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Sony VAIO X-Series review

Verdict

A stunning piece of design matched by excellent battery life, and despite the Atom inside it can cope with everyday tasks. But Sony struggles to justify that price

Review Date: 8 Oct 2009

Reviewed By: Tim Danton

Price when reviewed: £1,130 (£1,300 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
3 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
2 stars out of 6

Performance
3 stars out of 6

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

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User comments

Why why why..

Why didn't they use the Nvidia ION? I have a media-centre PC using that processor with an NVidia ION and it flies through Windows 7 - Aero effects and all. It can't have been to keep costs down so why such a strange omission?

By Bassey1976 on 8 Oct 2009

Nvidia ION

Main reasons are likely to be heat and battery life - Nvidia ION consumes more power than the Intel chipset (off-hand I'm not sure how much more), so will need more cooling. And more heat + more cooling = worse battery life.

By TimDanton on 8 Oct 2009

Full circle?

Haven't Sony always sold ultra small laptop PCs for an absolute fortune? Only the ones they sold before did have some proper welly behind them.

Still, I suppose Daniel Craig will be using this in the next Bond movies, so many a personality-starved idiot will be forking out for one.

By Lacrobat on 8 Oct 2009

Fan

Hey, did you notice how the fan is on? Does it spin only when youre doing serious things, or is it always on?

By laser21 on 10 Oct 2009

Fan noise

Thanks for the post re fan noise - I've added this to the review.

In short, it very rarely spins (not at all when I was using it as my day-to-day laptop) but is noisy when it does.

By TimDanton on 12 Oct 2009

re fan

Thanks for your answer - this is important to me - Im a writer, so this machine is heaven for me :) Light, not noisy, great for word processing...I dont mind a small keyboard. Plus the awesome battery life...

By laser21 on 12 Oct 2009

fellow vaio x owner

The touchpad seems to be fine to me and also according to another awesome review here.

http://gadgetmix.com/index/sony-vaio-x-review-does
-this-size-zero-notebooknetbook-has-the-x-factor/

However, the main hit to me is its battery life. I get just 2 hours from it. Also, I've 64GB SSD version unit and not the 128GB or 256GB SSD one.

By vaioXowner on 16 Nov 2009

Fan

These posts are a bit old but the laptops selling now do Not have fans the shell and components allow for cooling without one

By Craigr12 on 17 Nov 2010

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