Sony VAIO S13 review

21 Dec 2010

A fast laptop with a dash of entertainment thrown in. Just beware its limited battery life

Sony VAIO S13
Price when reviewed: 
1,050inc VAT
4

In Sony's own words, the VAIO S Series "works hard, plays hard", which is sure to pique the interest of any student hoping to take this laptop home after a long day. The "work hard" is evident in a number of ways. For a start, it's well secured: there's a fingerprint reader to protect admin accounts, a TPM chip to aid encryption and a docking station connector.

Performance is superb: no matter what tasks you throw at it, the VAIO S13 should cope. The power stems from the 2.53GHz Intel Core i5-540M processor, and a hefty 6GB of DDR3 memory helps too. No wonder the S13 scored a healthy 1.57 in the PC Pro benchmarks.

Nvidia's GeForce 310M graphics can aid video decoding and encoding, but really come to the fore after hours. The S13 scored a solid 45fps in our Low quality Crysis benchmark at native resolution, so you should be able to increase settings and still play smoothly.

Sony VAIO S13

Sony tops off all that power with a 500GB hard disk and DVD writer, plus D-SUB and HDMI outputs for connecting to external displays and projectors. You also get Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi, with support for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands. Sony also crams in a 3G modem, so you can connect to the internet wherever there's mobile phone reception.

The 13.3in glossy display has a 1,366 x 768 resolution. It's a little reflective under lights, but that gloss adds punch to the colours and gives it impressive brightness. Our only gripe is the cold tone to it all, which makes it less suitable for colour-accurate work.

Despite the S13's compact dimensions, the Scrabble-tile keyboard feels more spaced out than most, and Sony hasn't had to miniaturise any major keys. The typing action is smooth, but squeezing the base reveals a bit of bend above the optical drive, and the hinge sometimes creaks when you adjust it. It's not often we criticise the build quality of a VAIO, but the S13 isn't up there with the best.

Our other criticism is battery life, with the S13 lasting only 3hrs 44mins in our light-use test. That's a shame because at 1.98kg it's quite portable, and there's no disputing its many other strengths. But it's expensive, so make sure you'll use all that power before you buy.

Details

Price ex VAT £894
Price inc VAT £1,050
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 5
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 2yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 329 x 229 x 34mm (WDH)
Weight 1.980kg
Travelling weight 2.4kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-540M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM55
RAM capacity 6.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Nvidia GeForce 310M
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 500GB
Hard disk usable capacity 454GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Toshiba MK5065GSX
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical drive Optiarc AD-7930H
Battery capacity 5,000mAh
Replacement battery price ex VAT £112
Replacement battery price inc VAT £132

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter yes
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 1
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 3
FireWire ports 1
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 Multitouch touchpad
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.3mp
TPM yes
Fingerprint reader yes
Smartcard reader no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 3hr 44min
Battery life, heavy use 2hr 4min
Overall application benchmark score 1.57
Office application benchmark score 1.24
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.76
Encoding application benchmark score 1.52
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.75
3D performance (crysis) low settings 45fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partiion
Software supplied Adobe Photoshop/Premiere Elements 8