The Sony Vaio EC1S1E, with its 17.3in widescreen, has a sporty and compact design, but don’t be fooled – this laptop has all the power of its desktop counterparts. It boasts a 1GB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650 graphics card, a full 1080 HD display, and Blu-Ray drive. While more sleek than other comparitively high end laptops, this is not made with ultra-portability in mind; it weighs a substantial 3.1kg, and has a poor battery life of just over two hours. When you consider the specifications it is meeting, however, these trade-offs are certainly understandable.
The EC1S1E performed very well in our industry standard tests. Helped by the 2.26GHz Intel Core i5-430M processor and 4GB RAM, it returned a score of 86 overall. Gamers will enjoy the experience provided by a dedicated graphics processor; it scored a solid 34.9fps in our CoD4 test and 20.4fps at the maximum 1,920×1,080. We wouldn’t recommend that second setting for gaming as it tends to be somewhat slow, but better performance should still be attainable at high resolutions with a little fine-tuning.
Of course, a particular joy of the HD display is being able to watch Blu-ray movies in their original resolution. And also, while the 17.3in provides very comfortable viewing, for those times you may need an even bigger screen, the HDMI output allows you to hook it up to a projector or TV.
While we’re talking about the screen, which is generally excellent, we should note that the gloss finish can produce a lot of reflections. Having said that, the blacks are deep and look great and the light tones are certainly bright, if somewhat cold. The display’s greyscale gamut is particularly impressive.
If one of your requirements is 5.1 surround sound you’ll have to use the HBMI output or an external USB sound card, because, as is the case with most laptops, there’s only built-in support for stereo analogue audio. The on-board speakers are adequate, providing clear audio, if not very loud. The treble definition is excellent, but the bass end is substandard.
Beyond these things, this unit has all the standard inclusions you’d expect for the money: Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n wireless and a memory card reader able to support SD, SDHC and Memory Stick HG Duo cards. It has three USB ports, and also an eSATA port for fast external storage. That’s if you need more than the ample 500GB internal hard disk. Should you want to add a TV tuner, but not tie up one of your USB ports, the provision of an ExpressCard/34 slot allows you to expand for those sort of accessories.
A word on the keyboard. It has flat, nicely spaced keys that are comfortable for typing. After a little use the average user should find them conducive to good speed. We did find the size and positioning of the touchpad, with it’s very strange texture, hard to get used to. Its also too prone to being brushed unintentionally. The pad is situated in the center of the keyboard itself, but having a full numeric keypad on the right hand side gives the effect of making it seem off.
These issues of touchpad positioning aside, we don’t find too much wrong with the EC1S1E at all – it’s got the grunt in terms of core power, has a pleasing array of features, promises to perform well for gamers and you’ve got to love that 1080p display to complement the Blu-Ray player. In summary, the EC1S1EB is the machine of choice for a state-of-the-art laptop in the home entertainment class. The best all around for your money.