Sony VAIO S Series (2011) review
The VAIO S Series always struck an attractive balance between business and pleasure. Now, after a ground-up redesign for Sandy Bridge, Sony has made it more appealing than ever.
All vestiges of the previous model’s thick, curvy plastic casing have been left behind. With a keyboard surround milled from a single sheet of aluminium, and a magnesium-reinforced 13in chassis, the new model evokes more than a hint of Sony’s money-no-object VAIO Z Series.
At just 1.69kg, it’s easily light enough to carry around on a day-to-day basis, but it doesn’t feel as sturdy as its metal-framed construction might suggest. Pick up the VAIO S Series by a corner and there’s noticeable give in the chassis, while more heavy-handed grappling causes an audible creak. Gorgeous though it is, the build quality is no match for Apple’s MacBook Pro 13.
Spend a little time using the Sony, though, and you’ll soon forget any qualms about its build. The keyboard is superb. The Scrabble-tile keys have a positive, responsive feel, and the spacious layout is almost as comfortable as a full-sized keyboard. The touchpad is great too: the wide, smooth surface makes for accurate cursor control, and a fingerprint reader nestles between the two buttons, both of which respond with a lovely muffled click.
Thanks to Sandy Bridge, the Sony can match most 13in laptops when it comes to performance: it’s possible to configure the VAIO S Series with a range of Core i3, i5 and i7 CPUs on Sony’s website. Our retail model came with a mid-range Intel 2.3GHz Core i5-2410M processor, but was still blazingly quick, surging through our benchmarks to an overall score of 0.74. For a sub-2kg laptop, that’s seriously fast.
Graphics switching also makes its VAIO S Series debut. Flip the switch above the keyboard from Stamina to Speed mode, or vice versa, and the screen flickers momentarily as the Intel and AMD chipsets switch over. It’s a feature which allows the Sony to flit nimbly between the roles of long-lasting portable and high-powered workstation.
With AMD’s Radeon HD 6470M chipset activated, the Sony has enough power to run Crysis at modest settings: at the native 1,366 x 768 resolution and Medium detail, the Sony managed a playable 29fps. For serious gaming, Sony’s website offers an upgrade to the Radeon HD 6630M for a £60 premium.
|Warranty||2 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||331 x 225 x 24mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i5-2410M|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel HM65|
|SODIMM sockets free||1|
|SODIMM sockets total||1|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,366|
|Resolution screen vertical||768|
|Resolution||1366 x 768|
|Graphics chipset||Intel HD Graphics 3000 / AMD Radeon HD 6470M|
|Graphics card RAM||512MB|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||1|
|Hard disk usable capacity||466GB|
|Internal disk interface||SATA/300|
|Hard disk||Hitachi HTS545050B9SA00|
|Optical disc technology||DVD writer|
|Optical drive||Optiarc AD-7930V|
|Replacement battery price ex VAT||£125|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£150|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||yes|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||yes|
|Wireless key-combination switch||no|
|PC Card slots||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||2|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||0|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||1|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Memory Stick reader||yes|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||no|
|Smart Media reader||no|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Audio chipset||Realtek HD Audio|
|Speaker location||Above keyboard|
|Hardware volume control?||no|
|Camera megapixel rating||0.3mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||6hr 49min|
|Battery life, heavy use||1hr 6min|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.74|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 7 Professional 64-bit|
|OS family||Windows 7|
|Recovery method||Recovery partition|
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