sources other than CD without the help of the Sony SonicStage application, which comes installed. If you wish, you can use any audio player software as your default application, but we found that they don't transition as smoothly when the keyboard was closed. Using the SonicStage software was simple enough and once our albums were imported they were accessible within soundFLOW.
The speakers produce a good, clear sound and are loud enough for music and movies within a reasonable distance, although they would benefit from the addition of a sub-woofer. The 15.4in widescreen LCD has a native resolution of 1280x800 pixels and has good brightness and contrast, but a very shallow viewing angle. From vertical positions it's difficult to see and has terrible colour inversion from side angles, making the image look like a photo negative. This is disappointing as when using this type of PC as you may not always be sitting directly in front of it.
Overall, the system performed well enough during our tests, though it is far from being the most powerful mobile solution available. It was a little slow in our MP3 encoding test, where we encode 53minutes of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files, which took three minutes and three seconds. This is a little below what we would expect considering the specifications. We encoded a full CD using SonicStage, which took four minutes and 5 seconds. With the 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo CPU and 1GB of DDR2 RAM it will have no problems running the most commonly used software on the market and doing everyday computing tasks. The GeForce Go 7400 graphics card allows this system to run Windows Vista's Aero interface and also gives the system enough graphics power to play some newer games, albeit at lower settings. Older games will run with ease as indicated by the 3DMark 2001 SE score of 9421.
As a worst-case scenario battery test, we played a DVD on a looping repeat. Using a notebook in this manner gives an excellent indication of the battery life under trying conditions as the optical drive and the speakers consume more power than the processor and other core components alone. Despite the larger speakers on this unit, which consume more power than regular notebook speakers, the L series ran the DVD for 91 minutes. This is just short of an average feature film, but the volume is loud enough to comfortably sit back and watch from a distance, something most notebooks can't offer.
The flip-down keyboard is slightly smaller than your average notebook keyboard, so using it feels a little cramped and it may not be ideal for writing long documents on a regular basis. We would have liked it to be detachable, but it's fixed at the hinge. While the keyboard has a built-in touchpad, the four USB 2.0 ports allow for an external mouse to be used or a larger keyboard if you wish. There's also FireWire to connect a camcorder, a media card reader for MediaGate, SD and MS media cards, plus a PC Card slot (type I/II) and Express card slot for any additional devices. For networking, the unit has a 10/100 LAN Ethernet connection and 56k modem, but the WiFi 802.11 b/g will be the most useful connection option for this type of PC. Finally, a 1.3 Megapixel camera sits in the clear bezel above the screen for basic webcam needs.
The bulk of the PC is mounted flat against the back of the screen and is barely noticeable. An adjustable stand on the rear allows you to tilt the screen to the desired angle and the keyboard folds out at the same angle regardless of the position of the PC.
Join the PC World newsletter!
Linksys AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit router
Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive
Samsung portable 1TB T3 drive
Everki ContemPRO Roll Top Laptop Backpack
Epson WorkForce ET-4550
Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop
Epson EcoTank Expression ET-2500
Smart LED Bulb LB130
3SIXT Ultra HD Sports Action Camera
Huawei Mate 9
Epson WorkForce DS-360W
Acer Swift 7
Lexar® Portable SSD
Logitech G403 Prodigy mouse
Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive
Belkin MIXIT Metallic Lightning to USB Cable
Google Daydream VR headset
Blade 28 backpack by Arc’teryx
HP Pavilion x360 13”
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones
Garmin Fenix Chronos smartwatch
Dell Inspiron 5000 series 2-in-1
Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive
HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450
Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards
Surface Pro 4
Dell XPS 13 laptop
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Oppo R9s Plus phone: Full, in-depth review
- 2 Samsung 2017 QLED Q7 TV: Full, in-depth review
- 3 HTC U Ultra phone full, in-depth review
- 4 Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming 5 AMD Ryzen AM4 motherboard review
- 5 Venom Blackbook Zero 14 laptop review
Latest News Articles
- More iPad screen sizes unlikely to stop slump
- Android struggling in tablets as Windows 10 2-in-1s come on strong
- Samsung unveils Galaxy Book, a Windows 10 tablet aimed at the Surface-curious
- Everything we think we know about Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3
- Lenovo's ThinkPad P71 will work with HTC, Oculus VR headsets
PCW Evaluation Team
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
- LG G6: unboxing, hands on review and detail shots
- Samsung Galaxy A5 2017: unboxing, hands on review and detail shots
- And the 2017 winner of the Formula 1 Best Pit Lane Boom Gantry is...
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
- FTSocial Media ExecutiveNSW
- CCApplication Support Specialist- Bathurst or Port MacquarieNSW
- FTProject Manager - Finance BackgroundQLD
- FTICT ManagerNSW
- FTInfrastructure ArchitectWA
- FTEnterprise Solution ArchitectNSW
- FTICT Change AnalystSA
- FTJunior-Mid Level Implementation CoordinatorQLD
- CCInfrastructure Test Lead - Contract 6-8 wks initially - IT Services - North RydeNSW
- FTSenior Android DeveloperNSW
- FTSolution ArchitectVIC
- CCInfosphere ConsultantACT
- FTRelease Coordinator - Project ManagementQLD
- FTSecurity Lead / ConsultantNSW
- FTSenior Java DeveloperQLD
- FTWEB DesignerQLD
- CCOrganisational Change LeadNSW
- FTField Hardware Deployment EngineerNSW
- TPSystems ManagerQLD
- CCLead SAP SRM DeveloperACT
- FTSenior Applications Support AnalystSA
- TPSalesforce Functional AnalystNSW
- CCSenior Project ManagerNSW
- FTSenior Java Developers (Several positions available)QLD
- FTIT Project Manager. Ciritical permanent roleNSW