- Review Date: 07/01/11
- Bottom line:
The multiple wireless features put the Sony VAIO VPC-EH14FM/B over the top, compared to other laptops in the sub-$700 range. However, there are laptops out there with better performance numbers and similar features for slightly less.
Large 640GB hard drive. WiMAX and WiDi.
Slow hard drive. No eSATA or USB 3.0.
The Sony VAIO VPC-EH14FM/B ($659.99 list at Best Buy) is a budget laptop tricked-out with wireless features, like WiDi 2.0 (Wireless Display), which allows you to stream your laptop's contents onto your HDTV (provided you have the adapter), and WiMAX, which connects you via 3G or 4G to the internet similar to the way you connect your smartphone. There's no denying this laptop is a sweet deal, however, for just $30 less you can get a laptop with the same wireless features and better performance in the Editors' Choice Lenovo IdeaPad V570-1066A9U ($629.99 list, 4 stars).
The VAIO VPC-EH14FM/B has a plastic exterior and palm rest that's textured like the outside of the Epcot center. Its 15.6-inch frame weighs 5.21 pounds, and would be considered fairly light compared with other same-sized laptops like the Lenovo V570-1066A9U (5.47 pounds), HP Pavilion g6-1a69us ($629.99 direct, 4 stars) (5.5 pounds), and HP Pavilion dv6-6013cl ($649.99 list, 4.5 stars) (5.5 pounds). The VAIO VPC-EH14FM/B's weight still doesn't make it the ideal mobile device.
Its 15.6-inch screen offers a 1,366-by-768 (720p HD) resolution. While it may not be the True 1080p HD resolution some videophiles may be looking for, there are ways to connect to an external monitor or HDTV: HDMI, a wired solution, and WiDi 2.0, a wireless solution that streams your PC's content to your HDTV provided you have a Netgear Push2TV receiver ($99.99 list, 4 stars). Above the screen is a Webcam.
The full-size keyboard is in the chiclet-style and comes with a numeric keypad. The textured multi-touchpad offered up a smooth navigating experience with added functions like pinch-zoom and two-finger scrolling. The mouse buttons were a little stiff for my tastes, but these kinds of things are rather subjective.
The VAIO VPC-EH14FM/B offers up a wide range of connectivity options to get you online, including 802.11n Wi-Fi, WiMAX, and Ethernet jack. For external devices, Sony has outfitted the VAIO VPC-EH14FM/B with 3 USB 2.0 ports, SD card slot, ProDuo card slot, VGA, and audio jacks, . I was disappointed that there was no USB 3.0 or at least a USB/eSATA combo port, which would have allowed users to hook up faster external hard drives with compatible interfaces. You could utilize one of the USB 2.0 ports to do this, but the data transfer speeds won't be as fast as USB 3.0 (5Gbps) or eSATA (3Gbps).
There is 640GB of storage space on this drive, so unless you are an extreme digital downloader/ file hoarder it should suit the needs of almost any consumer. The drive does spin at a slower 5,400rpm than the 7,200rpm drives in other laptops, but the higher speed is still a purview of hard drives in higher-end (read: pricier) laptop.
Best Buy also has an extended warranty program, which offers customers an extra year of protection beyond the one-year warranty of most system manufacturers. There are two plans in this extended warranty program. The standard plan ($119.99) covers the system against normal wear and tear, power surge damage, and includes a "No Lemon" guarantee in which Best Buy will simply replace the computer if it requires more than 4 repairs during the coverage period. Best Buy's advanced plan ($219.99) offers all this, and also covers the laptop against accidental damage from drops and spills. Other special offers can be found online or in stores, like discounts on printers, software, and tech support plans which are available with any new consumer PC purchased through Best Buy.
The VAIO VPC-EH14FM/B comes equipped with a second-generation 2.1GHz Intel Core i3-2310M and 4GB of memory. On the multimedia tests, its scores were virtually identical to that of a similarly configured laptop, the HP dv6-6013cl. On Cinebench R11.5 the VPC- EH14FM/B scored 2.02, .02 points lower than the HP dv6-6013cl. The Photoshop CS5 benchmark test showed some divergence between the two: The VPC- EH14FM/B was able to go through 12 of our image filters in 5 minutes 35 seconds, whereas the HP dv6-6013cl did it in 5:48—not a huge difference in the real world.
The VPC-EH14FM/B may not have a discrete graphics chip, but its scores indicate it could have some value among more casual gamers. World of Warcraft enthusiasts and fans of light 3D games like Torchlight should be satisfied with what this laptop has to offer. Games like Crysis (10.5 frames per second on Medium setting, DirectX 10) and Lost Planet 2 (13.8fps on Medium settings, DX9), however, will be unplayable without a discrete chipset.
The laptop's 6-cell 44Wh battery lasted 4 hours 56 minutes on our MobileMark 2007 battery test. In comparison, the HP dv6-6013cl scored 5:17 with its similar 44Wh 6-cell battery If you're looking for longer battery life out of your laptop at a similar price point, then look at the Dell Vostro 3350 ($741 direct, 4 stars), with its 80WH battery 9:36.
The Sony VAIO VPC-EH14FM/B provides a lot of wireless features, including WiDi 2.0, WiMAX, and Wi-Fi, and performance numbers that are on par with the HP dv6-6013cl. But it can't compete with the Lenovo IdeaPad V570-1066A9U, our Editors' Choice for budget laptops. The Lenovo V570-1066A9U give you the same features (plus an eSATA port for fast external hard drives) with a better CPU for $30 less. However, if you don't need as much oomph out of your laptop the VPC-EH14FM/B will be a good companion for road warriors who don't want to sacrifice their screen size for the sake of ultra-portability.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS
Check out the test scores for the Lenovo IdeaPad V570-1066A9U