Sony VAIO VGN-SR19XN review
A stunning 1.9kg laptop that offers six hours of battery life, but it's the whole bundle - superb design, extra software and a two-year warranty - that lifts it above the rest
We knew the SR19 would be challenging for a place on our A List the moment we set eyes on it. This laptop may have a price of around £800 exc VAT, but the quality of its design and the number of genuinely useful extras it packs in make it appear like a much more expensive machine.
Its chief benefit, though, is portability. This 1.9kg laptop lasted for over six hours in our battery tests, putting it right into the top echelons of laptop portability. So could it live it up to our initial expectations?
It's no longer unusual for a laptop this cheap to look great, but the SR19 has a little bit extra. For a start, there's the ultra-slim screen - this not only looks rather nice but also helps keep the VAIO down to 34mm thick.
The pulsating power button is a nice touch too. This glows a neonesque green when the VAIO is on, and drops to a pulsing amber colour when in standby. Unlike the new VAIO Z-Series, there's no carbon-fibre chassis, but the much more standard plastic chassis still looks the part.
A number of extra touches help to make this laptop feel a bit special too. Although the main chassis is made from plastic, Sony has applied a layer of magnesium alloy to the lid to make it feel cold to the touch - and add extra protection of course.
But the most notable "extra" is the Mode button that sits above the keyboard. Press this and, by default, it will skip between three different modes: business, entertainment and setup.
Upon pressing, the most obvious change is to the desktop background, but more usefully the five hardware shortcut buttons take a different function too. They're entirely configurable (as are the modes) so you could make them launch applications like Word, Excel, Outlook, Firefox and PowerPoint in business mode, then Photoshop Elements, Media Player, Media Center and a couple of games in entertainment mode.
The mention of Photoshop Elements isn't idle speculation either. Sony bundles the latest version of Adobe's excellent photo-editing software, which costs £60 on its own, and doesn't stop there: we were surprised to see a full version of Adobe Acrobat Standard bundled too. This lets you create PDFs yourself, and costs a princely £200 when sold on its own.
Sony's new preferred choice of keyboard is also present. Sony calls it an "isolated" keyboard, we call it Scrabble style; and although some people might be put off by switching to a different type of design we found it easy to type on even for longer periods. Indeed, it's arguably better for touch typists as you're less likely to accidentally click a neighbouring button in your rush.
Another fringe benefit is that it's easier to clean - we hate to think what's sitting in between the keys of our standard keyboards - and that those with longer fingernails will have more room for manoeuvre.
Overall, while we still prefer the more tactile feedback you get from a ThinkPad keyboard, we're in favour of Sony's isolated keyboard design.
We've no complaints about the SR19's touchpad either. It's generously sized, responsive, and there's built-in scrolling too - slide your finger from top to bottom on the right-hand side of the touchpad, for instance, and you'll scroll down the active document.