Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B full review

We’ve seen laptops capable of rendering 3D before, but Sony’s luxurious – if perversely titled – Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B is undoubtedly the best so far.

It’s a heavy brute of a laptop, weighing over 3.1kg, with a striking high-gloss black plastic finish on its lid and top deck section. The latter area is offset by a raised rubbery platform that forms an extended wrist-rest area and incorporates the trackpad into its length. The trackpad itself has a useful patterned texture to help you keep your fingers on track.

The two mouse buttons below are covered by a single wide button that pivots in the middle.

The display of the Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B is a great example of what a modern screen should be like – and that’s irrespective of its high refresh-rate 3D credentials. But by god, the screen is thick. At 13mm deep, the lid alone is about as thick as a MacBook Air.

Yet it’s the image quality that stands out on this lovely matt anti-glare panel. Colours are deep and richly hued. Off-axis viewing angles are very respectable too.

The keyboard is the classic Scrabble-style pioneered by Sony, with an extra number keypad to help fill space on the top deck created by the wide widescreen form of the laptop.

On the left are gigabit ethernet, HDMI and VGA video outputs and two USB 3.0 ports. On the right is a single USB 2.0 port, mic-in and headphone-out jacks, and the tray drawer for the Blu-ray/DVD±RW drive.

And that BD drive can also write to Blu-ray BD-R and BD-RE discs too – a rare and unusual thing, even seven long years after the format was launched, since the price of recording BD drives is too rich for the market.

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Sound quality from the built-in speakers is good, but you’d still be advised to pipe film sound into outboard speakers or a hi-fi system. We did try taking an analogue output from the headphone jack, but heard what sounded like just front left and right channels, minus the centre-channel dialogue.

The Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B is somewhat noisy, internal fans blowing out plenty of air even when the machine isn’t being stressed. And you can hear the intelligent fans constantly changing speed as they adjust to internal heat levels and try to vent accordingly.

Supplied with the Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B is a single pair of 3D active-shutter glasses – these Sony TDG-BR100/B specs are high quality, and reasonably lightweight frames, with a single CR2032 calculator battery as a replaceable power source.

A small button on the right switches them on, and they switch off automatically after a brief period of inactivity - that is, after sensing that the glasses aren’t pointed at the screen.

The 3D playback experience of the Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B can be quite compelling. To watch specially coded Blu-ray films in 3D just requires you to pop in the disc and fire up the included Corel WinDVD program.

We did notice some slight image frame wobbling when playing, but that could be more an issue with the only 3D film we had available, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, that Sony kindly loaned us with the laptop.

To get an idea of the laptop’s gaming potential, we tried our usual FEAR benchmark test. And were surprised to see that, without any user twiddling, the game was rendered in 3D. Here we saw framerates of 20fps at Maximum detail settings in 3D, rising to 32fps at High detail.


Sony VAIO VPCF21Z1E/B: Specs

  • 2.0GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM
  • 16in (1920x1080) LED-backlit display
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • tray-load BD-RW/DVD±RW optical drive
  • nVidia GeForce GT 540M graphics with 1GB memory
  • 640GB 7200rpm 2.5in SATA HDD
  • 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0
  • SD/MS card slot
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • 54Wh lithium battery
  • 398 x 271 x 34–45mm
  • 3142g