Sony VAIO V505BX Review

The V505BX really has a lot of the same features as most current Centrino based notebooks on the market...
The V505BX really has a lot of the same features as most current Centrino based notebooks on the market...
The V505BX really has a lot of the same features as most current Centrino based notebooks on the market...

Highs

  • Good battery and WiFi performance

Lows

  • Poorly designed keyboard
  • below average monitor performance

DT Editors' Rating

Summary

It is hard to recommend the V505BX based solely on its screen size and good looks since there are no other advantages offered over competing laptops. The keyboard on the V505BX is very difficult to use for all but the most experienced typers and business travelers would probably be better off with Sony’s TR1A or ZR1A models depending on what size laptop you would prefer. If you absolutely need a system with a 12.1″ screen, we would recommend you take a look at Apples 12″ PowerBook.

Introduction

The Sony V505BX is a unique laptop for a number of reasons. It is smaller in size than most laptops because of its 12″ screen and a weight of only 4.4 pounds, but it cannot truly be considered a sub-notebook either. Sporting an Intel 2 Ghz Pentium-M processor but lacking the new Intel Centrino chipset you would expect the V505BX to have more punch in the graphics and CPU departments, but that is simply not the case. The design of the V505BX is also very different than most of Sony’s smaller notebooks. If you are looking for a laptop with more physical substance than Sony’s TR1A yet do not want anything too big, the V505BX is worth a look, but be prepared to make some compromises. Sony sells the V505BX at a starting price of $1399 and a fully loaded model will cost you a little over $3,000.

Design and Technica

The V505BX really has a lot of the same features as most current Centrino based notebooks on the market, with the exception of the processor speed and the chipset itself. Packed in the V505BX is an Intel Pentium 4m CPU running at 2 GHz, 512MB of memory (expandable to 1GB), a 40 GB hard drive, ATI Mobility Radeon video adapter with 16 MB of memory, integrated Ethernet and 802.11 WiFi, a CD-R/DVD-ROM drive, both FireWire and USB ports, and Sony’s very own memory stick slot. For complete specifications, please click on the “specs” tab above this review and the Specifications link below this review.

Design wise, the V505BX is very different than the rest of Sony’s laptop line. The system is quite sexy in a way and gives an aura of quality. The outer casing is a very dark rich metallic grey which is not used in Sony’s other VAIO laptops. But for every positive design aspect of the V505BX, there are some negatives as well. For one, you must slide the power and WiFi control switches rather than pressing the switch to activate them. Both controls are located at the bottom near the touchpad instead of under the screen. The LED’s for the V505BX are located on the front lip of the laptop and are exposed when the screen is closed leaving absolutely no controls or indicators on the inside of the laptop itself. We have to congratulate Sony for being so daring with this unique design, but have to wonder why the speakers on the V505BX are so small and underpowered when there is much more room located under the screen on the main body of the unit. It would have been great to have seen this space put to good use. The touchpad mouse keys are also very different, with the right button having a jagged surface to it which makes detecting it with your finger very easy.

The V505BX next to Gateway's 200XL
The Sony VAIO V505BX next to Gateway’s 15″ 200XL

Located on the left hand side of the V505BX is where you will find a single FireWire and USB port, audio inputs, a PCMCIA slot and a VGA output. On the right hand side of the V505BX is where the CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive is, another USB port, Sony’s Magic Gate Memory Stick reader, modem and Ethernet ports. There are no inputs or outputs located on the rear of the V505BX giving the rear of the system a very clean look. Overall the design is very functional, although there is very little room to rest your palms on the system when typing which may cause fatigue with those with large hands.

The front lip of the Sony VAIO V505BX

The front lip of the Sony VAIO V505BX. Notice the LED’s on the left hand side.

Performance

Performance

Performance wise, the V505BX simply could not compete with our other Pentium 4m laptops in the test group. The V505BX trailed significantly in all of our tests, especially our 3D Mark test where the ATI Radeon Mobility 16 MB graphics adapter simply was not as powerful as either the VPR Matrix or Gateway laptops. We decided to test the V505BX against other systems running the same processor, but if you are wondering how the V505BX stacks up against a Centrino based system, Sony’s own PCG-Z1AP1 Centrino based model only slightly trailed the V505BX in our CPU tests (despite a 600 MHz decrease in CPU rating) but beat the V505BX in our 3d Mark 2001 and Mobile Mark tests. On the bright side, the battery performance of the V505BX is very good lasting a respectful 2 hours 33 minutes in our 3D Mark 2002 test.

System Configurations:

Sony VAIO V505BX

Windows XP Professional; 2 GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 16 MB; 40GB 4,200rpm Hard Drive

Gateway M500S

Windows XP Home; 2.2 GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 512MB DDR SDRAM; Nvidia GeForce4 420 Go 32MB;  40GB 4,200rpm hard drive

VPR Matrix 200A5

Windows XP Home; 2.0GHz Intel Pentium 4-M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 420 Go 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 4,200rpm

Use and Performance

It is very clear that Sony is targeting the business user with the V505BX since they chose to use Microsoft’s Windows XP Professional as the default Operating System and we could not have been happier to see this. Sony also loads the V505BX with MacAfee’s Security Center, Microsoft Works, and other trial software programs.  If you are purchasing the V505BX for business use, you will most likely want to upgrade the productivity software from Works to Office XP, but be ready to shell out an additional $360 for the upgrade.

The size of the V505BX is a nice compromise between the petite size of the Sony VAIO TR1 series and the large VAIO GRT series, and it appears that the Sony designers have borrowed aspects from both of these series. The color of the system’s casing is very similar to the GRT series laptops and the keys on the keyboard look and feel very similar to those on the TR1A laptop.

In fact, while we expected the keys on the VAIO TR1A to be smaller and have less travel than a typical notebook due to the systems small size, we were very displeased to see that Sony used the same keys on the V505BX. There is very little key travel when typing and the keyboard layout is poorly designed. Because the right shift key is half the size of what it should be, and the arrow keys are located just to the right, it is easy to accidentally press the up arrow instead of the shift key and this will interfere with your typing if you are not careful.

Sony VAIO V505BX keyboard layout

Sony VAIO V505BX keyboard layout

The V505BX features a 12.1″ XGA TFT screen with a resolution of 1024×768. We loved the Xbrite screen Sony uses on their VAIO TR1 series laptops and PCV-W20+ series desktops, but were disappointed to see that the V505BX does not feature this technology. Instead the V505BX has a screen that is hard to see from both horizontal and vertical angles and has a washed out brightness to it. The outer edges of the V505BX’s screen visibly show were the light is radiating from and gives the impression that the backlight is bleeding from the edges.

Heat produced by the V505BX is vented out of the left hand side of the system. After leaving the V505BX on for over 24 hours, we did not notice any extreme heat although the keyboard did get slightly warm.

The integrated Intel LAN-Express 802.11b WiFi card worked very well and we did not experience any dropped or weak connections from within normal operating range.

Performance wise the V505BX simply could not compete with our other Pentium 4m laptops in the test group. The V505BX trailed significantly in all of our tests, especially our 3D Mark test where the ATI Radeon Mobility 16 MB graphics adapter simply was not as powerful as either the VPR Matrix or Gateway laptops. We decided to test the V505BX against other systems running the same processor, but if you are wondering how the V505BX stacks up against a Centrino based system, Sony’s own PCG-Z1AP1 Centrino based model only slightly trailed the V505BX in our CPU tests (despite a 600 MHz decrease in CPU rating) but beat the V505BX in our 3d Mark 2001 and Mobile Mark tests. On the bright side the battery performance of the V505BX is very good, lasting a respectful 2 hours and 33 minutes in our Mobile Mark tests.

Conclusion

It is hard to recommend the V505BX based solely on its screen size and good looks since there are no other advantages offered over competing laptops. The keyboard on the V505BX is very difficult to use for all but the most experienced typers and business travelers would probably be better off with Sony’s TR1A or ZR1A models depending on what size laptop you would prefer. If you absolutely need a system with a 12.1″ screen, we would recommend you take a look at Apples 12″ PowerBook.

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