The Sony Vaio VGN-NW270F/S is a stylish, spacious laptop for high-definition fans with low budgets. For a reasonable $699 at Best Buy, the Vaio NW270 outclasses the majority of its mainstream competition by including a Blu-ray drive. Blu-ray movies look crisp and sharp on its wide-screen 15.5-inch display, and they even sound respectable using the Vaio NW270′s integrated speakers. Our only real disappointment is with the laptop’s battery life; we’d like to see Sony do what Toshiba does with its Satellite E105-S1802 and include a long-running eight-cell battery that sits flush with the system.
Aside from the BD-ROM drive, the rest of the NW270′s configuration follows the standard mainstream recipe of the day: Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of memory, and integrated Intel graphics driving Windows 7 Home Premium. It’s thin and light for its size, making it worth considering for a primary, do-it-all laptop, but the best usage scenario for the Sony Vaio VGN-NW270F/S is as a smaller, cheaper alternative to a 17- or 18-inch desktop replacement.
Calling a laptop stylish can be an insult because it could mean it’s overdesigned to the point where it interferes with its functionality. The Vaio NW270 boasts a unique look and feel but remains comfortable and easy to use. The plastic chassis is textured, with a grooved pattern looks like a fine wood grain, almost bamboolike in appearance. The textured plastic covers the lid as well as the keyboard deck. This model is silver; you can also fine the same configuration in white, pink, and brown.
The touch pad, too, is textured, but in its case, it’s a grid of raised dots. The feel is an acquired taste. For the first hour we had the NW270, the touch pad felt too rough, as if we were moving the cursor by dragging a finger over a piece of fine-grit sandpaper. After a short time, we began to like the feel it provides–the polar opposite of the overly glossy touch pads found on HP Pavilions–and found it to be very responsive. The touch pad also features wide vertical and horizontal scroll regions along its right and bottom edges, respectively. The mouse buttons border on being clacky, but they’re far from egregious offenders in this regard.
The keyboard mimics the look of Apple’s MacBook, with white, Chiclet-style keys. The keys are widely spaced and create a very comfortable typing experience, with good travel with nary a key shortened. Unlike the 15.6-inch HP Pavilion dv6-1375dx, which crams in a separate number pad to the right of the keyboard, Sony wisely leaves it off on the Vaio NW270. As a result, the keyboard is centered beneath the display and feels very roomy.
Despite its obvious entertainment appeal, the Vaio NW270 doesn’t feature a strip of media control keys; you’ll need to use the F keys to pause, fast forward, rewind, and control the volume. In addition to the power button, only three other buttons reside above the keyboard: a mute button, a handy Web button opens your default browser, and a third that turns the display off and on.
The 15.5-inch screen features a cinematic 16:9 aspect ratio and a 1,366×768-pixel native resolution, making it a perfect fit for 720p HD video. Despite the presence of a Blu-ray drive, it’s not a full 1080p display. The screen has a glossy coating to spiff up the appearance of movies and photos, and while it does help make colors pop and movement look smoother, it might be the least-glossy glossy screen we’ve seen, so glare and reflections are not a problem. Also not a problem: the integrated speakers, which reach a respectable level and max volume, even if we’ve heard better.
You’ll find a useful assortment of ports and connections on the NW270. HDMI is featured, for outputting video to an HDTV, as is VGA for connecting to older computer monitors. FireWire (i.Link in Sony’s parlance) makes the cut, joining a trio of USB 2.0 ports. Rounding out the expansion options are a multiformat media card reader and an ExpressCard/34 slot (not that we can recall the last time we ran across an ExpressCard/34 device).
The NW270′s highlight feature is its optical drive. It’s capable of playing Blu-ray discs and reading and writing DVDs and CDs. Blu-ray support typically shows up on larger, pricier laptops, though it has started to trickle down the price ladder. To wit, the 17.3-inch HP Pavilion dv7-3065dx features a Blu-ray drive and costs $729.
On CNET Labs application benchmarks, the Vaio NW270 is well-matched among the current crop of mainstream laptops. It does so at $699, which is at the low-end of the price scale for laptops featuring a Core 2 Duo T6600 processor or an equivalent chip. It uses 800MHz DDR2 memory, slower than the 1,066MHz memory found in competing laptops, but its performance scores show that the difference in memory doesn’t add up to any discernible impact. In fact, the NW270 posted the best scores (by the narrowest of margins) on CNET Labs’ Photoshop and iTunes tests.