Sony VAIO VGN-NS30E/S review

5 Oct 2009

A dependable budget laptop, but a bit of a porker - and it isn't the most stylish either

Price when reviewed: 
500(£500 inc VAT)
4

We've seen Sony's NS-series laptops in the PC Pro Labs many times before, and now we've taken delivery of the latest model, the VGN-NS30E/S.

Put the Sony side by side with the likes of HP's stylish dv-series laptops, and it looks its age. Finished in silver, the VGN-NS30E/S wants to look like an aluminium-framed beauty. Step closer, however, and it becomes clear that this is just another budget laptop, finished in cunningly textured plastic.

But while there isn't a sliver of aluminium to be seen, build quality is very good for the price. The base has virtually no give in it and the lid feels strong enough to survive the odd knock. It is, however, a 15.4in laptop and quite heavy as a result (2.76kg), so despite the reasonable 4hrs 40mins of light-use battery life, we'd hesitate to regularly cart it to and fro.

Performance, meanwhile, is average. The 2GHz Core 2 Duo T4200 processor scored 0.94 in our benchmarks. Gaming is out too, thanks to the weakling Intel integrated graphics.

Spend some time with the Sony, however, and most people are likely to come away impressed. The keyboard is a great example of how to be comfy on a budget. The Scrabble-tile keys aren't the last word in feel, being just a touch spongy, but the layout ensures they fall under the finger effortlessly and prove comfortable for long stretches of typing.

Sit back and enjoy a movie, and the Sony earns yet another feather in its cap. The glossy display doesn't have a generous native resolution at just 1,280 x 800, but its quality embarrasses pricier laptops with realistic skintones and believable colours. Even the speakers offer plenty of volume and reasonable clarity.

The new model is a good all-rounder, but the price has increased by about £25 since its predecessor, the VGN-NS20E/S, and seemingly for little gain. We'd rather pay a bit extra for the likes of Samsung's R720 and get a proper desktop replacement with a high-resolution screen and a decent graphics chipset.

Details

Price ex VAT £435
Price inc VAT £500
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 361 x 269 x 39mm (WDH)
Weight 2.760kg
Travelling weight 3.3kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo T4200
RAM capacity 3.00GB
Memory type DDR2
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 15.4in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,280
Resolution screen vertical 800
Resolution 1280 x 800
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 4500MHD
Graphics card RAM 128MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 250GB
Hard disk usable capacity 233GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Toshiba MK2552GSX
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical drive Pioneer DVRTD08
Battery capacity 4,400mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem yes
ExpressCard34 slots 1
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 4
FireWire ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio 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
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Above keyboard
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 4hr 40min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 53min
Overall application benchmark score 0.94
3D performance (crysis) low settings 5fps
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
Software supplied InterVideo WinDVD 8