Sony VAIO X-Series review

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The Sony VAIO X-Series is a laptop that divides opinion almost like no other. “Who,” cry some on seeing it, “would buy that? It’s just a glorified, overpriced netbook.” Others pick it up and swoon. “It’s so light! It’s so gorgeous! I want one.”

No-one can argue about the VAIO X-Series’ design credentials. At 12.2mm, it’s precisely as thick as an iPhone, and its matte-black finish is reminiscent of a sheet of graphite (the only design oddity is its brown bottom). Even the screen drew admiring gasps: it’s wafer-thin, measuring 4.4mm when we clamped our callipers around it.

Sony VAIO X-Series

The main chassis is similarly slight. It’s so skinny the D-SUB port on the right-hand side looks oversized. There isn’t even room for a conventional network port, but rather than force people to lug around an adapter, Sony has cleverly created a hinged port: when you want to use it, the idea is to raise two tiny feet and this gives the hinge room to expand enough for you to slot in your cable. (See the gallery for a close-up.)

There are two USB ports on the left-hand side of the chassis, plus a headphone socket, while slots for Memory Stick media and SD cards occupy the front. And that’s your lot. The rest of the design carries on this minimalist feel. Aside from a wireless switch, the only buttons to press are the two for the simple touchpad and the keyboard itself.

Power struggles
But what’s most controversial about this laptop, and the reason so many people fall instantly out-of-love with it, is the processor. It’s a 1.86GHz Intel Atom Z540, which may be the second fastest Atom around, and support Hyper-Threading, but the fact remains: it’s an Atom. These have become so synonymous with netbooks that they almost define them, but we tried to be broad-minded: was an Atom fast enough to power anyone’s main PC?

So we tried. We used the X-Series as a workaday machine for office tasks for a week. It had to power two screens and cope with Word, Excel, Outlook, Firefox, Internet Explorer and numerous other utilities – all using Windows 7 Professional rather than XP.

First impressions weren’t fantastic. With all Aero’s fripperies switched on, the X-Series felt sluggish, and even dragging windows around the desktop proved a chore. Once we optimised Windows for best performance, though, things improved markedly. Without Aero’s overhead, menus snapped to attention, there was no lag and it became perfectly usable. It just looked a little bit like Windows 98. We were also impressed once inside a program. Despite using testing formulae in Excel, the X-Series never felt slow, and likewise in Outlook responding to emails was effortless.

Another point in favour of the Atom is a lack of fan noise: during an average working day, we didn’t hear a single drone. It was only when we pushed this laptop to its maximum in our benchmarks that the fan came on (though note that it’s loud).

Sony VAIO X-Series


Warranty2yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions278 x 186 x 12.2mm (WDH)
Travelling weight1.1kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Atom Z540
Motherboard chipsetIntel US15W
RAM capacity2.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free0
SODIMM sockets total1

Screen and video

Screen size11.1in
Resolution screen horizontal1,366
Resolution screen vertical768
Resolution1366 x 768
Graphics chipsetIntel GMA 500
Graphics card RAMN/A
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
HDMI outputs0
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0


Hard disk usable capacity112GB
Spindle speedN/A
Internal disk interfaceSATA
Hard diskSamsung MMCRE28GFMXP-MVB solid state disk
Optical disc technologyNone
Optical driveN/A
Battery capacity4,100mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0


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
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) readeryes
Smart Media readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readerno
Pointing device typeTouchpad
Audio chipsetRealtek HD Audio
Speaker locationBottom
Hardware volume control?no
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseyes

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use7hr 9min
Battery life, heavy use3hr 11min
Overall application benchmark score0.36
Office application benchmark score0.38
2D graphics application benchmark score0.38
Encoding application benchmark score0.33
Multitasking application benchmark score0.34
3D performance (crysis) low settingsN/A
3D performance settingN/A

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows 7 Professional 32-bit
OS familyWindows 7
Recovery methodRecovery partition
Software suppliedVAIO Video & Photo Suite

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