Sony VAIO S Series (2011) review

Price when reviewed

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.

Sony VAIO S Series (2011) - front

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.


Warranty2 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions331 x 225 x 24mm (WDH)
Travelling weight2.1kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Core i5-2410M
Motherboard chipsetIntel HM65
RAM capacity4.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free1
SODIMM sockets total1

Screen and video

Screen size13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal1,366
Resolution screen vertical768
Resolution1366 x 768
Graphics chipsetIntel HD Graphics 3000 / AMD Radeon HD 6470M
Graphics card RAM512MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
HDMI outputs1
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0


Hard disk usable capacity466GB
Spindle speed5,400RPM
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Hard diskHitachi HTS545050B9SA00
Optical disc technologyDVD writer
Optical driveOptiarc AD-7930V
Battery capacity4,400mAh
Replacement battery price ex VAT£125
Replacement battery price inc VAT£150


Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a supportno
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapteryes
Bluetooth supportyes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchyes
Wireless key-combination switchno
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
USB ports (downstream)2
FireWire ports0
PS/2 mouse portno
9-pin serial ports0
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
3.5mm audio jacks1
SD card readeryes
Memory Stick readeryes
MMC (multimedia card) readerno
Smart Media readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readerno
Pointing device typeTouchpad
Audio chipsetRealtek HD Audio
Speaker locationAbove keyboard
Hardware volume control?no
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Camera megapixel rating0.3mp
Fingerprint readeryes
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use6hr 49min
Battery life, heavy use1hr 6min
Overall Real World Benchmark score0.74
Responsiveness score0.79
Media score0.71
Multitasking score0.72

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows 7 Professional 64-bit
OS familyWindows 7
Recovery methodRecovery partition
Software suppliedN/A

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