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.
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.
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.
Three Sony Vaio subnotebooks. Top:
Vaio TR2A, middle: Vaio X505 (Japanese market, available through
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
RAM: 512 megs, expandable to 2 gigabytes.
Has two slots for RAM, each of which has a 256
meg DIMM installed from the factory.
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
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.