capsule review


At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Sony VAIO TR3AP3 Notebook

Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

Gadget lovers could do a lot worse than Sony's 3.2-pound, Wi-Fi-ready ultraportable, which has a built-in digital camera. You won't win any awards with the Motion Eye camera's short video clips or basic 640-by-480-pixel pictures, but it's great fun to use. Taking pictures with the adjustable swivel lens--built into the top edge of the PCG-TR3AP3's 10.6-inch screen--is easy. A button on the notebook launches Network Capture software and snaps pictures. Each picture appears next to the live image as a thumbnail and can be saved or attached to an e-mail. The Motion Eye doubles as a Webcam and shoots short movies with sound. Both photos and video looked all right to us--though not dramatically sharp--and the video played fairly smoothly.

Even if it didn't have a camera, this small silver unit from Sony would be an attractive ultraportable notebook. A fixed internal DVD burner is located on the front of the notebook, and a slot for Memory Sticks gives you yet another way to share your pictures. Like lots of ultraportables, this machine lacks TV-out, parallel, and serial ports. Sony offers a few generic, third-party port replicators on its Web site, but no docking station or replicator specifically for T-series notebooks.

We found the wide-aspect screen fairly easy to read, despite its measuring just 10.6 diagonal inches and having a native resolution of 1280 by 768 pixels. Icons looked just large enough to suit us, but if you find yourself squinting, you can use the included magnifying button.

Wireless surfers will appreciate the on/off switch on the front of the case and the LED display (located below the mouse buttons) that lights up the words "wireless scanning" as it looks for the network.

Overall, we liked the small but firm keyboard. The <Delete> and <Ctrl> keys are in opposite corners, just the way we like them. At first, the right <Shift> key, which is no bigger than an alphanumeric key, made us uneasy, but we had no trouble pressing it every time. The touchpad, though size of a standard touchpad, is brisk and efficient. The only real distraction is the keyboard's shallow feel, due to a 2mm keystroke, but in time we'd probably get used to that, too.

The small stereo speakers produced tinny audio. But we liked having volume buttons in the screen frame to control our sound recordings.

In our battery tests, the PCG-TR3AP3 lasted 3.3 hours on one charge (Sony sells a double-capacity battery for $350 more). It earned a PC WorldBench 4 score of 107, reasonable for a notebook equipped with the ultra-low-voltage 1-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M processor and a 4200-rpm hard drive.

We'd give the TR3AP3 a grade of B for upgradability. The two memory slots, located in a bottom compartment beneath a cover held by one screw, are accessible to the user, but the 40GB hard drive is not.

The Sony VAIO PCG-TR3AP3 is a pretty good ultraportable with a fun bonus--a built-in digital camera. But you'll pay dearly to play.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Sony VAIO TR3AP3 Notebook

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