Sony VAIO S Series (2011) review

15 Apr 2011

After a dramatic redesign, the VAIO S Series emerges fitter, faster and with better battery life than before

Price when reviewed: 
949(£950 inc VAT)
5

The VAIO S Series always struck an attractive balance between business and pleasure. Now, after a ground-up redesign for Sandy Bridge, Sony has made it more appealing than ever.

All vestiges of the previous model’s thick, curvy plastic casing have been left behind. With a keyboard surround milled from a single sheet of aluminium, and a magnesium-reinforced 13in chassis, the new model evokes more than a hint of Sony’s money-no-object VAIO Z Series.

At just 1.69kg, it’s easily light enough to carry around on a day-to-day basis, but it doesn’t feel as sturdy as its metal-framed construction might suggest. Pick up the VAIO S Series by a corner and there’s noticeable give in the chassis, while more heavy-handed grappling causes an audible creak. Gorgeous though it is, the build quality is no match for Apple’s MacBook Pro 13.

Sony VAIO S Series (2011) - front

Spend a little time using the Sony, though, and you’ll soon forget any qualms about its build. The keyboard is superb. The Scrabble-tile keys have a positive, responsive feel, and the spacious layout is almost as comfortable as a full-sized keyboard. The touchpad is great too: the wide, smooth surface makes for accurate cursor control, and a fingerprint reader nestles between the two buttons, both of which respond with a lovely muffled click.

Thanks to Sandy Bridge, the Sony can match most 13in laptops when it comes to performance: it’s possible to configure the VAIO S Series with a range of Core i3, i5 and i7 CPUs on Sony’s website. Our retail model came with a mid-range Intel 2.3GHz Core i5-2410M processor, but was still blazingly quick, surging through our benchmarks to an overall score of 0.74. For a sub-2kg laptop, that’s seriously fast.

Graphics switching also makes its VAIO S Series debut. Flip the switch above the keyboard from Stamina to Speed mode, or vice versa, and the screen flickers momentarily as the Intel and AMD chipsets switch over. It’s a feature which allows the Sony to flit nimbly between the roles of long-lasting portable and high-powered workstation.

With AMD’s Radeon HD 6470M chipset activated, the Sony has enough power to run Crysis at modest settings: at the native 1,366 x 768 resolution and Medium detail, the Sony managed a playable 29fps. For serious gaming, Sony’s website offers an upgrade to the Radeon HD 6630M for a £60 premium.

Details

Price ex VAT £791
Price inc VAT £949
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 2 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 331 x 225 x 24mm (WDH)
Weight 1.690kg
Travelling weight 2.1kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-2410M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM65
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 1
SODIMM sockets total 1

Screen and video

Screen size 13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 3000 / AMD Radeon HD 6470M
Graphics card RAM 512MB
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 466GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Hitachi HTS545050B9SA00
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical drive Optiarc AD-7930V
Battery capacity 4,400mAh
Replacement battery price ex VAT £125
Replacement battery price inc VAT £150

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
Integrated 3G adapter yes
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch no
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
FireWire ports 0
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 1
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 0.3mp
TPM yes
Fingerprint reader yes
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 6hr 49min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 6min
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.74
Responsiveness score 0.79
Media score 0.71
Multitasking score 0.72

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition
Software supplied N/A