Sony VAIO CA1 review

21 Feb 2011

Hugely powerful for such a small and stylish laptop, although the display is a weak point

Price when reviewed: 
750(£750 inc VAT)
5

The Sandy Bridge recall has left cutting-edge review laptops thin on the ground this month, but we can bring you a member of Sony’s newest VAIO family. With a 14in screen, the VAIO CA1 sits just above the S and Z Series in the size range, and it’s being introduced for an exclusive period through John Lewis in the UK.

That should tell you that it’s aiming to appeal visually, so we weren’t surprised to see a swish new design when we pulled it from its box. The lid features an eye-catching two-tone black and grey design, and closer inspection reveals a subtle diamond pattern on the latter that glistens as it catches the light.

Throw open the lid and, with the exception of the front and back edges, the same pattern covers the whole base – except this time it’s beneath a layer of clear plastic slightly tinged with purple. The combination certainly does its key job of making an impression, although perhaps not one that will suit most tastes.

Sony VAIO CA1 - front

The CA1 is also built to a higher standard than you might expect given its size. That purple plastic bends a little under pressure but not to a worrying degree, and there’s no undue flex in the lid. Despite the firm build, it’s just 25mm thick and weighs a reasonable 2.28kg.

The backlit keyboard sits in its own island in the middle of that purple sea of plastic, and the Scrabble-tile keys feel smooth under the finger and offer just the right travel and feedback. We’re not huge fans of the textured touchpad, but it’s nippy and responsive, as are the buttons that sit beneath it.

Around the base you’ll find the usual extras: the VAIO and web quick-buttons above the keyboard; a Memory Stick and SD card slot on the front edge alongside a wireless switch. That controls the 802.11n WLAN chip, and you also get Bluetooth and Gigabit Ethernet. On the right side sit two USB 2 ports next to the DVD writer, while the left sees one further USB 2 port and a single USB 3 offering. For video outputs you have the choice of HDMI and D-SUB.

Details

Price ex VAT £625
Price inc VAT £750
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 5
Performance 5

Physical specifications

Dimensions 340 x 235 x 75mm (WDH)
Weight 2.280kg
Travelling weight 2.7kg
Weight with extended battery 2.7kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-2410M
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3

Screen and video

Screen size 14.0in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset AMD Radeon HD 6470M
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 320GB
Hard disk Seagate ST9320
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical drive TSST corp CDDVDW TS-L633C
Battery capacity 4,000mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
USB ports (downstream) 3
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Audio chipset ATI HDMI Audio
Speaker location Above keyboard/Front edge
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? no
Integrated webcam? yes
Fingerprint reader no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 3hr 14min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 5min

Operating system and software

Operating system WIndows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7