What's so cool about this notebook is the fact that it's a great-looking Sony model with plenty of grunt, but it only costs $2499! For that price you get a powerful Pentium M 740 CPU, 512MB of DDR2 SDRAM and a discreet, NVIDIA GeForce Go 6200 graphics chip, which features TurboCache.

TurboCache is a technology that allows the graphics card to use up to 128MB of the main system RAM and combine it with its own on-board graphics memory to read and write graphics textures. You can see from the performance chart on page 82 of the October issue that this VAIO did indeed perform quite well compared to the other budget notebooks and it can be used for some low-level gaming, photo-editing and for giving vivid business presentations.

It's application performance score in PC Worldbench 5 was perhaps a little slower than what we had hoped the Pentium M 740 would achieve, it scored 75, but this is nevertheless a solid score and the VGN-FS25GP is definitely capable of running all of today's office applications without any hassle.

Its 15.4in widescreen will allow you to boost your productivity, too, by allowing you to comfortably view two screens at the same time, side by side. You can also watch DVDs in beautiful widescreen splendour. Adding to the comfort of this VAIO is the expansive keyboard, which has full-sized keys and an ample palm-rest area. Typing on this model an absolute pleasure and the touch-pad just below the keyboard proved to have excellent responsiveness during testing. It would be great to see a scroll function on this touch-pad in future budget models.

Even though it's a budget model, the VGN-FS25GP doesn't lack too many useful features. Apart from the aforementioned core specifications, it also comes stocked with a double-layer DVD burner, an 802.11b/g wireless network adapter and a 60GB hard drive. It has a 10/100 Ethernet port as well as a built-in modem and you can plug in up to three USB 2.0 devices and one FireWire device. Additionally, there is a VGA port, one concealed MemoryStick Pro slot, one PCMCIA slot and an interface for a port replicator, in case you need to use legacy ports.

Physically, the VGN-FS25GP is very sturdily constructed and weighs a fairly modest 2.7Kg. The hinges that hold the LCD screen are located right on the edge of the chassis, which serves a purpose - it gives the base of the notebook much more room for the keyboard (as previously mentioned) and other buttons as well as speakers. On this model there are two speakers just above the keyboard, which aren't really very good for listening to music with, and also two programmable application shortcut buttons.

A neat little feature we liked was the zoom function, which steps down the resolution of the screen (therefore making the fonts look bigger) when the combination Function (Fn) and F10 keys are pressed. Volume and brightness levels can also be affected by the Fn and function keys, of course, and there are eight available brightness steps for you to choose from.

The 8-cell Li-Ion battery on this model (which is rated at 4400mAh) resides on the rear edge of the base (there are no ports on the rear of the unit) and it should give you around two hours of continuous life independently of a power socket, assuming you implement a conservative power management scheme.

You can conserve further power by opting to turn off the wireless card when it's not needed - there is a convenient little switch for it located on the front panel of the base.

The hardware isn't the only impressive thing about this notebook, you also get some cool media management and viewing software - VAIO Zone - which can be set up to rip CDs and playback music, view photos and movies within an elegant-looking all-in-one interface.

One thing we don't like about this notebook is its BIOS, which has precious few settings to play with. Except for changing the boot order of your drives, there is really nothing there to tinker with. If you're not interested in that sort of thing anyway, then this should not bother you.

Verdict: All up, the VAIO VGN-FS25GP continues Sony's penchant for building good-looking, rigid and well-featured notebooks yet it doesn't come with a premium price tag. For only $2499, this model should be at the top of your shopping list if you've ever dreamed of owning a prestigious VAIO.


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Elias Plastiras
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