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Review: Sony VAIO PCG FX-390P

PC World

By Carla Thornton

(IDG) -- WHAT'S HOT: The VAIO PCG FX-390P offers an all-in-one design that's more practical than most. If you feel that the gently sloped case -- 1.9 inches at the hinges to 1.5 inches at the front -- doesn't provide enough of a typing slant, you can pop out the two feet on the bottom of the notebook to incline the back. And you don't have to squint to make out the stamped icons on a Sony notebook: Easy-to-read white graphics and text labels for all connections and ports visually pop out from the FX-390P's dark-grey case.

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Another nice touch: A long port cover protects the serial, parallel, monitor, and network connections. Alongside the color-coded audio ports on the left side is a mini composite-video-out port (and the necessary adapter cable) for directing display output to a TV, as well as an IEEE 1394 port for importing footage from a digital-video camcorder. The PCG FX-390P also comes with the usual software package that Sony bundles with its notebooks for aspiring digital movie and photography editors.

WHAT'S NOT: The hard drive isn't user accessible, which means that if you ever want to upgrade it you'll have to send the notebook back to the vendor. Likewise, the combination DVD-ROM and CD-RW drive is fixed into the right side of the case, next to the modular floppy drive bay. The modular bay can take only an extra battery or a weight-saver, so you can't use it for a Zip drive or a second hard drive.

WHAT ELSE: If it's a Sony system, it's usually purple. But the FX-390P is more conservative-looking than most VAIO units, with its tasteful plum-colored mouse buttons and touchpad. The top of the keyboard, which has a striped accent band, houses the stereo speakers and the silver-tone Internet, e-mail, and sleep shortcut buttons, any of which can be reprogrammed to launch applications.

The keyboard is quiet, roomy, and laid out perfectly, if you like your Delete and Ctrl keys in opposite corners. The speakers deliver fairly strong sound but lack external volume controls. Sony's documentation consists of a brief but useful softcover booklet, a quick-start poster, and a searchable online user guide. We haven't tested any notebooks with the same configuration as the PCG FX-390P, but its PC WorldBench 4 score of 83 (running Windows XP Professional and using a 1-GHz/700-MHz Pentium III processor) is rather sluggish compared with the 94 score posted by Gateway's Solo 5350, a less-expensive notebook that uses a 1-GHz/733-MHz PIII-M processor.

UPSHOT: Digital editors who don't mind a notebook with fixed drives will like this elegantly designed all-in-one model.


 
 
 
 



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