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After a year of putting up with a laptop with constant problems once the guarantee had ran out, my grandma told me I must buy another laptop for my university work. After looking around the internet, I settled for the Sony Vaio VPC-EBL1E/WI. After being told that Toshiba and Sony were the best bet in reliability in laptops (and no Toshiba's online were jumping out at me), this Sony had a reasonable spec and was in my price range. This laptop cost £539.39 from Amazon though when I looked on the Sony website, they were selling this for £599.99.
Spec: 15.5" laptop screen Intel Core i3-380M 2.53GHz Processor 4GB RAM 500GB HDD Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit Operating System Weighs 2.7kg
After receiving my laptop within three days (with free delivery) the first thing I noticed was the simplistic box. The box was mainly black with some cardboard box brown. It clearly states it's a Sony Vaio and what model it is. Opening up the box was two bits of shaped cardboard holding the laptop in place while the laptop was wrapped in a thin sheet of foam. Personally I found the minimal yet secure packaging a plus point for Sony considering so many manufacturers over package products. The contents of the box included a 'Getting Started Booklet', a small leaflet promoting their other laptop products (which I found a bit ironic), battery, laptop charger and of course, the laptop. I was very puzzled that there was no physical manual for this laptop. Originally I thought there was no help until I looked on the internet and found out the manual is on the laptop itself. I found this quite annoying because I would have much preferred a paper manual. I guess they did not include a physical copy to reduce their carbon footprint (or save money).
When first opening this laptop, I was surprised to see its lid was silver and not the described 'white' I had expected. I thought it would have been shiny, plastic but it was actually matt silver which is better because does not show finger marks easily. Also on the lid is the big 'VAIO' symbol in the centre in shiny silver while 'Sony' is written in black just near the opening of the laptop in the centre. Inside the laptop, one first notices the keyboard is actually white and has raised keys (like a Mac). It also has a number pad at the side of the keyboard which some people miss with a laptop but I personally can live without. The finger pad is set off-centre slightly towards the left which I feel can be slightly irritating after being used to one in the centre but one got used to it after a while. Above the keyboard are the speakers with three 'Quick Access' buttons and the power button (that lights up to let you know when it is on). The laptop also comes complete with webcam at the top of the screen in the centre. On the sides there are three USB ports (which was very important to me), eSATA socket, SD and memory card slots and Ethernet socket too. There are other sockets but I have not used them and do not know what they are used for (sorry!).
The set up of this laptop was quick and simple. One is instructed the insert the battery into the bottom of laptop, plug it in and switch it on. Setting up the laptop was made easy by the Windows 7 operating system telling you what to do at each step. Within ten minutes you have the operating system loaded and can get down to doing what you want with your laptop. The first thing I did was change my background to get rid of the original hideous 'VAIO' logo wallpaper. Windows 7 comes with many nicer ones which one of them is currently my background.
Earlier I mentioned the laptop comes with 'Quick Access' buttons which are meant to be there to create extra convenience for the consumer. There are the 'Assist', 'Web' and 'Vaio' buttons. The problem is, I only knew what the 'Web' button did and the others seemed pretty pointless. The Web button is so the laptop user can quickly access the internet without having to turn on the whole computer system. This is a useful feature but I have only used this feature a couple of times because the laptop loads up pretty quickly. So really I find not much use for the quick access buttons and feel they should have created other features than something most people have lived without before.
The battery life of this laptop is very good. Like most modern laptops, it has three different power options: power saver, balanced and high performance. Under the power saving option, the laptop lasts around three hours if using it for general activities. The laptop comes with an option to check the battery's 'health' which let's one know whether the battery is at its full potential or not. I feel this will be useful as the battery starts to deteriorate.
Now I talk the serious stuff: do the features live up to ones expectations? The webcam and microphone are good enough for the casual Skype user like me. According to my Skype recipients, my microphone's clarity is much better than my old laptop though they have said the webcam is about the same. You can use the microphone and webcam in conjunction with pre-installed software WebCam Companion 3. This allows you to take webcam photos and create videos. I recorded a brief one myself to check quality. The webcam was fine though I found the sound recording slightly too quiet - though I'm sure it is possible to change the microphone sensitivity.
The speakers were initially the biggest disappointment for me. I first tested the speakers, I was shocked at how bad they compared to my old laptop that I had had over two years. I expected the quality of sound to have equalled if not been better than my last laptop. Instead I found myself with sound which was tinny. I have grown used to it now but for anyone looking a laptop that will play their music in good quality, this is not the laptop for you.
Another niggle in regards to the audio system is the absence of an external volume control for the laptop. I had not owned a laptop without one before and was disappointed it did not have one. It meant that if I used anything in full screen, to adjust my volume I would have to exit the full screen to change the volume. I feel that instead of 'Quick Access Buttons', this laptop would have benefited and consumers would get more use out of an external volume control.
One reason I bought this laptop was because I had been told that this laptop had the capability of running good graphics. This was quite important to me because I like to play my favourite game (The Sims 3) in at least medium graphics. However, when it loaded I was shocked how simplistic they were in comparison to what I had been used to playing it in (graphics wise) before. Manually changing the graphics details in game caused the computer to crash which made me further frustrated. After I had been told by a friend that updating the graphics card would resolve this problem yet the on-laptop manual did not give me any instructions on how to do this so I am still currently using a laptop only capable of running low quality graphics.
Despite all this, I have had this laptop for around four months now and I have it yet to have any serious problems. My past laptops always seem to have something wrong with them within a couple of months yet this seems hard wearing to the operations I want it to carry out.
Would I recommend this laptop to others? It depends. The Sony Vaio VPC-EB4L1E/WI has quite a few negatives like its audio, low graphics with no idea on how to improve them and no external volume control. However I do rate it four stars because it has so far been reliable, has a good webcam and microphone, three USB sockets and also has a good battery life. I believe that someone should buy this laptop depending on what they want a laptop to fulfil.