Managing Editor, www.smallbusinesscomputing.com
If your notebook is your main computer-one that needs to work as well in hotel rooms as it does in the office-you need a system that has the horsepower of a desktop machine, but can travel with you. For this, Sony's VAIO PCG-GR370 offers solid performance, a generous screen, and excellent multimedia features. It's not perfect, but it's a workhorse that can serve you well.
The PCG-GR370 VAIO offers good performance with its Mobile Intel Pentium III 1.13 GHz processor and 256 MB SDRAM, and it comes with a generous 30 GB hard drive, and integrated 10/100 Base-T Ethernet and V.90 modem. The swappable multi-bay holds the CD-RW-DVD combo drive, or accepts an extra battery, should you want to work through those long plane trips.
In our tests, the lithium-ion battery gave us an average of about two and a half hours of battery life under simulated office use. The relatively large 15" XGA TFT screen handles resolutions up to 1024x768 pixels, and while being spacious, is rather subdued and takes effort to read under normal lighting conditions. In particular, we found that the display is susceptible to glare, which makes it hard to view at angles. If you'll be using your notebook for presentations, this is a negative.
The relatively thin notebook is 12.8" x 10.6" x 1.5," and weighs 6 pounds, which is a reasonable for a notebook with a 15-inch display. The notebook comes with a TV out port, three USB ports, two PC Card slots, and VGA output, parallel, headphone and microphone ports. The built-in speakers, while they don't output a large volume of sound, offer clear audio reproduction. To support multimedia, the notebook comes with an IEEE 1394 I.Link port and another port that accepts Sony Memory Sticks.
The excellent keyboard is spacious and easy to type on. In fact, we found the tactile response of the VAIO keyboard was among the best of any notebook that we've evaluated. The touchpad is adequate and well positioned so it's easy to reach and doesn't get in your way as you type. The notebook offers something called a "Jog Dial," which is a one-inch scroll wheel at the front of the notebook that includes a "back" button. In use, we found the Jog Dial to easy to reach and use with our thumb. The "back" button, on the other hand, is rather awkward for right-handed users to reach.
The DVD drive competently reads and plays Hollywood DVD movies through the included InterVideo WinDVD software player. The notebook also comes with Microsoft Word 2002 and a decent assortment of multimedia software. To capture video from dv camcorders, there's Sony Movie Shaker, and Adobe Premier 6 LE, and to organize and edit digital pictures, there's Photoshop Elements and PictureGear 5.1. Finally, to burn CDs, the notebook comes with Adaptec Easy CD Creator.
The notebook comes with a one-year limited parts and labor warranty and a year of Sony's Express Service. Note, however, that the notebook's predecessor, the PCG-GR290, came with three years of Express Service and a three year warranty.
If you can live with its display, the VAIO PCG-GR370 is a good desktop replacement notebook that is also a powerful multimedia system. It's one to consider if you're shopping for a notebook.
Manufacturer: Sony Electronics, Inc., www.sony.com/vaio
Pros: Multimedia features with IEEE 1394 and Memory Stick ports; excellent keyboard: decent battery life.
Cons: Display suffers from glare.