Sony rarely compromises on build quality or the chic aesthetics of its portfolio, one reason the snappily-named Sony VPC-EJ3D1E lands at 800 euros ($1015), while notebooks featuring similar specs can be had cheaper elsewhere. As well as its classy design and decent internals, the Vaio EJ3D even squeezes in a BluRay drive. Sony’s online store offers various config tweaks; plonk a weedy Pentium chip inside with a bit less RAM, and settle for a DVD writer instead of the BluRay, and the price falls to 500 euros ($630).
The price of Sony EJ3D pitches it against the Packard Bell EasyNote LS11, HP Pavilion G7 or possibly Samsung series 3 notebook we reviewed recently. The white case stands out from the competition, especially the honeycomb texture on the wrist rest and lid, and everything feels durable. The EJ3D weighs 3.1kg, locating it firmly in the desktop replacement class. It’s accordingly sturdily built; very little flex anywhere, and the usual impeccable Sony workmanship – flush surfaces, well-fitting joints, etc. The hinges are fantastically stiff. Yep, you’ll need two hands to open the Vaio EJ3D, but you won’t find any lid teeter when adjusting the lid or accidentally knocking the table.
The 17.3-inch 1600 x 900 pixel display is offered only in glossy finish for multimedia enjoyment, giving 196 nits of brightness. The Packard Bell LS11 takes the spoils here, with 243 candelas, but the Vaio EJ35′s brightness is fine for indoor or outdoor use, as long as annoying reflections are avoided outside. However a very high black level of 1.14 nits brings the contrast ratio in at a weak 171:1. That means grayish blacks, most visible in dark movie sequences, though most users won’t notice this failing since images and movies look vibrant and sharp.
The 17-inch shell allows for a full-sized island-style keyboard and dedicated numberpad, and the lightly textured keys give an excellent typing experience – precise feedback, goodish travel, top-class text entry. The touchpad’s textured surface is similarly first-rate – accurate with good glide. Perhaps a bit small at 80mm x 50mm.
When it comes to connectivity options the EJ3D is found wanting – a quartet of USB-2 ports and no USB-3 capability is a bit of an outrage nowadays on anything other than a budget notebook. There are VGA and HDMI connectors, 2-in-1 SD card reader, and an SD card reader, as well as audio sockets, Ethernet jack, Kensington lock.
The Atheros AR9285 wireless module features one each of tansmit antenna and receive antenna, meaning transfer is limited to 150Mbps, whereas some other notebooks in this price range install double-antennae which gives them a better 300Mbps connection, but the biggest black mark against the Vaio EJ3D is the lack of 5GHz band support. Bluetooth 3 HS is present for syncing with smartphones or other gadgets like headsets or mice. Video-calling quality with the 0.3MP VGA webcam is poor; contrast, color, focus – all sub-standard for an 800-euro laptop. Microphone performs acceptably though.
Under the hood is a trusty Sandy Bridge hyper-threaded dual-core i5-2450M CPU clocked at 2.5GHz, serving up levels of performance which should suffice all but the most demanding users – video editors, graphical artists. Multi-tabbed browsing, multi-tasking, office suites – all light work for the Sony Vaio EJ3D , and the entry-level GeForce 410M helps out with the polygon-crunching in graphical apps. The 8GB RAM is a healthy amount of memory to have waiting in the wings, and the 5400rpm 750GB hard drive gives decent transfer speeds of 72MB/s.
Windows 7 Home Premium boots in around 35 seconds. There’s the occasional lag when launching biggish programs, but otherwise the EJ3D is a snappy performer. Demanding current games are only playable at the lowest settings and 1024 x 768 resolution, though football fans will be glad to hear Fifa 12 plays at max settings at 1600 x 900 res. Optimus switching technology means the NVidia graphics card is constantly sipping battery juice so the EJ3D only manages 2 hrs 27 minsx of moderate use.
The Sony Vaio EJ3D slightly trails the pack in performance and display quality and the lack of USB-3 means a few extra seconds shifting files to and from USB sticks, but keyboard and mouse are both excellent and its appearance means the EJ3D will appeal to many.
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