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Sony Vaio VGN-FS115B 'Sonoma' notebook
The latest technology - at a budget price
Review The Vaio VGN-FS115B is one of the first machines we've seen based on Intel's new 'Sonoma' platform. Intel launched Sonoma as the next generation Centrino standard back in January, and it brings with it some key advantages over the outgoing technology, writes Riyad Emeran.
The major advancement with Sonoma is PCI Express support, but you also get dual-channel DDR 2 memory, a 533MHz frontside bus, Serial-ATA support and a raft of new processors. The VGN-FS115B incorporates the new Sonoma technology, but sticks with the integrated Intel graphics, rather than going with a dedicated PCI Express-connected chip from Nvidia or ATI.
Inside the FS115B is a 1.6GHz Pentium M CPU and 512MB of DRAM - although Sony has decided to go with DDR rather than DDR 2 memory. Sony has made use of the dual-channel memory bus and installed two matched SODIMM modules. The downside is that you're left with no spare memory slots for future upgrades, although 512MB should be fine for most users of this type of notebook. If you do think that you'll need more memory, it's probably worth negotiating an upgrade at point of purchase.
There's a 60GB hard disk which provides a decent amount of storage space, although it only has a spindle speed of 4200rpm. If you do want to free up some space on your hard disk, you can offload some of your data using the integrated DVD writer. This drive will write to DVD+R DL, DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW and CD-R/RW discs.
It comes as no surprise that the FS115B looks great - after all, most Sony notebooks do. The FS115B may not be the smallest or lightest notebook in Sony's range, but it is still very slim. Opening the silver-grey lid reveals a 15.4in widescreen TFT display. It looks great, enhanced by the X-Black finish to produce a very bright and vibrant image. The resolution of 1280 x 800 isn't the highest I've seen on a 15.4in widescreen display, but it's still pretty good to work with. The widescreen aspect ratio and X-Black finish make the FS115B ideal for watching movies too, but playing the latest games is pretty much off the menu, thanks to the integrated Intel GMA 900 graphics core.
Below the screen you'll find two stereo speakers, which produce reasonable sound, but like most notebook speakers, they're nothing to write home about. Below the speakers are two programmable buttons and the power button.
The keyboard looks very flat and uninviting, but once you start typing on it you'll find that it has a lot of spring to it. There isn't quite as much travel as I've seen on other notebook keyboards, but at least each key feels individual and there's no keyboard flex. The touchpad is also a pretty good example, and mirrors the wide aspect ratio of the screen. Below the touchpad are two silver buttons, but no scroll button. However, the right side of the touchpad can be used to scroll up and down through long documents or web pages, despite the fact that there is no indication of this.
The right side of the chassis is stacked with features: there's the power socket, a D-SUB port, three USB 2.0 ports, and a four-pin Firewire port. There's also a single Type II PC Card slot, which has a spring-loaded flap to stop any dirt getting in there. Finally, there's a MemoryStick Pro card slot, complete with a sliding cover.
At the front are microphone and headphone sockets, along with a hardware switch for the integrated 802.11b/g wireless network adaptor. I always like to see a switch for Wi-Fi adaptors, since you don't want it running when you're not using it because it will drain the battery.
On the left is the DVD writer, the modem socket and an Ethernet port for the 10/100Mbps network adapter. And with the battery taking up most of the rear of the casing, that just about wraps everything up.