Anirudh RegidiMay 17, 2021 13:15:14 IST
The first laptop I ever tested, some time in 2011, was a Sony Vaio model that had aspirations of passing itself off as a gaming laptop. I remember it well because its translucent, neon green case — Nvidia green, was, I believe, the inspiration — is still seared into my brain. It was hideous, and I didn’t ever want to be caught using it.
It also didn’t help that Apple’s new MacBooks had just arrived, and the stark contrast between the simple, grey elegance of Apple’s best and this neon-hued monstrosity was just too much. Add to that the matching price tags and the clear superiority of Apple’s design, and it’s not surprising that the Vaio brand left a rather less-than-impressive first impression.
Vaio is reborn
Fast-forward to 2021, and almost exactly a decade later, I’m looking at yet another Vaio – the E15. It’s missing the Sony branding — the two companies parted ways in 2014 — but the design language is familiar. Better yet, in stark contrast to the Vaio that seared my eyes a decade ago, this laptop comes in a more pleasant dull grey.
That dullness extends to the specs, however, with Vaio offering an AMD Ryzen APU from 2019 — the 3700U — paired with 8 GB RAM and 512 GB of storage. The design is simple and angular, and somehow reminiscent of the original Vaios. The choice of materials and the simplicity of the design, however, makes it feel like it was built to a price.
Opening the lid raises the base to improve airflow and reveals a large, 15.6-inch display and a proper keyboard with numpad. The keys are backlit and the trackpad is responsive, but for some reason, I found the keys hard to index at first. There’s no Windows Hello compatible webcam or fingerprint reader for logging in, and you power up the device with an archaic, green and glowy power button.
The screen is decent, with good contrast but poor colour depth. Reds tend towards orange and videos generally seem a bit washed out. Testing with an i1Display Pro Plus colorimeter confirms my suspicions. Contrast ratio was measured at 1100:1 but colour gamut came in at a mere 57 percent sRGB. Brightness is also a middling 227 nits, which is only enough for indoor use.
Why’d the hardware have to be so old?
Given that this laptop is running a 2-yr old APU — AMD-speak for a CPU with an onboard GPU — performance is passable. In real-world use, you’re not going to care whether you have a 3rd Gen Ryzen chip or a 5th Gen one under the hood. As long as your work doesn’t involve anything as strenuous as large Excel sheets, that is. You’ll notice slowdowns when working with a large number of Chrome tabs, or even large docs or sheets on Google Drive.
When gaming, the Vega 10 APU is only capable of handling esports titles like at the lowest settings and at 720p resolution. The older CPU also impacts battery life, with the system managing a sub-par 5 hrs and 46 minutes with the screen at 120 nits. This is barely enough for a day of work or school.
Overall, the 3700U is 30-50 percent slower than its successor, the 5700U, and much slower – especially on battery power – than Intel’s competing low-power 11th Gen chips that you’ll find in similarly priced machines.
Verdict: A budget laptop with a premium price tag
It’s nice to see that Vaio is back, and that it ditched its pretentious designs for something more down-to-earth and familiar. Still, at Rs 76,000, I just can’t recommend the Vaio E15.
At this price, I see no reason to accept anything less than a modern, 11th Gen Intel CPU or, at a minimum, a 4000 series APU from AMD. Eighty thousand bucks is Lenovo YogaBook and Dell XPS 13 territory, and just 10K shy of Apple’s extraordinarily powerful M1 MacBook Air. I’d normally expect a laptop with these specs to retail in the 35-45k range — like last year’s Honor MagicBook 15.
The Vaio E15 isn’t a bad laptop, but that Vaio badge isn’t worth an additional 40k.