Sony VAIO VGN-SR41M/S review
A featherweight with good battery life and even a modicum of gaming ability; shame about the build, though
The world of notebooks is one of extremes: tiny, weakling netbooks squat at the bottom of the food chain, while giant gaming laptops and portable workstations loom above with their daunting price tags and performance figures. But there are precious few laptops capable of walking the knife-edge between portability, practicality and sheer power. Sony’s VAIO VGN-SR41M/S is one of that rare breed.
Its vital statistics don’t give its ultraportable cousin, the VGN-Z31MN/B, much to worry about, but this laptop still has a svelte allure all of its own. The rounded hinges, tapered lid and the large logo plastered across it give bags of character, and if you fancy something even more extrovert, you can also get that lid finished in white or pink. Whichever colour you choose, the interior remains all-silver, interrupted only by the Scrabble-tile keys.
Float like a butterfly
Cajole the Sony onto a set of scales and it’s impressively light. Other 13.3in laptops might be lighter – Apple’s MacBook Air or Lenovo’s IdeaPad U350, for example – but few can match the Sony's feat of weighing 1.83kg without sacrificing its optical drive. Factor in the 6hrs 27mins of light-use battery life, and you have an ideal travelling partner.
There is a thorn in the Sony’s side, though, and that’s its insubstantial build quality. Pick it up by the corner and you can feel the chassis droop slightly under its own weight. The slim lid doesn’t afford the display much protection either, and pressing down on the right-hand wrist-rest sees it give way all too easily. The flexibility might help the Sony shrug off lighter blows, but we’d make sure to invest in a well-padded laptop bag if you intend to travel with the VGN-SR41M/S as a constant companion.
It is a real shame, as it is generally a pleasure to use. The 13.3in display keeps weight and size to a sensible minimum. Image quality is punchy thanks to the panel’s strong contrast but, as with the VGN-FW41E, somewhat muted colours and pale skin tones failed to make the very best of our test photographs. The 1,280 x 800 pixel resolution is ample, though, and marks a good compromise between a spacious desktop and easy legibility.
The isolation-style keyboard is a pleasure to use, too. Each key has a light, positive action and the unfussy layout makes it easy to tap away comfortably for long stretches.
Sting like a bee
The VGN-SR41M/S teeters right on the brink of the £1,000 mark, but scanning quickly through its specifications might leave you wondering why. The 2GHz Intel processor and 4GB of DDR2 memory is par for the course in many cheaper machines, and a result of 1.03 in our real-world benchmarks is equally unremarkable.
Fire up a game on the Sony, though, and it has a surprise in store. The ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 graphics chipset is pretty nippy by any standards, but particularly so for a sub-2kg notebook. Of course it’s no match for the likes of the Nvidia Geforce GTX 260M in the Asus G60Vx, but an average of 57fps in our lowest quality Crysis benchmark isn’t bad at all. Up the ante to a more challenging test – run at 1,280 x 1,024 and medium detail – and it still manages 18fps.
There are faster laptops on the market, but none of them blend power and portability quite like the 1.83kg VGN-SR41M/S. Indeed, if it weren’t for the iffy build quality and high price, we might have been tempted to honour the Sony with an award. As it stands, though, while the VGN-SR41M/S might impress with its technical achievements – we know of few, if any, 1.8kg laptops with any significant gaming prowess – we just can’t bring ourselves to completely forgive its flaws.
|Price ex VAT||£865|
|Price inc VAT||£995|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||3|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||316 x 234 x 37mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core 2 Duo T6400|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel PM45|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||2|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,366|
|Resolution screen vertical||768|
|Resolution||1366 x 768|
|Graphics chipset||ATi Mobility Radeon HD 4570|
|Graphics card RAM||512MB|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||1|
|Hard disk usable capacity||298GB|
|Internal disk interface||SATA/300|
|Hard disk||Seagate Momentus 5400.5|
|Optical disc technology||DVD writer|
|Optical drive||Matshita UJ862AS|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||100Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||yes|
|Wireless key-combination switch||no|
|PC Card slots||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||2|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||2|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Memory Stick reader||yes|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||no|
|Smart Media reader||no|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Audio chipset||Realtek HD Audio|
|Speaker location||Above keyboard|
|Hardware volume control?||no|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.3mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||6hr 27min|
|Overall application benchmark score||1.03|
|Office application benchmark score||1.05|
|2D graphics application benchmark score||1.16|
|Encoding application benchmark score||0.89|
|Multitasking application benchmark score||0.83|
|3D performance (crysis) low settings||57fps|
|3D performance setting||Low|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit|
|OS family||Windows Vista|
|Recovery method||Recovery partition, burn own recovery discs|