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Apples and oranges
It's somewhat ironic that when Apple launched their PowerBook G4 range many years ago they used Sony’s Vaio range as a benchmark of design. Now it seems Sony is taking a leaf or two out of Apple's book.

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From a distance you'll be hard pressed to notice differences between a Sony N-Series VAIO and a MacBook/MacBook Pro or Aluminium Powerbook G4. The angular lines and even the MacBook style keyboard are very similar to current Apple designs.

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Getting up close you do notice some differences, primarily due to the price at which N-Series sells for. There's no hint of aluminium or any other metal veneer. The bezel around the screen is fairly thick too. The screen hinge is an almost identical replica to the ones found on "Titanium" PowerBooks (as present in some of the pictures). However there are redeeming features too. The flush power button, the discreet function LEDs and the lack of monitor clasp sticking out should all be appreciated.

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On the hardware side, all connectivity ports are mounted down the right hand side, flush with the casing. The DVD writer sadly isn't slot loading, is mounted on the left. The back of the notebook just features the telephone jack for the modem, an RJ45 connector for wired LAN and mains power.

Specification wise, currently all models have Core Duo processors with all but the cheapest model in the range sporting 1GB RAM. The 15.4" screen has a resolution of 1280x800 and isn't bad to work with although not one of Sony’s best. However it is quite hefty weighing in at around 3.1Kg.

I'm being a bit harsh with my critique of the N-Series because price wise it competes quite well with the consumer MacBook. Priced at £800 for a model with the Core Duo T2050 (1.6GHz) processor, 1GB RAM and 100GB hard drive; the cheapest MacBook although sporting a slightly faster processor (Core Duo at 1.83GHz) features smaller screen, less RAM and hard disk space and no modem. When those are added on the price is around £150 more than the Vaio.

Parallels with the MacBook range will be made thanks to similar styling but don't write the Vaio off just yet. We'll be posting a full review in the coming weeks.