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Sony VAIO B1 Series: a first look

Sony's recent revamp of its VAIO notebooks includes a range aimed at the business sector.

Sony's new VAIO B1 series turns the company's attention firmly to business buyers. With a thin-and-light design derived from the VAIO Z line, the B1 series offers standard fare: 14.1in. screens, mobile processors, optical drives and up to 60GB of hard drive capacity. Spec for spec, the VAIO B1 series challenges the likes of Dell's Latitude D400 and IBM's ThinkPad T42.

Sony's thin-and-light design will appeal to business users who live on the road, as it provides most of the comforts of a desktop PC in a 2.3kg package. Measuring 4.3cm thick at the hinge, 32.1cm wide and 25.5cm deep, the wedge-shaped VAIO B1 comes in two models, with Pentium M processors at 1.6GHz or 1.7GHz, 40GB or 60GB of hard drive space, and a combo DVD/CD-RW or a DVD burner.

Video will likely be merely adequate, powered by Intel's integrated graphics that draw up to 64MB of system memory. The low-end model's 14.1in. screen has an XGA (1,024 by 768) native resolution, while the top-of-the-range model delivers SXGA+ (1,400 by 1,050).

Connectivity is key on the road, and Sony provides a decent array of ports: a pair of USB 2.0, external monitor, FireWire and audio, as well as an Intel 802.11b/g Wi-Fi module, a modem and 100Mbps Ethernet -- unfortunately not the business-standard Gigabit variety. In addition to its Type II PC Card slot, the B1 series comes with a proprietary Memory Stick Pro flash card slot.

Although the VAIO B1 series should please the typical mobile professional, it can only accept up to 1.5GB of system memory -- a bit short of the 2GB that some business power users will require. Sony offers the B1 series loaded with Windows XP Professional but not Windows 2000, which some businesses continue to use. The VAIO B1 series comes with a standard one-year warranty, extendable to a more corporate-friendly three years of coverage.

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