December 19th, 2006 Mobile Computing, Tech, The West Australian


About 15 years ago, an enterprising and ultimately doomed venture saw computer cases printed, painted or covered with everything from camouflage colours to purple gonk fur.

Little did those cut-price computer shops know they were taking the first tentative steps of a revolution. As early as 1990, users in the home PC field were decrying the ubiquitous beige of computer casings, and it wasn’t until 1998 that the original fruit-flavoured iMac broke the trend in a serious way.

What Apple realised was that while users wanted their computers to look different from the ugly beige box, they still wanted them to be (and look like) serious technology, not expensive toys.

Currently at rung number two on the industrial design ladder, Sony have once again taken a leaf out of Apple’s book and released a computer that’s individual and pretty but still looks like it can handle things.

Bound to meet with success among students and kids for whom customising their machinery is a way of life, the FJ78GP laptop comes in blue, silver, black and the muted red/pink they call raspberry.

Sony’s undoubtedly hoping it’s enough to have young teenage girls choosing it on the strength of the casing alone. However, if you’re anything other than a teenage girl you’ll find yourself attracted to it for the same reason.

Secondary but still destined to be a standard feature in the future is the built-in Motion Eye camera. At about a third of a megapixel, it’s not going to do a high-end fashion shoot but for amusing yourself with the screensaver or videoconferencing it’s a very marketable addition.

The colour matches the clean and user-friendly design Sony specialises in — particularly in the VAIO range. In that regard it beats plenty of the laptops on the market today that have better specs and sterner design.

Besides high quality product design, another bonus that comes with buying Sony products is buying part of their philosophy. Owning everything from the VAIO notebook to Columbia Pictures, Sony is a media provider, and they wouldn’t be caught dead merely selling you the casing, chip and disc of a notebook without putting the power of the media at your fingertips too.

Among the $1000 worth of software that comes preloaded is a battery of tools for managing and sharing photos, photo and video editing, audio compilation and composition and DVD creation. Perhaps once more taking a leaf out of Apple’ book, it’s all very simple to use and will make a multimedia producer out of you in no time.

The FJ78GP has an older chip in the Pentium M Centrino and for the price, you don’t get a whole lot of grunt in the innards. The video card is nothing special and when you cycle through high-end applications you’ll notice some lag. It has no trouble displaying a DVD but the most RAM- and graphics- hungry games will stutter.

The keyboard is well laid out and the glassy 14" screen gives you plenty of room both on your desktop and on the keyboard area. So if you can handle specs that are a little lower than the top of the range on the market today but you want something this good looking, it’s far less a fire hazard than purple gonk fur.

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