Sony VAIO X-Series review
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)
Features & Design
Value for Money
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.
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.
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).
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
- Microsoft supercharges PowerPoint with Office Mix
- Microsoft and Nokia deal tweaked ahead of completion
- Microsoft slashes custom XP support price
- Ubuntu LTS Server 14.04 extends cloud support
- Intel: PC sales are "encouraging"
- Google to rank encrypted pages higher
- Heartbleed: the race to reissue security certificates
- Dropbox boosts app line-up with Carousel and Mailbox for Android
- BlackBerry CEO says not selling off phones "any time soon"
- Microsoft halts business downloads of Windows 8.1 Update
- Windows 8.1 Update: an abject surrender
- The insane economics of Sky Now TV
- No such thing as a free app... so pay up if you want quality
- Time to outlaw crapware-laden installers
- Windows Phone 8.1 video: hands-on
- Office for iPad: key information
- Why every PC buyer owes Richard Durkin a debt of gratitude
- HTC One M8 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: 2014's big-hitters compared
- Windows XP end of life: key information
- Cut out the broadband jargon? What jargon?
- Office: should you buy it, rent it - or dump it?
- Small server vs cloud: which is best for SMBs?
- The best mobile apps for business
- Windows XP: Microsoft’s ticking time bomb
- gTLDs: what your business should know about new domain names
- Can Microsoft survive? A look at servers and tools
- Can Microsoft survive? The future of Office
- A real-world guide to business VoIP
- Sack your PA: how to stay on top of your work life
- Power lies with the internet giants, not the governments
- 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
- How to write your company's IT security policy
- Raspberry Pi and Wolfram: a must-have for every child
- Could you get by with Office Web Apps?
- The best Android antivirus apps for 2014
- Headings vs headers: how to use both in Word