Tag Archives: vaio

More user perspectives on the Best Buy Blue Label Sony Vaio VPCSC1AFM/S

I posted my recent article about the Best Buy Sony Vaio because there weren’t many user reviews available on the web. Despite some initial hiccups, I found it to be an excellent laptop and wanted to share my experience.

Happily, my post attracted the attention of some very smart, technically savvy folks who either shared their user review in the post’s Comments section, or provided a link to their own review (It aint easy to choose a Laptop: Sony Vaio VPCSC1AFM/S). I urge folks interested in this laptop to read these very intelligent, thorough user reviews for additional information.

On a side note: This experience reminded me that when I read tech articles, I absolutely shouldn’t pass up reading the comments. The information provided by reader comments increased the value of my article exponentially for those trying to decide whether to buy this laptop!

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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 Option Quicksilver USB vs Sprint’s Sierra598U USB (Cellular Modems)

I recently upgraded my laptop to a Sony Vaio VGN-Z610Y (which I LOVE, byz_gallery_two_comps    the way, but that’s another review).

In order to leverage the Vaio’s portability, I decided to get a cellular modem to enable mobile Internet access. But which device and carrier?

I have a generous corporate discount for AT&T via my employer, so AT&T was an obvious option. I had read a lot about Sprint’s data access, and found Gizmodo’s nationwide wireless provider comparison (using cellular modems) especially interesting, so Sprint appeared to be another good option.

Off to the wireless stores I went…

At AT&T, I picked up an Option USBConnect Quicksilver. quicksilver I was actually hoping to get an express card form factor, but AT&T is apparently phasing out them out. That left a PC card format (which my laptop doesn’t support) or USB. I went with the Quicksilver based on reviews I’d read online.

598u

At Sprint, I picked up a Sierra Wireless USB 598U based on online reviews. Also, Gizmodo’s nationwide comparison test was quite compelling since it showed Sprint as having the fastest cellular network, on average, nationwide. I confess, I’ve never been fond of Sprint as a wireless carrier (don’t prefer CDMA due to being “locked into” a specific device for the life of a 2-year contract and Sprint’s customer service and billing accuracy can be underwhelming). I was disappeared to learn post-purchase that although my employer has a corporate discount negotiated, Sprint does not apply discounts to their $59.99  data plan for wireless modems.

Well, what did I find once I got home?

During my at home testing, I felt underwhelmed by the AT&T Quicksilver – speeds were consistently slower than the Sprint 598U. I was disappointed to the point of packing the Quicksilver up for imminent return. Here are the metrics from my at home testing:

AT&T Quicksilver (at home, evening) –
Average download speed:  .97 Mb/s
Average upload speed:  .143 Mb/s

Sprint 598U (at home, evening):
Average download speed:  1.137 Mb/s
Average upload speed:  .243 Mb/s

However, I’m not really planning to use the cellular modem at home. Time to hit my usual haunts and check out performance.

How did these cellular modems/networks perform out and about?

AT&T Quicksilver (out & about, business hours) –
Average download speed:  1.82 Mb/s
Average upload speed:  1.213 Mb/s

PEAK download speed:  2.74 Mb/s
PEAK upload speed:  1.25 Mb/s

Sprint 598U (out & about, business hours)  –
Average download speed:  .829 Mb/s
Average upload speed:  .499 Mb/s

PEAK download speed:  1.77 Mb/s
PEAK upload speed:  .61 Mb/s

Clearly, the AT&T Quicksilver is faster in places I like to visit locally. I don’t travel a lot, so I’m satisfied with basing my purchase on network speeds where I live & work in Connecticut. If I traveled more, my choice might be different.

I’m also quite happy with AT&T as a wireless service provider, and have stayed with them longer than any other carrier (and I’ve tried them all). I logged into my AT&T account today and was delighted to find my corporate discount already applied to the Quicksilver’s monthly data plan. My experience with AT&T has generally been “no hassle”, and buying and getting up to speed with this device has been quick and easy.

Decision: AT&T Quicksilver

How I performed this analysis (for data geeks 🙂
I ran Speedtest.net 3 times per modem in each location, and then averaged the results. When I had reason to think another process could be concurrently accessing the Internet, I re-ran the test.