Monthly Archives: May 2011

My Best Buy Blue Label laptop adventure: Sony Vaio VPCSC1AFM/S

A few years ago, I bought a Sony Vaio Z Series laptop and loved it – fast, light, long battery life. Recently, I realized it was probably time to upgrade, and looked around for another laptop.

Store after store I visited had an abundance of 15 & 16” laptops, but not a lot of 12 – 14” machines. I prefer smaller laptops for the portability and more compact keyboards which tend to be a better fit for me.

pcmprd154000050000_scThen I happened across the Sony Vaio VPCSC1AFM/S, a Best Buy Exclusive (Best Buy Blue Label 3.0), similar to Sony’s Vaio S Series. I tried it in the store… blazing fast with respectable specs including:

  • Intel® Core™ i5-2410M processor
  • 13.3″ LED-backlit widescreen
  • 4GB DDR3 memory
  • 500GB + 4GB SLC hybrid hard drive (apparently, a Momentus XT 7200rpm hybrid drive)
  • Blu-ray Disc-enabled DVD±RW/CD-RW drive
  • AMD Radeon HD 6470M graphics
  • Backlit keyboard

As of May 2011, Best Buy is offering a package deal for $979 that includes the Vaio, a NetGear Push2TV HDTV adapter, and a year subscription for Kaspersky anti-virus. I didn’t need either of the add-ons but would never pass up something that’s essentially being offered for free. I haven’t tried out the Push2TV adapter, and will post a review when I finally kick the tires.

But I digress. Back to the Sony Vaio VPCSC1AFM/S…

My bliss was short-lived as when I came home and turned the laptop on… only to find “OS not found”. Urgh! Ever the geek,  I headed over to Staples and brought home Windows Home Premium to install, as I knew I could download model-specific drivers from the Sony support site. A fine plan too, until I found that that blu-rays would not play on this Vaio without a Sony software called “PMB”, and despite PMB update availability on the Sony support site, apparently the full version of PMB software was required to even load the updated software!

Quite the dilemma. I asked Best Buy for help (hey, they sold it to me), but the sympathetic Geek Squad guy could only offer to swap it for another laptop. I contacted Sony support twice – the 1st time was directed to contact a Sony Service Center, and the 2nd time was chastised by a rude CSR who informed me that I shouldn’t have minded that the OS refused to boot up on my new laptop, and that I needed to press the “Assist” button to boot into the recovery partition. I felt frustrated, but went ahead and restored the OS using the recovery partition using the instructed approach.

I was left wondering whether Best Buy Blue Label laptops receive as thorough pre-shipping quality control as other Sony Vaio laptops.

After completing the install via recovery partition, I experienced software conflicts between some of the Sony Vaio software and Microsoft updates. Yay (NOT)! I finally installed the Microsoft updates one by one, and reinstalled several pieces of the Sony Vaio drivers/software and finally all seems well.

Now that the software headaches seem ironed out, how do I feel about this Best Buy Blue Label?

  • I love the laptop,  it includes the bundle of features I’d been wanting in a reasonably affordable package.
  • It’s fast and fun to use.
  • Love, love, love the backlit keyboard!
  • Startup and shutdown are amazingly fast.
  • The Blu-Ray player is a nice bonus.
  • The screen is lovely with good contrast and color saturation. The Aero theme wallpapers look fantastic on it.

Edited to add: I ran across another user review as I wrote this. His review is very detailed, and I agree with his points.

AT&T’s Samsung Infuse 4G… A First

AT&T and Samsung recently released the Samsung Infuse 4G. samsung_infuse_4gIt’s a first in several ways:

  • 1st Smartphone with a 4.5” screen
  • 1st AT&T Android phone that allows users to easily install apps from sources other than the Android Market (finally!)
  • 1st AT&T Android phone that I’ve found appealing enough to buy

I had read pre-release articles about the Infuse, and knew it had a large screen and very thin profile. Yet I was still wowed I saw the Infuse on its Sunday release.

Initial impressions:

  • Huge, beautiful screen (4.5” measured diagonally)
  • Unbelievably thin

Now that I’ve had the phone for several days, more observations:

  • Love the big screen. Makes checking news, email, twitter a delight. Like the HTC EVO released a year ago, the Infuse form factor is trendsetting.
  • Still amazed by its thinness
  • Single core yet very responsive
  • Surprisingly good battery life. After a few charge cycles, I’m finding it could last two days without charging
  • Comfortable, easy to use even for folks with small hands (like me)
  • Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface is okay – easy to use. I love that users can easily change phone font!
  • AT&T’s network, while reviled by many, has both excellent and poor coverage areas, with good coverage at my home and at work.
    • I’ve had good voice quality, no dropped calls.
    • Connects to data network quickly
    • Data speeds are fast (although not technically 4G): Fastest I’ve seen has been 6MG down, 1.5MG up. Folks in better network coverage areas would likely see faster speeds.

I haven’t been wowed by other Android phones offered by AT&T and was downright turned off by AT&T locking down phones so that apps could only be installed from Android Market.

That all changed with the Infuse! It offers the functionality I want along with a form factor that feels like the future of smartphones.