3.5 star rating

Sony VAIO EC Series (VPCEC490X) Review

Pros: Attractive design; Solid performance; Excellent keyboard; Robust software package; Runs cool
Cons: Speakers somewhat weak; Narrow viewing angles; Grainy webcam
The Verdict: This big-screen notebook delivers good performance for a reasonable price.



Want a big screen without blowing your budget? Take a good look at Sony's VAIO EC. This 17.3-inch notebook packs a Core i3 processor and ATI graphics, providing plenty of power for everyday tasks--with enough oomph for some gaming on the side.

Article Continued Below


The VAIO EC isn't as flashy as other Sony notebooks such as the F Series, but overall we like the clean look. The laptop sports a matte black lid and a glossy black deck with specks of silver that glitter when they catch the light just right. A green, glowing power button adds a dash of color.

Measuring 16.1 x 10.8 x 1.3 inches, the VAIO EC isn't as thin as the 17-inch MacBook Pro, but it's a lot less chunky than an 18-inch monster such as the Toshiba X505. At 6.8 pounds, the EC is also on the lighter side for a desktop replacement; the HP Envy 17 weighs in at 7.5 pounds.

Sony VAIO EC Series (VPCEC490X)


In most areas, the VAIO EC stayed cool. Temperatures between the G and H keys and the touchpad were 88 and 83 degrees after watching a Hulu clip for 15 minutes. The middle of the underside only reached 84 degrees. The area by the vent reached a hot 108 degrees, but since it's on the left side you won't notice it when computing at a desk.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The VAIO EC offers a large and comfortable keyboard and number pad and even has room to spare. The keys are all well sized and in the right place, and they provided a snappy spring when we were typing.

Sony VAIO EC Series (VPCEC490X)

We wish the 3 x 1.8-inch touchpad was larger, as there's plenty of space on the deck. The touch surface is dimpled and sits in a shallow well, making it easy to find without looking. However, we found the Alps touchpad somewhat wonky. For example, selecting text sometimes took multiple attempts. (You have to be careful not to stray into the scroll area.) The two distinct mouse buttons were springy and responsive, though.

Display and Audio

We appreciate that Sony equipped the VAIO EC with a sharp and colorful 1600 x 900 display, especially since many 17-inchers skimp with 1366 x 768 panels. We did have to contend with our reflection, but otherwise watching HD video was pleasurable.

Unfortunately, the glossy display has fairly narrow viewing angles. Moving 10 to 20 degrees away from front and center created some color distortion. We also had to tilt the display down when watching video from a few feet away, making it difficult for more than two people to comfortably share the screen.

Sony VAIO EC Series (VPCEC490X)

The system's speakers sit on top of the deck, which should indicate loud, clear audio. Unfortunately, the VAIO's volume wasn't as powerful as we'd like. We had to turn it up to 75 percent to fill a small room with some background noise and 100 percent when watching Hulu.

Ports and Webcam

The VAIO EC has three USB ports located on the right front of the machine and one combo USB/eSATA port on the left. You'll also find VGA plus HDMI, ExpressCard/34 slot, SD Card, Memory Stick, and a DVD drive.

Sony VAIO EC Series (VPCEC490X)

Sony VAIO EC Series (VPCEC490X)

This notebook's webcam didn't impress us, capturing grainy, washed out still and video images. The only good news on this front is the Arcsoft Webcam Companion, which includes fun effects and frames plus a feature that allows users to turn the webcam into a monitoring system.

Sony VAIO EC Series (VPCEC490X)


The VAIO EC's 2.53-GHz Intel Core i3-380M processor and 4GB of RAM earned a score of 5,453 in PCMark Vantage, which measures overall performance. This doesn't quite best the desktop replacement average (5,725), but this category is heavy on Core i5 and Core i7 systems. The score also lags behind the Gateway NV7901u's score of 5,814 ($849/Core i5), but fared better than the Toshiba Satellite A665 ($899/Core i5), which only got 5,224 marks.

The 320GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive completed the LAPTOP File Transfer test in a little more than 3 minutes, for a score of 28.0 MBps. Again, this is under average (31.7) but above the Gateway NV (21.0) and the Satellite A665 (23.2). The boot time of 64 seconds was just one second under the average.

Consumers looking for a notebook that can handle some light video editing will be pleased with the VAIO EC's speed. It took just 1 minute and 5 seconds to transcode a 114MB MPEG-4 clip to AVI, just under the category average.


The discrete graphics card in the VAIO EC--an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470 and 512MB of VRAM--delivered a score of 4,112 on 3DMark06. This is well below the category average (7,995), and both the Satellite A665 (7,002; NVIDIA GeForce GT330M/1GB) and the Gateway NV (7,418; ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650/512MB) scored higher.

Still, you'll be able to play mainstream games at decent clip. When we played World of Warcraft at the full resolution (1600 x 900) we saw frame rates of 37 fps with settings at Good (the recommended setting) and 20fps with everything maxed out. The speeds aren't blazing, but they're playable. In the graphically demanding Far Cry 2 we measured 47 fps at 1024 x 768 (autodetect resolution) but a low 15 fps at maximum res and graphics.

In our hands-on time we were able to play full-screen 1080p videos from YouTube with no hitching, as well as clips from the hard drive.

Battery Life and Wireless

With a runtime of 2 hours and 54 minutes, the VAIO EC probably won't see much time away from an outlet, but it's better than the desktop replacement average (2:40). The Toshiba Satellite A665 has nearly the same endurance (2:55), and the Gateway NV did just a bit better at 3 hours even.

The Atheros AR9285 802.11 Wi-Fi card in the VAIO EC offered below average throughput. At 15 feet from our router, it transferred data at a rate of 30.3 Mbps, just under the 31 Mbps average. At 50 feet, throughput dropped off to just 14.3 Mbps, which is 5 Mbps slower than the desktop replacement average.


Sony VAIO EC Series (VPCEC490X)Sony offers several configuration options for the EC Series plus one Ready to Ship model. The specs on our review model represent the $749 base configuration. Customers can choose a more powerful Core i5 (480M and 580M) or Core i7 CPU, ranging from $80 to $330. Hard drive options include 500GB (5,400 and 7,200 rpm), 750GB, or 1TB (5,400 and 7,200rpm) for $80-$270 more. Upgrading to 6GB of RAM costs $100; 8GB goes for $200.

A more powerful ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 GPU and 1GB of RAM costs $50 more; a 1080p display is a $100 option. A read-only Blu-ray drive costs $70; a read/write drive is $150; and a large capacity battery is $50 more.

The Ready to Ship model--VPCEC4AFX/BJ--costs $1,119 and comes with a Core i5 480M CPU, 750GB hard drive, a 1080p display, and a Blu-ray drive (read only for Blu-ray discs).

Software and Warranty

Sony includes a half dozen VAIO-branded utilities and software for users, many of which are quite helpful. The VAIO Control center is a pared-down control panel that's akin to what this feature looked like under Windows XP. VAIO Care is a diagnostics tool to help customers troubleshoot and fix issues. VAIO Data Restore Center, Media plus, Transfer Support and VAIO Update round out the list.

On the productivity front, the EC includes Evernote and Office 2010 Starter. Media tools include the Picture Motion Browser, Arcsoft Webcam Companion, and Roxio Easy Media Creator 10 Light. And, as with all VAIO PCs, you'll find Google Chrome as well as Internet Explorer for browsing.

The multimedia package available with the EC comes with Premiere Elements and Photoshop Elements for editing video and images, plus Acrobat 9 Standard for creating and editing PDFs.

Sony protects the VAIO EC with a standard one-year limited warranty plus onsite/in-home service. To see how Sony fared in our Tech Support Showdown, click here.


At $749 the VAIO EC is affordable for a Sony notebook, but is it a good deal? There's no denying that the keyboard is top-notch, and there's enough muscle here for both productivity chores and mainstream games. However, there are better deals out there. A Dell Inspiron 17R with similar specs (Core i3 CPU, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5740 graphics, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive) can be had for $50 less, as can a Toshiba L670 with a more powerful Core i5 processor, integrated graphics, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive.

We wish the screen had better viewing angles and that the speakers were more powerful, but overall the VAIO EC is an attractive notebook that provides solid performance for the price.

Tags: Sony VAIO EC Series, desktop replacements, notebooks, reviews, laptops

Technical Specifications
Sony VAIO EC Series (VPCEC490X)

The central processor unit, or CPU, is the brain of your notebook.
Learn More
2.53GHz Intel Core i3-380M
Operating SystemMS Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
The amount of memory our reviewed configuration comes with.
Learn More
The maximum amount of memory this notebook supports.
Learn More
RAM Upgradable to
Amount of data your storage drive can hold.
Learn More
Hard Drive Size
The rotation speed of a mechanical hard drive.
Learn More
Hard Drive Speed
Your notebook’s storage drive (hard drive or solid state drive) holds your operating system, your programs, and your data.
Learn More
Hard Drive Type
SATA Hard Drive
Your notebook display is the primary viewing device for your laptop computer.
Learn More
Display Size
The number of pxiels (wxh) displayed on your screen at once.
Learn More
Native Resolution
An optical drive allows you to play or record to DVDs, CDs, or Blu-ray discs.
Learn More
Optical Drive
The speed of the optical drive.
Learn More
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics chips are responsible for processing all images sent to your computer’s display.
Learn More
Graphics Card
ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5470
The amount of memory available for graphics processing.
Learn More
Video Memory
Wi-Fi connects you to a router or hotspot for wireless Internet access.
Learn More
Wi-Fi ModelAtheros AR9285
Bluetooth allows you to connect to wireless devices such as headsets, smart phones, and speakers.
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Mobile broadband connects you to the Net from anywhere, even places with no hotspot.
Learn More
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size3 x 1.8 inches
Ports allow you to connect to external devices such as monitors, printers, MP3 players, and hard drivse.
Learn More
Ports (excluding USB)
Ethernet; ExpressCard/34; HDMI; Headphone; Kensington Lock; Microphone; VGA; eSATA/USB
USB ports allow you to connect many external devices, from MP3 players to external hard drives.
Learn More
USB Ports
Card readers allow you to plug memory and expansion cards directly into a notebook.
Learn More
Card Slots
Memory Stick Duo; SD memory reader
Warranty/Support1 Year Limited Warranty.
Size16.1 x 1.3 x 10.8
Weight7.3 pounds
All Product Types Accessories eReaders Laptops Networking Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS AVADirect Averatec BeagleBone BenQ CTL Corp. CyberPowerPC Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Eurocom Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Google Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo Maingear MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Razer Sager Samsung Sony Sony PlayStation Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv Vizio VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating Editor's Choice 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 21 4 5 6 7 8 9
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1136 x 768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1792 x 768 1900x1080 1920x1080 1920x1200 2560 x 1440 2560 x 1600 2560 x 1700 2880 x 1620 2880 x 1880 3200 x 1800 3840 x 2160 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options