Visual brilliance is the Series F's calling card. And wait till you see those same visuals in three dimensions.
Sony has been on a tough mission for the last year, showing perseverance akin to our Prime Minister's dogged determination for a carbon tax. The consumer electronics giant isn't out to save the environment though; instead its goal is for every home in Australia to include a 3D display. The latest front in this three dimensional attack is mobile computing, with the VAIO Series F packing a 3D display.
And what a display it is. The 1,920 x 1,080 screen is truly the centrepiece of this notebook, and it's a beauty. In 2D mode it exhibits the same rich colour reproduction that Bravia TVs are renowned for, while brightness and contrast are both excellent. Designers with an eye for excellence will be more than happy to use this as a full-time Photoshop machine.
But it's when the display flicks over into 3D mode that you'll be blown away. We recently tested a high-end Sony 3DTV and found severe crosstalk issues, so weren't expecting much from this notebook. We couldn't have been more wrong. Watching several 3D Blu-ray movies (a Blu-ray drive is standard on this notebook), we were amazed at the total absence of any ghosting, whatsoever. 3D has the strange effect of making 50in LCD screens look smaller than they really are, but here it has the opposite effect, making the already large 16in display feel exponentially bigger.
The sense of depth is simply amazing, running rings around the 3DTVs we've used in the past, and even giving the cinema systems a good run for their money. We'd go so far as to say that it's the best 3D experience we've ever had in the home - if only 3DTVs were this good we'd immediately rush out to buy one. There is one issue though, with obvious screen judder during panning shots.
The 3D display is perfect for serious mobile gamers, so it's a huge disappointment to see Sony scrimping on the GPU within. The NVIDIA GeForce GT540M included in this notebook is a mid-range solution, and doesn't have anywhere near the grunt necessary to run games in the demanding 3D mode. It'll handle older games in 2D well enough, provided you're realistic with your detail settings.
It's obvious that the screen has taken a significant chunk out of the build budget, as the all-plastic case certainly hasn't. At least it's nice and thick, so shouldn't handle the rigours of road life too badly. It's rather heavy though, with the entire unit weighing in at a hefty 3.1kg, making it unsuitable for jetsetters looking for some in-flight 3D entertainment.
With a speedy Intel i7-2820QM quad-core processor alongside 8GB of 1,333MHz DDR memory, this notebook is no slouch at non-gaming duties. However, the score of 9,264 in PCMark Vantage looks rather measly when compared to the HP EliteBook also in this month's issue, which scored an impressive 14,606. The reason for this large discrepancy is obvious; rather than go with a pricey SDD, Sony has opted for a slower mechanical drive.
It's nice and big at 640GB, and is of the high-speed 7,200rpm variety, but doesn't stand a chance compared to today's SSD speed demons. We do love the inclusion of USB 3.0 inputs, but would have forsaken them for a solid state upgrade. The speedy hardware combined with such a large display has taken a toll on the battery life, lasting a mere 87 minutes during our DVD playback test.
If you're in the rather unique position of demanding an entertainment notebook that specialises in 3D movie playback, this is the perfect offering for you. If only Sony had the foresight to equip it with a decent gaming GPU, this would be the ultimate all-round multimedia machine, but they didn't, so it's not. Available from Sony, retailing for $3,899
.APC rating: 7/10