Sony VAIO VGN-NR17G Notebook PC - Review

Sony VAIO VGN-NR17G Notebook PC - Review

Sony VAIO VGN-NR17G Notebook PC - Colors

Core 2 Duo T7300 Processor 2.0GHz, 1GB RAM

Sony's VAIO family of laptops has traditionally been known for its high style and high prices, making these sleek machines (second only to Apple in design chops) popular with upscale buyers. With the new NR series, Sony is making its first real stab at a lower-priced laptop. With a low starting price, the system is a decent value based on the components you get, but the Sony design aesthetic apparently doesn't translate well to cheaper parts. The 15-inch VAIO VGN-NR17G feels cheap and plasticky when compared to Sony's more expensive laptops, and even similarly priced mainstream systems from Dell, but at least the VGN-NR17G rigorously maintains Sony's traditionally thin profile. There's still much to like about this inexpensive VAIO, but Sony's penchant for weighing systems down with excessive bloatware and adware tips the scale away from a full-fledged recommendation.

Design of the Sony VAIO VGN-NR17G Laptop

Like the rest of the Sony VAIO laptop family, the VGN-NR17G has a large VAIO logo embossed on the back of the lid, clearly advertising your brand preference to anyone sitting nearby. The biggest difference between this and other VAIOs is the textured plastic that covers everything except the screen bezel and bottom surface. It's not the worst look in the world, but it feels cheap compared to the design-oriented mix of metal and plastic materials found on other VAIO laptops.

Sony VAIO VGN-NR17G Notebook PC - ReviewAt only 33mm thick, it's slightly slimmer than Sony's 15-inch home theater laptop, the VAIO VGN-FZ18G, but heavier, by nearly 220g.

Sony's flat-key keyboard is one of the VAIO trademarks that made the leap to this budget system intact. It's among our favorite laptop keyboards, but we wish the touchpad mouse buttons were a little more substantial. The keyboard tray is sparse, with only a power button and two quick-launch buttons (one launches Windows Media Center, the other is a programmable shortcut key) above the keyboard.

Features of the Sony VAIO VGN-NR17G Laptop

The 15.4-inch widescreen LCD display offers a 1,280 x 800 native resolution, which is acceptable for a screen this size. The screen looks excellent--on par with more expensive Sony laptops, and budget buyers likely won't miss having a higher resolution.

As a budget laptop, we don't expect much in the way of extras from the VGN-NR17G, but the extras we did get weren't exactly the kind you'd want. At a time when other vendors such as Dell and HP are making conscious efforts to declutter their systems, removing desktop come-ons for Internet access and music subscription services, Sony is one of the most egregious offenders we've seen in recent memory. The default desktop background image is an advertisement for Sony's Spider-Man 3 movie, and launch buttons for shovelware come built right into the desktop, featuring pitches for various casual games and apps such as Napster. Desktop links included links to Xdrive, AOL, and Office Live.

Removing much of this junk, especially the programs that run in the background, can speed up a sluggish system, especially one with a long boot time.

Most new laptops we see include 802.11n Wi-Fi technology, but we can't fault Sony too much for not including it on a budget system. Bluetooth and an S-video out are also fairly standard specs that we miss having on this machine.

As a fixed-configuration system, you're stuck with the default specs of the VGN-NR17G. A little extra will get you the NR18G, which has a slightly larger 200GB hard drive. Both versions are available in Wenge, Granite, and Silk--or brown, gray, and white, as we prefer to call them.

Performance And Battery Life of the Sony VAIO VGN-NR17G Laptop

With a 1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250 CPU and 1GB of RAM, the NR17G isn't as fast as the current crop of T7000-series laptops on the market but is perfectly acceptable for a budget system. For about the same price, you can configure a comparable Dell Inspiron 1520 (except the Dell defaults to a massive 320GB hard drive). It was considerably slower than its more expensive cousin, the 15-inch VAIO VGN-FZ18G, which more than doubles the price, but adds a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 and a second gigabyte of RAM. For casual multitasking, such as playing media files while Web surfing and working on office documents, we suffered some stuttering and slowdown, but that improved somewhat after we cleaned out some of the bloatware running in the background.

The VGN-NR17G ran for 2 hours 30 minutes on our DVD battery drain test, using the included Lithium-ion battery. That isn't especially impressive, but falls with acceptable parameters and was half an hour better than the Sony's FZ180. Our DVD battery drain test is especially grueling, so you can expect longer life from casual Web surfing and office use.

After-Sales Service And Support for the Sony VAIO VGN-NR17G Laptop

Sony VAIO notebooks have a one-year local warranty. At Sony's support Web site, VAIO owners can download the latest drivers. For simple problems, the company offers an online knowledge database for troubleshooting. Should the unit require further diagnosis or repair, the customer will have to send the unit to the service center. For an additional S$94.50 (US$62.17), consumers can purchase the VAIO Overseas Service package which provides a 24-hour call center for repair requests and international warranty coverage at designated countries.