Sony VAIO VGN-CS11Z/R review
Decent power and a solid spec, but the garish design and poor value limit its appeal.
Review Date: 1 Oct 2008
Reviewed By: David Bayon
Price when reviewed: £850 (£978 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Sony's newest addition to the VAIO range has been drawing stares from the PC Pro troops since it arrived - largely because it's lipstick red. Whether this is a plus or not is open to interpretation, but you'd better learn to live with it, as the only other colour on offer is an even less appealing brown.
There's a touch of blue in there too, though, as this is a Sony laptop - cramming its own Blu-ray technology into even the least likely of chassis seems to be the strategy du jour. It's a strange inclusion, not least because the CS11 has a 14.1in screen with
a resolution of just 1,280 x 800 - hardly a prime HD environment - and the only video output for external display is VGA.
Thankfully, there is also a CS11 available without the Blu-ray writer, and at £765 (exc VAT) it looks a better bet. The choice of black or white finishes on that version is also a relief. The rest of the specification is the same as this review system, and it's pretty impressive.
With a 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo P8400 and a hefty 4GB of DDR2 RAM, the Sony coasted through our application-based benchmarks with a score of 1.15. For a relatively portable laptop - it weighs just 2.5kg - this is a decent level of power; you won't have to worry about slowdown when multitasking.
Despite this processing grunt, the Sony is no slouch when it comes to longevity. While a time of just an hour-and-a-quarter under intensive use isn't great, when we switched to our light-use test it stretched to a much more impressive four hours.
We may have knocked the screen for not being an ideal HD Blu-ray companion, but if you lower your expectations to normal DVD levels it's up to Sony's usual standards - bright and glossy with vivid colours and plenty of detail in both light and dark areas of photos and video. It's perhaps too reflective for prolonged use under harsh office lights, but we can't see many IT departments equipping staff with bright red Blu-ray laptops.
The red finish extends as far as the mouse buttons and the touchpad, which is large and responsive. The Scrabble-tile keyboard, with the wide spaces between keys, takes some getting used to, but after a few days you won't even notice.
Above it sits a row of touch-sensitive media controls, and this was the one area of bendy weakness on the chassis. Otherwise, the lid is strong but with a bit of give in the middle to protect it in a bag, and the build of the base is solid.
Sony makes much of the "Merlin sensor" - a small pressure-sensitive area around the latch. When the laptop is powered but closed, a light brush of this sensor brings a small strip light under the base to life. But it's as pointless as it sounds.
More useful is the physical wireless switch on the front edge, along with card readers for Memory Stick, MMC and SD formats. There's an ExpressCard/34 slot for expansion, and a reasonable three USB ports, but the Ethernet isn't Gigabit.
Gaming is handled by a discrete Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS - which means you won't be doing much of it, as it's a low-power card intended for boosting video decoding. It may help out when watching those Blu-ray discs, but it won't have you charging through Crysis Warhead at anything quicker than an agonising, bullet-ridden crawl.
And that sums up the CS11. Why would anyone pay £850 (exc VAT) for a 14.1in laptop with a Blu-ray drive? The cheaper, non-Blu-ray version is more appealing, but still looks limp next to the Toshiba Qosmio F50-10Z, which packs in everything but the 4GB of RAM and weak Nvidia graphics - and an extra inch of screen - for almost the same price. The Sony is pretty, but has little else to win us over.
Author: David Bayon
Unfourtnately my screen crashed in 8 months. I bouhgt it in Portugal and moved to Brazil. The warranty is only to European Community so if I want to fix in Brazil I must pay …firstname.lastname@example.org.
By bonilha on 11 Feb 2010
- What's on this week's PC Pro podcast?
- Met Police unveils FALCON to fight cybercrime
- Free Windows attracts 50 new tablet and phone makers
- Send a text and these SSDs will self-destruct
- How to download Windows 10 Technical Preview
- Mozilla takes aim at Chromecast with $25 dongle
- Microsoft reveals Windows 10... no, really
- eBay and PayPal split up
- iOS 8.0.2: old problems remain, new bugs added
- Technopop: London sci-tech festival is just for kids
- Windows 10: a step back to go forward
- Michael Dell: Cloud infrastructure is the roads, bridges and highways of the 21st century
- How to check your identity hasn’t been sold to the hackers
- Tim Cook: this is how much TV has changed since the 70s
- Westminster wins the .London battle
- 20 years of PC Pro: from deep pan pizza to virtualisation
- Five reasons why the Apple Watch leaves me cold
- Apple Watch, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus: Tim Cook's Apple back with a bang?
- BT Home Hub 5: how to get maximum speed
- 20 years of PC Pro: one-star reviews (including "the worst tablet we've ever seen")
- iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus screen comparison
- Mac OS X Yosemite release date, price and new features
- Smartphone benchmarks 2014: what's the fastest smartphone?
- What is Kindle Unlimited and how does it work?
- BlackBerry Passport release date, UK price and specs
- How to change keyboard in iOS 8: customise the iPhone 6 keyboard
- The 7 best Chromebooks of 2014
- Apple iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: is the new iPhone 6 better than the Galaxy S5?
- How to install iOS 8 without deleting apps and data
- The best smartwatches of 2014: what's the best smartwatch?
- How to sell more ebooks on Amazon
- 10 ways to make your business more secure
- Top five VoIP mistakes
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office