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4 Hot Multimedia Notebooks Reviewed

Sony VAIO VGN-AR630E

As you can see from the rear view of the VGN-AR630E in our next photo, this notebook looks much like any other modern VAIO: slim and elegant, with a finger-print resistant matte exterior finish.

The rear of this VAIO includes a fan/ventilation port on the left, and a USB port and DC power input on the right.

From left to right, the left side of the VGN-AR630E features S/PDIF audio out, microphone in (red) and a headphone jack. Next comes the media tray for the Blu-ray player.

On the right side, from left to right, you’ll find two USB ports and a PC Card slot above, with an ExpressCard slot below. In the center, there is a large flip-door that covers the Firewire (iLink) port and S-Video, HDMI and VGA inputs. Network and modem connectors lurk beneath a flip-down cover near the far right side here.

With the screen up and the Vista desktop showing, you can also see the keyboard deck below, and a Webcam and the latch catch on the upper bezel above the display. Audio and video playback buttons are positioned on the upper left corner of the keyboard deck.

The degree of hand motion required to use the touchpad and related control buttons is what bothered us so much about this VAIO’s ergonomics. It slowed our typing speed noticeably, and was objectionable enough to boost our frustration level each time we had to use a mouse button. Sony would do very well to bundle a decent wireless mouse with this unit, so you could then disable the touchpad completely. Otherwise, the audio and video experience in using this unit was very nice, and compared favorably with the much more expensive HP HDX "Dragon."