PDA, Notebook and Phone Reviews and buyers guide

PDA Phone Notebooks Gaming Gadgets iPhone & iPad Shop Discussion


Notebook Reviews

Sony Vaio PCG-V505DX

By Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief. January 15, 2004

Discontinued. Check out the Sony Vaio S460 instead.

The venerable Vaio 505 series subnotebooks have been around for more than seven years. Sony virtually created the mainstream subnotebook market with this long-lived line, which began as a small volume cult classic and has since become the top selling subnotebook line in the US. While early 505 models were significantly smaller and lighter than the current models, they lacked internal optical drives and strong processors. Today's Centrino-based V505D is a strong performer that won't force you to make concessions or carry external drives which make a subnotebook less attractive and portable. It offers all the features of a full sized notebook in a highly portable package.

Sony Vaio V505 notebook


Sony TR2A top

Top view, closed.


The V505DX weighs in at 4.4 pounds and measures 1.35" X 10.9" X 9.54" . By today's hefty standards, this is a light notebook, and it earns a seat in the subnotebook (though not ultra-light or ultra-slim) category. If you're looking for something even smaller and lighter that also doesn't compromise on drives or processing power, consider the Sony Vaio TR2A. And if you have rich blood, also look the X505 which is a Japanese super-slim, carbon fiber cased model available from importers for $3,000 to $4,000. The V505 models, which are available in several configurations with varying processor speeds, do offer faster processors than the TR2A however. We received the V505DX for review, which is a "Ready to Ship" pre-configured model offering reasonably high end features. It has a 1.4 GHz Centrino processor, 512 megs of DDR RAM, 802.11b WiFi and runs Windows XP Home Edition. All current pre-configured V505D models feature Centrino processors running at either 1.4 or 1.6 GHz and at least 256 megs of RAM. Sony also offers customized versions of the V505, which you can order online at SonyStyle and select the OS, processor speed, RAM, wireless technology and hard drive of your choice.


The V505DX has the familiar Vaio subtle purple metallic finish and a magnesium alloy case that's scratch resistant. It's a clean and attractive looking notebook. The bezel surrounding the LCD is a darker purple plastic, and the keyboard keys are made of two-toned plastic: the key pads are a light purple that matches the casing, and the edges of the keys are dark purple. The contrasting tones make it easier to visually ID the keys, as does the curved bevel surrounding the outer edges of the keys. The keys offer good travel and tactile feedback, and the keyboard is standard notebook size.

The V505DX has a trackpad with two buttons. The right button has ridges which Sony says makes it easier to feel which button you're pressing. To the left of the trackpad on the front edge of the unit, there are indicators for power, charging, hard disk activity and WiFi. The indicators are low key LEDs housed under a clear plastic window, and add to the attractive design. Below the indicator lights on the edge of the notebook you'll find the WiFi on/off slider switch, and the power switch is on the right edge. The integrated stereo speakers lives in the grill above the keyboard.

Sony TR2A bottom

Bottom view.

The DVD/CD-RW drive is located on the right side of the unit, as is the Memory Stick slot which supports standard, MagicGate and Memory Stick Pro media. The modem and 10/100 Ethernet jacks are located on the right side as well and are protected by round flexible doors. There's a USB 2.0 port on the right and left sides of the notebook, and a FireWire port, headphone and mic jack on the left side. The single PCMCIA slot is located on the left side, and the VGA port is located under a plastic door next to the PCMCIA slot. The battery is located on the rear of the unit and there are no ports on the rear.



Deals and Shopping!



Questions? Comments?
Post them in our Discussion Forum!


size comparison

Three Sony Vaio subnotebooks. Top: Vaio TR2A, middle: Vaio X505 (Japanese market, available through importers)
and the V505 on the bottom. The V505 is the largest, but still quite small and light.


It used to be that subnotebooks were not speed demons compared to their full-sized counterparts. High speed, state of the art processors didn't jibe well with miniaturization because of heat dissipation issues. Centrino has changed that, offering superb performance for small notebooks. The Intel Centrino Ultra Low Voltage Mobile Pentium M processor running at 1.4 GHz with a 400 MHz front side bus and DDR RAM is plenty fast for even demanding applications. And of course other models of the V505 are available with even faster Centrino processors. The Intel Centrino technology improves speed while keeping power requirements low. What is Centrino? It's Intel's name for their new notebook architecture released in 2003 which combines their new Pentium M processor, 855 chipset and the Intel PRO/Wireless 2100 WiFi 802.11 network interface. The Pentium M is supposed to be significantly faster than mobile Pentium 4 processors, yet it uses very little power. For example, Sony claims that a 1.3 Ghz Centrino Pentium M will outperform a 2 GHz mobile Pentium 4. The M was designed from the ground up as a mobile processor where low power, heat dissipation and excellent speed performance were the goals, rather than being a shrunk down desktop processor. Centrino definitely hit the mark, and represents a very exciting technology. By all means, if you're shopping for a new notebook, go with Centrino: the performance, battery life and cooler operating temperatures are the way to go.

The V505DX comes with 512 megs of RAM and runs Windows XP Home Edition. That's a healthy amount of RAM, and enough to keep your computer running speedily while using MS Office, web browsers and other business applications. In fact, thanks to the processor speed, ample RAM and ATI Radeon 9200 graphics chip, the Vaio also does well with Photoshop and games. If you want to run more demanding applications, you can install up to 2 gigs of RAM. The unit has 2 DIMM slots located under the keyboard, each of which is populated with a 256 meg DIMM, so you will have to discard existing RAM to upgrade the computer.

The Vaio comes with a 60 meg hard drive. It's a standard 9.5mm slim 2.5" notebook hard drive that lives under a door on the bottom of the notebook. Ours shipped with the Toshiba MK6021GAS hard drive which has a quiet fluid bearing drive, a 2 meg cache, 12 ms average access time, and an ATA-5 interface capable of 100MB/sec  transfer rates.

Screen, Sound and Battery Life

While the smallest subnotebooks have small LCDs (larger ones won't fit) that push high resolutions, the V505 line has a 12.1" LCD running at 1024 x 768 XGA resolution. This means text will be readable and even if your eyes aren't the greatest, you should have no problems seeing what's on screen. The display is crisp, bright and color saturated, as we've come to expect from Sony's higher end notebooks.

But the screen isn't everything: without a good graphics processor you can still face drab colors and slow screen draws. The ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 graphics chipset will surely please gamers, movie fans and graphics folks. It's a top notch notebook graphics card that performs admirably, and it's a pleasure to have it in a highly portable notebook. The 9200 comes with 32 megs of DDR dedicated memory, making it game-friendly. State of the art games are quite playable on this unit. This is a value-added graphics package since standard Centrino notebooks includes the lesser Intel 855GM integrated graphics chipset with 64 megs of shared memory.

Two speakers that live behind a grill that runs across the top of the display provide stereo sound. It's not exactly bass-booming audio, but it's very good sound for built-in speakers. The V505 comes with a Yamaha sound card, a standard 3.5mm headphone/external speaker jack and a standard mic jack for use with PC microphones.

Sony claims that the V505's included standard 4,400 mAh Lithium-ion battery will run from 2.5-6.5 hours on a charge. This seems accurate. When using WiFi and surfing the Net, doing email and word processing, I got about 4 hours on a charge. Centrino-based Vaio notebooks come with a power management application that offers a great deal of granularity and customization. This full-featured power management application lets you set screen brightness, sleep times, processor speed and even fan speed among other things. To get that 4 hour runtime I let the unit run in its standard self-selected max battery life setting, though I did increase the display brightness to 66% because the default setting was too dim. To conserve power, the Centrino will step down to lower clock speeds when the CPU isn't stressed, but you can customize the settings to increase performance or conversely, battery life. The V505 felt speedy in max battery mode and I didn't feel a desperate need to crank up the processor speed. However if you're playing intensive games or ripping videos, you can either plug the Vaio into AC power or set power management to run the notebook at max speed. The V505 can play back a full DVD movie on a charge (there's also a DVD playback power setting that the unit will use when watching movies which increases brightness and doesn't put the optical drive to sleep). If you need even longer run times, you can purchase Sony's pricey $499 extended battery which doubles run times.

Ports, WiFi and Expandability

The Sony V505DX comes with Intel PRO/ Wireless 2100 802.11b WiFi, which offers exceptional range in our tests. To turn WiFi off and on, simply use the slider switch on the front of the computer. The Vaio also has Intel Pro 10/100 VE integrated wired Ethernet and a 56k modem. There are two USB 2.0 ports, one located on the right side of the computer, and the other on the left side. There's also an IEEE1394 iLink 4 pin (unpowered) Firewire port, a standard VGA port and Memory Stick pro slot (compatible with regular and Pro sticks). The PCMCIA slot, compatible with type I and II cards as well as CardBus cards is located on the left side, as are the 3.5mm stereo audio out and mic jacks.

Software Bundle

Sony always has a good software bundle, and the Vaio comes with Windows XP Home Edition (XP Pro is available on other V505 models), Microsoft Works, Norton Internet Security (a trial version that offers virus protection, firewall and more), Age of Empires II, MS Money 2004 and InterVideo WinDVD 4. In addition you'll get Sony's own applications such as PictureGear Studio, SonicStage (for music), Vaio Media (turn your Vaio into a multimedia server for other Vaio PCs), and DVgate Plus video editing software (use it to import video from firewire camcorders and edit them and output movies to your hard drive).

The unit comes with the Vaio Recovery Wizard, which allows you to completely wipe out and restore your computer to its factory state, or simply restore selected applications. There's a partition that holds the recovery files used for this process. If you choose to burn backup CDs using the Vaio recovery application, you have the option of reclaiming the partition, though Sony recommends keeping it for added restore flexibility. Note that Sony doesn't ship recovery CDs or application CDs with their notebooks. You must order the reasonably priced backup DVDs from Sony for the V505DX if you don't want to burn the large set of recovery CDs on your own. Note also that the Vaio (like most all Sony computers) doesn't come with a printed manual. Instead you'll use the online help and manuals pre-installed on the V505. You do get a very short printed pamphlet outlining the ports and controls on the unit.


Want to lug less on that next trip without sacrificing features and power? The V505DX should be on your short list. While not as small and light as the B5 and ultralight notebooks, the 4.4 lb. Vaio comes in at half the weight of standard notebooks. The fast Centrino architecture, ample RAM and reliable Intel Pro Wireless networking are definite winner. The integrated DVD/CDRW drive means no lugging external optical drives with you on trips, and you can burn CDs on the road. It has VGA, USB 2.0 and a Firewire port, 1 CardBus PC card slot and a Memory Stick slot. Integrated WiFi, Ethernet and a 56k modem will help you stay connected. Cons: Sony's price for spare batteries is absurd. No S-video or RCA video out for plugging directly into TVs. Please give us a printed manual and recovery CDs or DVDs in the box!

Suggested Retail for the V505DX: (Windows XP Home, 512 megs RAM) $1,899



Size: 1.32" to 1.38" thick X 10.9" X 9.54" . Weighs 4.39 pounds. Magnesium alloy case.

Display: 12.1" TFT LCD display (1024 x 768). ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 graphics processor with 32 megs DDR dedicated video memory. Can drive an external monitor.

Sound: Dolby Headphone & Dolby Virtual Speaker. Built-in stereo speakers; monaural mini-jack microphone, Internal mic. Yamaha AC-XG sound card.

Processor: Centrino technology. Ultra Low Voltage Intel® Pentium® M Processor running at 1.4 GHz. 64K level 1 cache, 1 meg level 2 cache (both On-Die). 400 MHz Front Side Bus. Intel 855 Centrino chipset.

Standard RAM: 512 megs, expandable to 2 gigabytes. Has two slots for RAM, each of which has a 256 meg DIMM installed from the factory.

Drives: 60 GB ATA-5 hard drive (9.5mm slim line, 2.5"), 100MB/s Ultra DMA Transfer Rate. Intel ultra ATA controller. Internal DVD/CDRW drive, Max speeds: CD-R write 16x, CD-RW write 10x, CD Read 24x, DVD-ROM read 8x.

Ports: 1 PCMCIA slot (supports type I & II as well as CardBus), 1 Memory Stick slot supporting Memory Stick Pro, 1 FireWire (IEE 1394) 4 pin non-powered 400 Mpbs, 2 USB 2.0 ports, RJ45 Ethernet 10/100, VGA, mic in and standard 3.5mm stereo out.

Modem: Integrated 56K V.92/V.90 modem.

Ethernet: Integrated Intel Pro 10/100 baseT wired Ethernet. Built-in Intel PRO/ Wireless 2100 WiFi (802.11b) wireless.

Battery: 4400 mAh Lithium Ion. Extended battery available.

Software: Windows XP Home (XP Professional also available on other configurations).


Back to Home Questions? Comments? Post them in our Discussion Forum!