Sony VAIO SE Series review

£1184
Price when reviewed

Indeed, part of the VAIO SE Series’ appeal is that it can be configured as anything from an affordable Core i3 model, right up to a Core i7-powered goliath. Dump the vastly overpriced Blu-ray drive and drop down to a Core i3 CPU, for example, and the price slumps to £754 inc VAT. Push for a Core i7 and a sizable SSD, however, and the price soars effortlessly towards the £2,000 mark.

Sony has also retained the VAIO SB Series’ best assets. The switchable graphics are still present and correct, the Intel and AMD graphics swapping places at the mere flick of a switch. With the switch set to Stamina mode, the VAIO SE Series managed a reasonable 5hrs 22mins in our light-use battery test. We didn’t receive the extended optional battery slice (£110) with our review model, but with this in place we’d expect battery life to soar close to the ten hour mark.

Away from more entertaining pursuits, the Sony still has plenty to offer. The Full HD resolution provides a roomy Windows desktop, and the backlit keyboard beneath makes light of typing. The slight give in the keyboard surround doesn’t affect the refined feel, and the Scrabble-tile keys feel crisp and lively under the finger. The extra width across the chassis has also allowed Sony to add a numeric keypad.

Sony VAIO SE Series - front

The Synaptics touchpad isn’t quite as good – it lacks the two-fingered scrolling of rival models – but the huge, clicky buttons and crisp, immediate cursor control more than make amends.

There are some issues, however. The sharp styling of the SE Series might look great, but we often found the front-left corner digging into our wrist while typing. Then there’s the intrusive whine of the cooling fan. Push the VAIO SE Series hard and the noisy fan soon makes its presence known.

Other qualms are more minor. We’d have liked more than a single USB 3 port, for one thing, but with two USB 2 ports, Gigabit Ethernet and an SD card reader alongside, the Sony is hardly lacking on the connectivity front. Dual-band 802.11n and Bluetooth 3 come as standard, and the ability to add an integrated 3G radio for £90 is welcome.

There’s some tough competition out there, not least the gorgeous Samsung 700Z Chronos, but Sony’s VAIO SE Series has an unusual array of talents. That stunning Full HD display is the centrepiece of a superbly flexible all-rounder, and whether you plump for a low-end specification, or pack it with the latest and greatest components, it’s a top-notch package.

Warranty

Warranty2yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions382 x 260 x 26mm (WDH)
Weight2.000kg
Travelling weight2.4kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Core i5-2430M
Motherboard chipsetIntel HM65
RAM capacity4.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free1
SODIMM sockets total1

Screen and video

Screen size15.5in
Resolution screen horizontal1,920
Resolution screen vertical1,080
Resolution1920 x 1080
Graphics chipsetIntel HD Graphics 3000 / AMD Radeon HD 6470M
Graphics card RAMN/A
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
HDMI outputs1
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0

Drives

Capacity500GB
Hard disk usable capacity466GB
Spindle speed5,400RPM
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Hard diskHitachi Travelstar 5K750
Optical disc technologyBlu-ray writer
Optical driveMatshita BD-CMB UJ152
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0

Networking

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

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchyes
Wireless key-combination switchyes
Modemno
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 rating1.3mp
TPMno
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use5hr 22min
3D performance (crysis) low settings56fps
3D performance settingLow
Overall Real World Benchmark score0.84
Responsiveness score0.66
Media score0.53
Multitasking score0.68

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS familyWindows 7
Recovery methodRecovery partition, burn own recovery discs
Software suppliedAdobe Photoshop Elements

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