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Sony Vayo PCG-GRX570 Notebook Review



"The ultimate notebook for business or pleasure" is the way the company positions this model. Well, the Intel Pentium 4-m processor, ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 graphics adapter and a large 16.1" screen make everyone treat this model with respect. And I hope the expectations will come out true.

Technical characteristics of the Sony Vayo PCG-GRX570 (specification)

  • Processor - Mobile Intel(R) Pentium(R) 4 1.60GHz-M with Intel® Enhanced SpeedStep(TM) technology supported
  • Chipset - Intel mobile 845MP(400 MHz FSB)
  • 512 MBytes DDR SDRAM (256x2)
  • 16.1" UXGA (1600x1200) TFT display
  • Video system - 4X AGP enabled ATI MOBILITY(TM) RADEON(TM) 7500 32 MBytes VRAM (128-bit DDR SDRAM), Dual display support
  • Audio system - Windows® sound system compatible with 3D surround, built-in speakers
  • PC Cards slot - 2 x Type I/II or 1 x Type III into a PC connector (32-bit CardBus port supported)
  • Hard Drive - removable 40 GBytes
  • External USB 1.44 MBytes Floppy Drive (optional)
  • Internal removable DVD/CD-RW combo drive (R-write 16x; RW-write 10x; DVD-read 12x; CD-read 24x)
  • V.90 integrated modem and 10/100 Mbit network card
  • I/O ports:
    • 1 x parallel
    • 1 x i.LINK® (IEEE 1394)
    • 1 x telephone network connector
    • 1 x LAN connector
    • 1 x external monitor connector
    • 3 x USB
    • 1 x S-video
    • 1 x line-in for microphone
    • 1 x headphones out
    • 1 x Memory Stick® media slot
    • 1 x port-replicator connector

  • Port-replicator (optional, absent in the tested model)
    • DC in
    • PS/2® keyboard and mouse
    • 2 USB
    • serial port
    • parallel port
    • external monitor output
    • S-video output
    • RJ-45 connector
    • line-in
    • docking CN
    • NTSC video out

  • Dimensions and weight
    • 1.6-1.8" (4-4.6 cm) X 14" (35.5 cm) X 11.5" (29.2 cm)
    • 8.0 lbs (3.65 kg) with battery, 8.4 lbs (3.81 kg) with battery and combo-drive

  • Power subsystem
    • Li-Ion batteries, 4000 mAh 14.8V
    • 2.5-3.5 with one battery, 5.0-6.5 with two batteries
    • 16V 80W 100240V AC adapter

  • Optional Accessories (number according to the catalogue)
    • Port replicator (PCGA-PRGX1)
    • External USB floppy drive (PCGA-UFD5)
    • Additional battery (PCGA-BP2NX)
    • USB mouse (PCGA-UMS1/A)
    • Carrying case (PCGA-CCGX)
    • Additional AC adapter (TBD)
    • 2.4 GHz Wireless LAN access point (PCWA-A200)
    • 2.4 GHz Wireless LAN PC card (PCWA-C100)
    • 5 GHz wireless LAN access point (PCWA-A500)
    • 5 GHz wireless LAN PC card (PCWA-C500)

Preinstalled software:

  • Operating system
    • Microsoft® Windows® XP Home Edition

  • Home and Business Software
    • Quicken® 2002 New User Edition
    • Microsoft® Word 2002

  • Movie and TV Software
    • Adobe Premiere® LE
    • Sony DVgate(TM)
    • Sony MovieShaker(TM)
    • Sony Pico Player(TM)
    • InterVideo WinDVD(TM) 2000

  • Music Software
    • Sony SonicStage(TM)
    • Screenblast(TM) Acid(TM)
    • Screenblast(TM) Sound Forge®

  • Photo Software
    • Adobe Photoshop Elements
    • Arcsoft PhotoPrinter® 2000 Pro
    • Sony DigitalPrint
    • Sony PictureGear(TM)
    • Sony Smart Capture

  • Online Center
    • America Online®
    • RealNetworks® Real Entertainment Suite
    • Sony EverQuest

  • Virus, Tools, and Support Software
    • Skydesk Smartclone(TM)
    • Trend Micro PC-Cillin®
    • VAIO Support Agent

As you can see, the software bundle is huge. We tested an American version of this notebook, that is why the software is wholly in English.

What's in package:

  • notebook
  • power unit with cable
  • telephone cable
  • warranty card
  • user manual (printed version)
  • 3 CDs with software - System Restore, Application Restore, Driver Restore

First impressions

The notebook is not just beautiful - it looks elegant. And although it is quite big, it doesn't look like a brick.

The quality of design is strikingly pleasant; all connectors have spring covers which are soft inside.

The main connectors are, as usual, on the rear panel.

  • fan vent
  • power source connector
  • network cable connector
  • external monitor output
  • parallel port
  • USB connector
  • video-out
  • telephone line connector covered with a rubber lid

Left:

  • Kensington lock connector
  • USB connector
  • i.LINK® (IEEE 1394) (both are covered)
  • Memory Stick® media slot - over them
  • PC card connectors
  • DVD/CD-RW combo drive

Right:

  • battery compartment cover
  • HDD bay cover (sealed)
  • fan vent
  • audio-connectors (left to right: headphones out, mic-in, USB)
  • PS/2 connector
  • 2 USB ports

There are 3 clear zones of connectors: those for audio devices are located on the right, for multimedia devices are on the left, and the rest are behind.

Ergonomics and operation

Well, the dimensions are impressive... As well as the weight. And taking into account the power unit which is not light either (1.4 pound, or 0.63 kg), it's better to carry this monster only to the car and back. By the way, the voltage indicated on the on the power unit is 19.5V, and not 16 as written in the specification. The output current strength, also indicated here, is 5.13A, which gives us 100 W. It is quite much...

Let's open the lid... What's this?

The first idea that struck me was that this was some kind of a scrolling of the touchpad. But what for, then, the back button? It turned out that this is a Center Jog Dial(TM), that is why we will look at it closer a bit later.

Such dimensions allowed for full-size keys (19.5mm). I really liked to work with the keyboard. When you press a key you can hear a typical click. The keys are neither too soft, nor too hard to press. According to the company, the keyboard's mechanism is made of stainless steel for better control and less noise. However, other people who tried the keyboard said it was too noisy.

The LEDs of the operating modes are located below on the right, while the lock indicators are next to the power button. In this model the problem of quick startup of applications is solved differently. The speakers are integrated into the lid, under the display. I think, this is an ideal place.

The touchpad is standard, there is nothing more I can say about it... The legs are made of rubber, that is why it won't slide if the surface is a bit inclined.

Of course, both the processor and the video adapter need cooling. This problem is solved by installation of two separate fans.

The noise level is acceptable even during booting, when both fans work. They stop in about 3 seconds, and after that start working only when necessary.

Now I want to draw your attention to some disadvantages. The tray button of the DVD/CD-RW drive is recessed, but the activity indicator juts out. That is why I often tried to press exactly this indicator. What is unclear for me is lack of an IR port, especially considering that a wireless network is offered only as an option in the form of a expansion PC card. Sometimes one needs a means of wireless connection with a phone or a printer.

The rich software bundle which is listed above can be accessed via the Center Jog Dial(TM). The programs are grouped in the multi-level menu. You should turn this wheel to move between the menu items and press it to choose the one you need. The back button will bring you back to the upper level. This system has wide capabilities, and taking into account that it's possible to adjust it, it becomes beyond any comparison with hot keys. The system recovery technique is handy. Whether you need to return to the preinstalled configuration, restore the preinstalled software or just install drivers on your OS (I mean Windows XP that you installed) - you should just insert the respective disc and start it up.

Warranty and service

The warranty period is one year.

Site

I have found two english language sites that provide information on this model. The first one is the Sony's site at http://www.sonystyle.com/vaio/grx/index.shtml, and the second concerns only the Vaio notebooks - http://www.sonystyle.com/vaio/grx/index.shtml. The information is almost the same, and I failed to find a user manual or a driver base. But there is an online shop :)

Modernization

Everything that can be modernized is sealed, that is why until the end of the warranty period you should make all changes only in the service center. After that you can change both the hard drive and the processor.

Estimation

Max. scores Our marks
Accessories 25 23
Appearance and ergonomics 25 25
Convenient handling 25 24
User support 25 20

Total: 92 scores.

We lowered the scores for

"-2" - lack of an IR port.

"-1" - design of the combo drive (subjective).

"-5" - lack of drivers and a user manual on the site.

Tests

As almost all notebooks come today with the preinstalled Windows XP, we had to change the testing technique. Now all notebooks will be tested under the Windows XP Professional, with the hard drive containing one partition of the maximum size with the NTFS. Instead of the BAPCo/MadOnion SysMark 2001 we will use SysMark 2002 and, in addition, Ziff-Davis Content Creation WinStone 2002.

The notebook we test is equipped with the Intel Pentium 4-M processor (though, it is not the most efficient; at present there is a model working at 1.7 GHz, on the Intel 845MP chipset). Here you can find details on the processor, and here on the chipset. I will give you only basic features of the new processor provided by the Intel® NetBurst microarchitecture.

  • 400 MHz system bus
  • Hyper-pipelined technology
  • Rapid execution engine
  • L1 Execution Trace Cache
  • L2 Advanced Transfer Cache
  • Advanced dynamic execution
  • Enhanced floating point/multimedia

The chipset that uses the Intel® I/O Hub architecture supports DDR 200/266 memory, AGP4X and Ultra ATA/100.Let's see what it gives in the tests. For comparison we will show the best results of the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo D. Although the comparison is incorrect, as the Amilo D is an entry-level computer, we have only these two models tested according to the new technique. Besides we will take a look at the differences of this elite model.

Sony Vaio GRX570 Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo D
BAPCo/MadOnion SysMark 2002 151 89
BAPCo/MadOnion SysMark 2002 Office Productivity 108 74
BAPCo/MadOnion SysMark 2002 Internet Content Creation 212 107
ZD Content Creation Winstone 2002 24.6 15.8
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 Business Disk WinMark 3750 3470
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 High-End Disk WinMark 10300 10100
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 Business Graphics WinMark 403 115
ZD Winbench 99 v1.2 High-End Graphics WinMark 725 547
ZD CPUMark 100 87,9
ZD FPU WinMark 5500 6550
ZD BatteryMark 4.0 2 hrs 1 h 41 m

The results are expected - the advantage in the graphic tests is obtained at the expense of the powerful ATI Mobility Radeon 7500, the speed of the disc subsystem is almost the same because it depends on the speed of the hard drives. "Almost" is because Sony has surprised us pleasantly with the battery life, and unpleasantly with the FPU WinMark scores. I don't see any improvements in the floating point calculations. Though, maybe the problem is in the test. Next time I will try to examine this parameter thoroughly.

The powerful video adapter let me hope for high performance in the 3D graphics.

MadOnion 3DMark 2001
(1024x768, 32 bit color, 32 bit Texture Format, 24 bit Z-buffer depth, Frame Buffer - Double buffering, Software T&L)

Resolution 800x600 1024x768 1600x1200
3DMark Result 4282 2616 1883
In detail
Game fps
Car Chase
Low Details 74 53.4 23.2
High Details 25.9 23.2 13.7
Dragothic
Low Details 76.4 62.6 28.8
High Details 33.2 27.7 14.2
Lobby
Low Details 87.5 73.4 39.1
High Details 36.1 33.5 20.7

Let's see whether it's possible to play the game of all times and peoples - Quake.

Quake III (fps)

 
16 bit color 32 bit color
Fast (512x384)
186.5 186.4
Normal (640x480)
182.5 178.7
High Quality (800x600)
141.4 138.2
High Quality (1024x768)
74.8 70.9
High Quality (1600x1200)
36.2 31.9
All settings are maximum (1024x768)
58.5 50.9
All settings are maximum (1600x1200)
27.0 21.5

As you can see, it is possible to play in 800x600 and even in 1024x768. I'm not an aggressive gamer, but I didn't noticed any lag effect of the matrix in 1024x768. One more test is the Rage Software Expendable Demo

Expendable Demo (fps)

Resolution Color depth
640x480 88.1 87.65
1024x768 80.79 79.66
1600x1200 55.95 50.43

Well, the advantages of the video controller are well seen.

Summary. Conclusion

Our mark - 92 scores.

This notebook looks like cars of the representation class. Excellent assemblage quality, a well thought-out design, additional capabilities, dimensions, weight and price ($3250). I think such models will find its users, and will be in great demand.

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