Attractive VAIO FE laptop works well for home or school

When I was asked if I wanted to test a new VAIO laptop, my mind went back to the days when VAIO was a Sony product with a great reputation.

As a desktop support manager, I remember ordering a very slick VAIO laptop that was coveted by almost everyone in the office. VAIO pushed the boundaries of design to produce some very sexy laptops.

Sony spun off the VAIO brand in 2014, and today I’m reviewing the new VAIO FE series laptop, which is sold through Walmart (and will be available soon at Sam’s Clubs).

The VAIO FE series has three models, priced at $699, $799 and $949. I tested the cheapest model equipped with a 2.4 gigahertz 12th generation Intel i5 processor, eight gigabytes of RAM and a 512GB solid-state drive. .

The $799 model has the same i5 processor as the cheapest model with one terabyte of storage and 16GB of RAM. The $949 model bumps the processor up to a 12th-generation i7 processor with 16GB of RAM and a one-terabyte drive.

Other than the CPU and RAM/storage configurations, the laptops are identical.

Specifications:

The VAIO FE features a 14.1-inch LCD IPS display with a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, powered by Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics.

When you open the laptop screen, the back of the screen bezel pivots back to raise the bottom for a slightly more comfortable typing angle, and lifts the bottom of the desk for better cooling.

The overall design is nice, but it’s not sexy like VAIO’s of the past.

The two-megapixel front camera has a built-in cover that you can slide over the lens if you’re concerned about privacy. The battery is rated for up to 10 hours of use.

The backlit keyboard is comfortable and on the far right is a row of document navigation keys (home, page up, page down, end).

Ports include one USB-C (not Thunderbolt), two USB-A type 3.2, one USB-A type 2.0, Ethernet, SD card slot, HDMI, and a headphone jack.

There are two speakers between the keyboard and the screen, and the sound system includes THX Spatial Audio, which allows the user to customize the sound channels for a surround sound experience. Spatial audio works best with headphones.

Oddly enough, the speakers don’t come close to what I would call loud. At maximum volume, they are about half as loud as you’d expect.

Wireless network options include Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

It comes with Windows 11 Home.

The ports of the VAIO FE laptop are Ethernet, HDMI, USB-A and USB-C.(Jim Rossman / TNS)

Design

The FE laptops look nice and are available in black, silver or rose gold. The screen isn’t the brightest or sharpest, but it’s comfortable enough for the eyes to watch a movie or work for a few hours at a time.

The gates are easily accessible on both sides. It would be nice if the USB-C were a Thunderbolt 4 port, but I understand the price for that is a bit low.

There’s one interesting design choice that I’m not thrilled about: the FE has a fingerprint reader in the top-left corner of the touchpad. This is a touchpad that isn’t huge to begin with, and the fingerprint reader eats up more of that valuable real estate.

I’m used to a bigger trackpad. If this were my laptop, I’d keep a wireless mouse handy.

The touchpad of the VAIO FE laptop is on the small side and the integrated fingerprint reader in...
The VAIO FE laptop’s touchpad is on the small side, and the integrated fingerprint reader in the corner eats up a lot of that valuable real estate.(Jim Rossman / TNS)

The feed port uses a small diameter barrel connector. The power brick is small, with a flip-out plug.

The FE measures 0.78 inches by 12.8 inches by 8.7 inches and weighs 3.5 pounds.

I used the FE for normal home and office functions, such as surfing the web, emailing, watching videos, and writing. I don’t game much and this is not a laptop I would pick as a gamer.

For everyday use, the FE is very capable. Eight gigabytes of RAM is what I would consider the bare minimum – 16 is definitely better.

Target market?

The low-end model is reasonably priced, but the price of the top model seems a bit high for the specs.

I’d say the cheapest FE would be a good laptop for a college student or someone on a budget. It’s made of mostly plastic, so I’d handle it with care if you want it to last.

My recommendation would be the model in the middle. It has the same specs as the cheaper model, but doubles the RAM and storage for just $100 more.

Buyers of mid-priced laptops inevitably trade better features for a lower price.

Features found on more expensive machines like Thunderbolt 4, OLED displays and better speakers are left out in favor of cheaper alternatives. This is no surprise, but the mid and high price models should have a little more to offer.

Overall, the $699 and $799 VAIO FE models are a good choice. I would stay away from the $949 model.

Advantages: Not too expensive, including Ethernet, nice keyboard

cons: Small touchpad, awkwardly placed fingerprint reader

Briefly: This is a nice little laptop for school or home

Jim Rossman is a tech columnist for Tribune News Service. He can be reached at [email protected].

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