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Sony Vaio PCG-SR31K and PCG-C1VFK

Sub-notebooks

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Review Sony has updated its notebook range yet again, with the release of two new machines: the PCG-SR31K and PCG-C1VFK. Both models incorporate two new features: integrated Bluetooth for wireless communication and a Memory Stick slot.

The SR31K is a slim, light sub-notebook that packs a fair amount of power. The 750MHz Mobile Pentium III chip, combined with 128MB of RAM, produced a WorldBench score of 145. The hard drive is a little small at 15GB, but it does come with an external PC Card CD-ROM unit that draws its power from the slot. This means it only requires one cable. The machine is lightweight at 1.36kg and measures 259x209x32mm. The 10.4in TFT screen offers a good display, powered by an 8MB S3 Savage chip.

The C1VFK, on the other hand, measures just 248x152x27mm, not much bigger than some PDAs. There's a 667MHz Transmeta Crusoe low-power processor. This may extend your battery life, but you have to pay for it in performance as it only achieved a WorldBench score of 81. There’s a 15GB hard drive, but no optical drive supplied as standard. The 8.95in TFT screen stretches to a maximum resolution of 1024x480, giving a good view on your documents despite its diminutive dimensions.

Both these models have Bluetooth integrated. This means you don't have to mess around with PC Cards or USB adaptors - they are ready to go straight out of the box. Sony has also done a lot of work on the software side of things to make setup even easier.

When you activate Bluetooth, the BlueSpace application starts up. From here you get a graphical view of which devices are available and in range. Once you select the device you want to talk to, the services that each support are clearly shown. For example, setting up a network connection between the two machines was simply a case of selecting the destination machine and clicking on the network icon.

The simplicity, however, vanished once we tried to connect to other non-Sony machines. When trying to communicate with a notebook with a Bluetooth PC Card installed, neither machine seemed to believe the other supported a network connection. It was possible to create a serial connection between the two, but this only proves that a connection was there and isn't in itself particularly useful. The same PC Card worked fine in previous tests with other laptops.

The Memory Stick slot in both machines supports not only standard blue Memory Sticks, but also white ones, which incorporate Sony's MagicGate technology. This aims to provide a digital audio system that respects the rights of copyright owners (sensible considering Sony is also a major record label). Rather than being able to create as many copies of an audio file as you wish, you are limited to four at any one time (with one remaining on the PC). If you wish to make further copies, you must 'return' one of the copies back to the PC first. Sony's MG JukeBox software handles the copying of files and keeps track of how many further copies you have remaining for each file.

The integrated Bluetooth is great, but it's a shame it didn't function as well outside the Sony environment. The MagicGate technology is promising, but as Sony's Memory Stick Walkman is the only playback device that supports it, its appeal is limited.

Of the two machines, the C1VFK is great if you want portability, but the SR31K offers better features and performance for the money. ®

Info

Price: £1534
Contact: 08705 111 999
Website: www.vaio.sony-europe.com

Specs

CPU: 750MHz Mobile Pentium III
Memory: 128MB RAM
Hard disk: 15GB
Screen: 10.4in TFT
Optical: external 16x CD-ROM
Weight: 1.36kg
Dimensions: 259x209x32mm

Scoring

Build quality: 9
Features: 9
Performance: 8

All details correct at time of publication.

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