Introducing the Sony EE34

You can't buy it from Sony's website. If you blinked you might have missed the news popping up on a couple of different sites about its existence. If you were on the phone with me when I called Jarred about it, you might even have shared his reaction: "Sony makes a budget AMD laptop?" But sure enough they do, and we have a  budget Sony EE34 notebook on hand that's liable to raise more than a few eyebrows. Around $600 for a Sony Vaio AMD-based notebook with a Blu-ray drive standard? They make those?

As a matter of fact, they do. With Intel's Sandy Bridge recall having largely enervated the retail market, we thought it would be a good opportunity to take another look at what AMD has on hand. When we saw the EE34 on the shelf, it wound up being such a curiosity that we knew we had to find out just what exactly a budget Sony Vaio AMD notebook means. This is also the first of hopefully many Sony notebooks we'll be taking a look at in the future and yes, we've heard your calls, we're trying to get a Z series on hand.

In the meantime, though, we're going to check out what happens when an AMD Athlon II mobile processor with a 25W TDP hangs out inside one of Sony's attractive Vaio notebooks.

Sony EE34 Specifications
Processor AMD Athlon II P340
(2x2.2GHz, 45nm, 1MB L2, 25W)
Chipset AMD RS880M Northbridge + SB800 Southbridge
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1333 (Max 2x4GB)
Graphics AMD Mobility Radeon HD 4250 IGP
(40 Stream Processors, 510MHz core clock)
Display 15.6" LED Glossy 16:9 1366x768
(LG LGD02CA Panel)
Hard Drive(s) 320GB 5400 RPM
Optical Drive BD-ROM/DVD+-RW Combo Drive
Networking Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Atheros AR9285 802.11b/g/n
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Headphone and microphone jacks
Battery 4-Cell, 11.1V, 39Wh battery
Front Side MS reader
SD/MMC reader
Wireless switch
Indicator lights
Headphone jack
Microphone jack
Left Side AC adapter
Exhaust vent
Ethernet jack
USB 2.0
Right Side 3x USB 2.0
Optical drive
Kensington lock
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 14.56" x 9.78" x 1.26"-1.47" (WxDxH)
Weight 5.90 lbs
Extras Webcam
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo)
Blu-ray drive
103 key keyboard with 10-key
Warranty 1-year limited warranty
Pricing Available online for $630

It's no big secret that Intel's "Core 2010" series of mobile processors are faster than AMD's current lineup, and that the Sandy Bridge-based "Core 2011" series will be faster still. The problem is that the former are drying up in retail (no doubt due to trying to shift inventory to make room for the Sandy Bridge refreshes) while the latter are still about a month away due to the recall. That leaves us with a healthy amount of AMD-based notebooks on the market, and as we'll see that's not such a bad thing.

The Athlon II P340 (so nice of AMD to finally do away with any sense of logic in their chip naming just like Intel did) is basically the same as the dual-core desktop Athlon II, with no L3 cache but 512KB of L2 cache per core. It runs at an unexciting 2.2GHz, but should still provide enough processing power to handle most tasks. The best part, of course, is that this chip also features a 25W TDP that you'll see Sony actually manages to get some mileage out of.

Well, that's not the only best part. The other part is that while AMD's 40-shader integrated graphics haven't exactly aged gracefully, they're still better than any other IGP currently widely available on the market (NVIDIA's GeForce 320M is only available in MacBooks, and the 9400M is basically gone now) barring the Radeon HD 6310 in AMD's E-350, which brings with it the baggage of a much slower processor. As a result the Mobility Radeon HD 4250 may not be much but it can at least get the job done for the lightest of gaming, though most users will be disappointed to see it doesn't share the 700MHz core clock of the desktop IGP.

The other big selling point of the Sony EE34 is the Blu-ray drive, making it a very affordable way to get a decent computer and a Blu-ray player in one shot. The middling 720p screen may not help you get the most out of your movie watching experience, but it's a start, and there's always the HDMI port for external displays.

As for the rest of the EE34, connectivity is generally good and the 4GB of DDR3 is ample, but the system is bogged down by a lowest-common-denominator 5400RPM Toshiba hard drive with a paltry 8MB of cache. Every time I have to use a Toshiba or Fujitsu hard drive I feel like I'm being punished for something, and it's a disappointment to see them when most vendors have switched to using Seagate or Western Digital drives (though Samsung and Hitachi are also fine candidates.) 

An Inexpensive Vaio?
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  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    You don't always need to buy cheap junk. Lenovos aren't too bad though.

    Quick example, my main laptop is a Dell Latitude D800, which still works perfectly now with a new hard disk and 2GB RAM upgrade, and Windows 7, alongside the existing 2GHz Pentium M and Radeon 9600 Pro Turbo (128MB).

    That must be 6 years old. It has a nicer screen than anything I could get now (1920x1200).

    I don't need to upgrade it unless I wanted to play 1080p video or new games.
  • Stuka87 - Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - link

    I too had no clue Sony made a budget laptop period, much less a laptop with an AMD in it. And it actually looks like a pretty nice machine for the price.

    And it was a nicely written review at that.
  • roko98 - Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - link

    "I've been paid to fix those computers. I don't like doing it anymore. There are bargains, and then there's getting what you pay for. When my dad's girlfriend complains because the illegal immigrant she paid a paltry eight bucks an hour to take care of her front yard didn't do a very good job, she sounds dense."

    Maybe you are right, maybe not. Please keep it for yourself. This comment doesn't fell right for a very professional site like Anand's. If you skip this... good review.
  • Jumangi - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    Oh noes!!! Here comes the PC police!

    We all know its supposed to be "undocumented immigrant"...don't want to make the progressives angry...
  • Nfarce - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    Exactly why does the phrase "illegal immigrant" get liberals so upset? What part of illegal and immigrant in the phrase "illegal immigrant" is not hard to understand? It is what it is whether one is from South America, Europe, or Indofreakingchina. Get over yourselves.
  • 7Enigma - Friday, February 25, 2011 - link

    I'll be honest, I could care less about PC comments (see the other comments below), but I also agree it just didn't fit in the piece. Seemed to me like an extra paragraph was needed for the article and this fluff was thrown in to pad the page. Not all of us have a great deal of free time and I doubt the target audience of this piece needs/cares about someone complaining about yard work.

    Stick to the substance, and we'll be happy.
  • RaistlinZ - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    So basically, they got all the cheapest components they could find and wrapped them around a Blu-Ray player for $600. This thing offers netbook performance for a higher cost. Why put a Blu-Ray with a crappy screen to watch it on?

    13x7 resolution? 5200 rpm HDD? 10 fps average on games? I don't see a market for this thing. Maybe at $400, but not at $600.
  • Calabros - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    I prefer budget notebooks, cause if it lost or stole or dropped, I loose $600 not 1.5K
  • HHCosmin - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    nice to see sony making an... ahem... less expensive lappie.
    first thing is i think people over value the cpu power. laptops are more about mobility: weight, autonomy, durability and less about horse power. don't like much the optical drives. there a lot of ways to carry data besides optical drives: sticks, online, nas etc.

    runtime... this is one of the things that plagued amd.... but you see notebooks are not made by amd but by integrators: acer, asus, sony etc. so the runtime is not the cpu runtime but the platform runtime. well the platform is the integrator business. since amd was mostly for cheap builds then the integrators cared very little for making a good platform with good runtime. my point is that we get a laptop with same battery, same cpu, same ram amount, comparable hdd, same igp we will get the same perfromance.... but bingo!... not the same runtime. in fact we may get big differences and this is the case with intel too. my hunch is that the lame runtime under idle - low, video play usage of a laptop is the integrator's fault. and the driver makes also.

    so congrats for sony on making a good build and caring about runtime.

    the cpu power is enough, the runtime is at last ok as sony cared about it, the price is ok
  • jabber - Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - link

    Indeed. Folks cant get their minds out of the turn of the century CPU power struggle that you always have to have more.

    As soon as we got dual core CPUs the power struggle came to an end for 80% of users.

    The needs of the many have long since been met.

    I've been using a 1.3GHz CULV laptop for the past year and its been superb. Never once have I found it wanting. I cant tell the difference performance wise to some of the i3/i5 laptops I've worked on. Its no different in 95% of tasks other than video encoding.

    Oh and did I mention that I get nearly 7 hours running time from it?

    In fact my 3.5GHz quad-core crossfire box has pretty much been relegated to video encoding.

    More power to the low power revolution.

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