Today, Sony announced the VAIO E Series, a new line of value-oriented multimedia, centric 15.5-inch notebooks with a giant heaping of style. Starting at $700, the VAIO E series features a 2.13-GHz Core i3 330M CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 15.5-inch screen with resolution of 1366 x 768 or 1920 x 1080 (depending on config), either Intel integrated or ATI discrete graphics, a 32o or 500GB hard drive, and an optional Blu-ray drive. The base configuration should start at around $700 and includes the smaller hard drive, lower resolution screen, and integrated graphics. A high-end configuration with 1920 x 1080 resolution, Blu-ray drive, and ATI graphics will debut in March for around $969.
Update: Read our full review of the VAIO E Series >>
Aside from its multimedia oriented specs, what really makes the VAIO E stand-out is its design and controversial color choices. It has an edge-to-edge keyboard with numeric keypad and an interesting gradient pattern on both its lid and deck. A layer of clear, textured plastic overlays the touchpad. More importantly, the notebook is available in Coconut White, Lava Black, Hibiscus Pink, and Iridescent blue.
Controversial Metallic Teal Color
We haven't seen the white, black, or pink models in person, but yesterday Sony sent us an iridescent blue VAIO E in the mail. From the moment, we removed it from the box, the notebooks' metallic teal chassis was controversial among our staff. Some editors fell in love with Sony's bold color choice while others complained that it was way too garrish. It seemed like everyone, from our receptionist to the head of our art department had strong feelings about it.
The author of this post finds himself the self-appointed leader of the iridescent blue fan club as metallic teal has been his favorite color since childhood.
"This color reminds me of my first love, a 1990 teal-colored Plymouth Colt that I drove throughout college and grad school," he said. "The notebook's bold color reminds me of the 1980s, my favorite period for fashion and design. The assist button, with its pink writing, has a Miami Vice aesthetic. I half-expected Philip Michael Thomas to be available via live chat after pressing it."
Reviews Editor Mike Prospero also found himself attracted to the VAIO E's design, though he maintained a sense of humor about its bright color. "Sales of the blue Vaio E will be helped by its on-screen appearance in Avatar," he said.
However, Multimedia Editor Meghan McDonough thought the notebook's color was way too loud. "It looks like it belongs in an aquarium as the backdrop of a coral reef exhibit. Or perhaps paired with fluorescent yellow surfer shorts on a California surfer dude," she said.
Art Director Jeff Sass felt that the color and overall design of the VAIO E Series was inconsistent with Sony's premium brand. "Sony quality out, cheap chintz in," he said.
News Editor K.T. Bradford didn't dislike the design, but noted that it would never blend into the background. "The blue color on the E series is like a needy cat. It demands attention whether you want to give it or not. You can't look at that laptop without noticing it. If you like the color, you have no problem. You'll enjoy it's iridescent sheen for many years to come," she said. "If you don't like that color, or are indifferent to it, the very act of it being in the room will irritate you. Because you can't look away! Attention must be paid, says the E series."
Early Test Results
Aside from getting into violent arguments over its color, we also have had a chance to start testing the VAIO E Series. Our review unit came with the ATI Mobility Radeon 5470 graphics chip, Blu-ray, but only a 1366 x 768 screen, which is low resolution for a notebook with Blu-ray. In early tests, we found the graphics performance was really strong, enabling us to play the graphically-intense game Far Cry 2 at 47 frames per second in 1024 x 768 resolution and the not-as-demanding World of Warcraft at 60 frames per second, also in 1024 x 768.
The 500GB 5,400 rpm hard drive in our unit was nothing to write home about, completing our file transfer test, in which we copy 4.97GB of mixed media files, in 2 minutes and 55 seconds, for a rate of 21.7 MBps which is faster than the mainstream notebook average of 20.5 MBps, but not by much.
With a weight of 6-pounds, you wouldn't expect the VAIO E to be very portable and its battery life reinforces that idea. The 3500 mAH battery has fewer mAH than most netbook batteries (4400 to 5600 mAH is typical for 6-cell netbook) and when you combine it with a power hungry system you get only 2 hours and 44 minutes of endurance.
Overall, though, we're impressed with the VAIO E's performance, many of us are in love with its design, and we look forward to completing our testing and posting our full review later this week.
In the mean time, let us know whether you would buy a metallic teal or "iridescent blue" notebook by voting in the poll and posting your comments below.