The Sony VAIO VGN-FW198U/H is a speedy and desirable laptop sporting Intel's latest Centrino 2, Monevina processor.

As one of the first notebooks with Intel's new Centrino 2 processor (code-named Montevina), the Sony VAIO VGN-FW198U/H might be expected to hog the performance spotlight.

The Sony VAIO VGN-FW198U/H is an entertainment notebook. It certainly felt plenty speedy moving among applications in casual use, and it did fine in our formal performance tests. But the laptop's screen will probably turn more heads than its horsepower - or its speakers - will.

Sony's premium entertainment model, the Sony VAIO VGN-FW198U/H retails for $1,750 (just shy of £900, but ex VAT, of course) and is also built for business.

Processing power

Thanks to a 2.53-GHz Core 2 Duo T9400 processor (which is fairly middle-of-the-road among Intel's seven new Montevina chips) and a hefty 4GB of RAM, the Sony VAIO VGN-FW198U/H posts solid numbers.

A score of 94 in Worldbench 6 doesn't make for the fastest lap around the track, but the Sony VAIO VGN-FW198U/H keeps pace with Sony's more compact VGN-SZ791N.

Of course, with great power comes an even greater battery drain. The Sony VAIO VGN-FW198U/H lasted only 2 hours, 32 minutes in our tests. That's about 30 minutes less than we're accustomed to seeing in all-purpose notebooks - or in power-sucking desktop replacements, for that matter.

This Sony VAIO VGN-FW198U/H also turned in solid gaming scores; its dedicated video card, the 256MB Radeon HD 3470, topped out at 83 frames per second in Far Cry (with antialiasing turned off). Just resist the temptation to use every bit of the beautiful 16-inch display. Most gaming on this notebook probably shouldn't go much higher than a 1024-by-768-pixel resolution.

The screen itself is a real attention grabber. The latest "tweener" - a screen that falls between two established notebook display sizes - it's almost freakishly skinny. At an atypical 16.4in wide, it's no taller than a 15.4in screen but over an inch wider, the better to watch widescreen high-def movies in the recordable Blu-ray drive, or to view two websites or documents side by side. (Even so, when we ran our test disc - a Blu-ray version of 'Phantom of the Opera' - we still saw annoying black letterbox bars.)

The screen is also extremely bright without being too reflective. The 1600-by-900-pixel resolution is easy on the eyes when tackling mainstream work. All in all, the Sony VAIO VGN-FW198U/H's screen is a big winner. You certainly won't find a notebook with a similar-size screen - such as a slightly larger 17in - that's as easy to lug as this 2.9kg (not counting the power adaptor) unit.

NEXT PAGE: sound quality, seamless build > >