comparison

Lisa and Jackson get a Sony VAIO

I read an article on Ars Technica about the new Windows advertisement titled "Lisa and Jackson get a Sony VAIO". In the advertisement, Lisa and her 11-year old
son Jackson are looking for a $1500 computer, choosing a PC over a Mac. While I think it's good that Microsoft is recovering from the "Vista blunder" and starting to retaliate against Apple's aggressive ads, it bothers me that these ads are based on absolutely nothing.

After watching the ad (several times), the only valid point I could find was that Apple computer don't include Blu-ray drives (yet). Here are the things Jackson says he needs:

  • Speed
  • A big hard drive
  • A good gaming computer
  • Price under $1500

Hm, so we have one quantifiable objective and 3 other subjective ones.

Jackson starts by takes a look at the Macs and decides they are "a little too small" and immediately moves on. While I'll agree that the MacBook's 13.3" screen is a bit small (and the MacBook Pro is outside his price range), Jackson and his mother completely ignore all specifications! They move on to the PCs where they discover that they can use a remote to control the computer... Of course, no mention that Apple's computers have also this feature (and for years before it became mainstream on PCs, might I add). So in short, because the Sony VIAO Jackson is looking at has a Blu-ray drive and a 16" screen, he's sold. What happened to checking for "speed", "a big hard drive" or a graphics card? A large screen is always nice, but useless for gaming unless you have a decent GPU.

I did a quick search on bestbuy.ca (16" laptops, price range >= $1500) and it found two matching Sony VIAOs, so I took the more expensive one. For $1349.99, the Sony VAIO 16.4" Laptop (VGNFW275DW) (click for specs) features:

  • CPU: 2.26GHz Intel Centrino Core 2 Duo P8400 (3MB Cache, 1066MHz FSB)
  • RAM: 4GB DDR2 800MHz (2GB x 2)
  • Hard drive: 320GB 5400RPM
  • Optical drive: 2X Blu-ray writer, 8X DVD writer
  • Screen: 16.4" (1920 x 1080)
  • Display output: VGA, HDMI (not HDCP compliant)
  • Dedicated GPU: None (Mobile Intel GM45 Express, 1750MB shared system memory)
  • Battery: Lithium-ion (approx. 1-3 hour battery life)
  • Internal microphone amplifier
  • MS Duo & SD card readers

Here's the comparison with Apple's MacBook (click for specs), available for a very similar $1,399.00:

  • CPU: 2.0GHz Intel Centrino Core 2 Duo P7350 (3MB Cache, 1066MHz FSB)
  • RAM: 2GB DDR3 1066MHz (1GB x 2)
  • Hard drive: 160GB 5400RPM
  • Optical drive: 8X DVD writer
  • Screen: 13.3" (1280 x 800 LED backlit)
  • Display output: mini-DisplayPort (VGA, HDMI (HDCP compliant), DVI and dual-DVI available via $34 adapters)
  • Dedicated GPU: None (nVidia GeForce 9400M, 256MB shared system memory)
  • Battery: Lithium-ion (approx. 5 hours)
  • Multitouch trackpad (supports gestures such as three-finger swipe for back/foward and two-finger scrolling)
  • Extremely environmentally friendly: EPEAT Gold rating + more (see spec page for more info)
  • MagSafe power port: Magnetic power latch

I've left out any sort of software comparison since that is very subjective and opinions vary from user to user. As well, I did not list components which were equivalent such as the built-in webcam or wireless 802.11a/b/g/n.

Let's return to Jackson's original criteria:

  • Speed: VAIO wins by a tiny margin... The difference between the P7350 and the P8400 would be negligible during "real world" use.
  • Big hard drive: VAIO wins by a large margin, as Apple tends to be very conservative with their laptop hard drive size.
  • Good gaming computer: In reality, neither computer has a dedicated graphics card which is what really matters for gaming. Ignoring that fact, the MacBook wins by a huge margin. nVidia has reported that their 9400M is up to 5x faster than Intel's GM45 integrated graphics chipset. As always reports like that should be taken with a grain of salt since the "up to" can be a bit misleading. The 9400M, however, is still a much better choice than the GM45 even if it's only 2-3x faster on average and in one or two cases, 5x faster. Finally, we must also consider the RAM size and type. Sure, it makes the VAIO look great if you say "4GB of RAM!" but let's take a look at the bigger picture. The GM45 is using up to 1750MB of system memory, so that means that if you're gaming on the VAIO, you only really have 2GB of RAM... Just like the MacBook. The 9400M used in the new MacBooks only uses 256MB of system memory, which is much smaller than the GM45 - leaving 1.75GB available for system use. Let's not also forget that Apple is using faster RAM than the VAIO; DDR2 800MHz versus the DDR3 1066MHz RAM on the Macbook.

I'm not even going to compare the features outside of Jackson's criteria, I think you can see where this is going ;)

For your viewing pleasure, here's the ad:

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