The Bottom Line
Dec 14 2012 - VIZIO's Notebook design is going to be directly compared by many to the Apple MacBook Pro 15 with Retina as they share similar aluminum designs that are very thin and light. For under $1200, it comes with a high resolution display that offers some solid performance. For the most part, VIZIO does a very good job with their laptop but it is crippled by a keyboard and trackpad design that are just terrible for anyone looking to use this for long periods of time.
- Solid Performance
- High Resolution Display
- Stylish Design
- Poor Keyboard and Trackpad
- Limited Number of Peripheral Ports For 15-inch Laptop
- Intel Core i7-3610QM Quad Core Mobile Processor
- 8GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 1TB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive With 32GB Solid State Drive Cache
- 15.6" WUXGA (1920x1080) Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M LE Graphics With 2GB Memory
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 3.0, HDMI, SD Card Slot
- 14.9" x 9.9" x .9" @ 5.3 lbs.
- Windows 8, Office Starter
Review - VIZIO Notebook CN15-A5 15.6-inch
Dec 14 2012 - VIZIO's Notebook takes much of the same design decisions that Apple used with its MacBook Pro 15 with Retina. It features an all aluminum frame with a profile that is under an inch thick that runs the whole range of the body. It seems thinner than this thanks to the beveled edges on the front and sides. The one downside to this rather than a more squared offed like the Apple MacBook Pro is that there is less space for peripheral ports. It features just two USB ports, an HDMI connector but at least it features an SD card slot which their Thin + Light lacks.
Powering the VIZIO Notebook is the standard Intel Core i7-3610QM quad core processor. This is not the fastest of the quad core mobile processor but it provides the system with more than enough power for most users. Combined with the 8GB of DDR3 memory and it is able to handle even demanding tasks such as desktop video editing. The only real downside is that the system is sealed such that the memory cannot be upgraded after purchase.
For the storage on the VIZIO Notebook, a hybrid storage option is being used which combines a large one terabyte hard drive with a 32GB solid state drive for caching. This caching helps make up the performance issues of a slower 5400rpm hard drive for things like booting up the system or launching frequently used programs. The laptop can cold boot into Windows 8 in roughly thirty seconds which is an improvement over standard hard drives but short of what can be achieved with just a solid state drive. If you do happen to need additional storage space, the system features two USB 3.0 ports for use with high speed external storage drives. Like Apple's MacBook Pro 15 with Retina, VIZIO has elected not to include an optical drive which means you would need an external drive if you wish to watch movies or load software from the physical media format.
The display and graphics are the big draw for the VIZIO Notebook. The 15.6-inch display features a nice 1920x1080 native resolution that allows for greater detail. Now this resolution isn't all that uncommon in this size of laptop but it is a very strong feature for something priced at $1200. The screen offers some fast response times thanks to the TN technology panel but it lacks the color and viewing angles of higher priced IPS panels. It still falls well short of what the MacBook Pro 15 with Retina display can achieve but is certainly above average. The graphics are driven by the NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M LE dedicated graphics processor. This is a decent graphics processor that tries to balance power and heat. It offers 3D performance for casual PC gaming but not at the panel's full resolution or with high detail levels. It also offers a broader range of acceleration for non-3D applications like Photoshop than the integrated graphics options.
The keyboard and trackpad design on the VIZIO Notebook is essentially identical to its Thin + List. This is disappointing as there is plenty of space on the left and right of the keyboard deck to git a larger overall keyboard. It uses the same traditional design that has little room between keys and has a very flat overall surface. The result is a keyboard that can be very difficult for touch typists to use due to the restricted space and ease with which one can press the wrong key. The trackpad does benefit from a larger surface area than the one on the Thin + Light which thankfully allows for more accurate multitouch gestures but it still has accuracy problems.
As with its smaller Thin + Light ultrabook, VIZIO does not publish its battery capacity and instead just lists a seven hours of possible running time. In digital video playback testing, the laptop was able to run for just four and three quarter hours before going into standby. This is quite good for such a performance oriented laptop but it is still well short of their claim or the seven hours of running time that Apple's MacBook Pro 15 with Retina Display can achieve in the same test.
In terms of competition, there are several in the same price range that are larger and of course the Apple MacBook Pro 15 With Retina that costs much more. For those worried about size, the Acer Aspire V5-571 offers a more compact design that is also less expensive but sacrifices performance because of the ultrabook internals. The HP Envy dv6 offers a laptop that is larger but comes with a Blu-ray drive and higher performance 3D graphics at the expensive of being larger. The Lenovo IdeaPad Y580 also offers a Blu-ray drive and even faster 3D graphics but is much heavier and larger in addition to being louder. Finally, the Samsung Series 5 is only a bit heavier and is much more affordable but sacrifices the display to keep the costs down. All of these have far superior keyboards and trackpads.