'Value for money’ isn't a phrase you’d normally associate with Sony's Vaio laptops, but that could be about to change judging by its new E Series.

Faced with stiff competition from the prudent but powerful likes of Asus' UL series and the Acer Timeline class, the replacement for the outgoing Vaio NW isn't just a big improvement on the looks and spec sheet of its predecessor – the base model retails for just a few quid over £500. In other words, the Vaio E is surprisingly cheap.

Tasty looks

You wouldn't know it from the outside, though. The Vaio E isn’t as slim as some other 15in machines out there, but that's largely because it's not driven by a low-power processor and comes kitted out with a discrete graphics card.

The Core i5 CPU and Radeon HD5470 graphics partnership that appears in our top of the range review sample isn't up to high-def gaming, but it will get Far Cry 2 running at a reasonable enough speed to play.

For desktop apps and video – courtesy of the Blu-ray drive – they're a winning combination, making the Vaio E quick booting, responsive and a very decent all-rounder.

What's more, they yielded over five hours of battery life in our tests, which is impressive for a notebook of this calibre, although we have seen evidence that the lower cost models aren't quite as long lasting.


High-def screen

The best part about the Vaio E, though, is that you won't find another machine for this price with a Full HD, 1920x1080 screen. As with most Sony displays, it's sharp and colourful too, doing those Blu-ray vids justice when you can't be bothered to plug in the HDMI cable.

There's a lot of attention to detail in the aesthetic, too. There's no fancy metal trim to catch the eye and it's not the lightest laptop you could buy, but the hard-coated case is exceptionally well put together and comes in a variety of colours, from our review unit’s black to a shocking pink for the more, um, adventurous.


Comfy keyboard

The full-size chiclet keyboard is comfortable to type on, and there's even room on the right hand side for a number pad – yet another thing you don't often see on a 15-incher.

We're not so enamoured with the desktop dock – it's a handy place for hiding all the trial apps and Vaio-ware that you'll probably never use, but the trend for manufacturers to bundle a bonus dock with Windows 7 continues to baffle us. Isn't the main selling point of the new OS that is has a perfectly functional dock of its own?

A couple of clicks disables that, though, leaving a good-value, strong-performing and well-built laptop that looks and feels like it cost a whole lot more.


Stuff says... 

Sony VAIO E Series review

Worth it for the HD screen alone, but the rest of the laptop defies the price point, too