Sony VAIO SE Series review
A sumptuous Full HD screen is complemented by a host of other pedigree components – highly recommended
Review Date: 10 Nov 2011
Reviewed By: Sasha Muller
Price when reviewed: £987 (£1,184 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
The newest addition to Sony’s range, the VAIO SE Series, is a desktop replacement with a difference. Taking the slender, distinctive styling of its smaller sibling, the A-Listed 13.3in Sony VAIO SB Series, the VAIO SE Series swells the screen size and bolsters the specifications with Blu-ray and a Full HD display.
Visually, Sony has barely changed a thing. Carved from a combination of smooth curves and sharp angles, the VAIO SE Series is far more striking than your average 15.5in laptop. Our review unit arrived clad in matte silver plastic, and with the central hinge sparkling in a shiny chrome, it certainly captures the attention. Those after a more sober, serious SE Series can opt for a model cast in matte black.
With its 26mm-thick chassis and 2kg weight, the VAIO SE Series is also more svelte than average. Despite this, build quality is good: there’s a little give when you really grapple with it, and there’s flex in the display and wristrest if you prod hard enough, but nothing to get alarmed about.
The star of the show is the 15.5in display, which boasts a Full HD resolution, and leaves the pale, low-contrast panel of the SB Series for dust. A contrast ratio of 773:1 and a maximum brightness of 317cd/m2 are exemplary: this is exactly the quality of panel we’d expect to see on a £1,000 laptop. The semi-gloss finish on the Sony’s display does its bit, too, giving images far more vibrance than a matte panel, with little of the aggravating reflectivity of glossy alternatives.
The gorgeous display makes a fine partner for the other elements of the VAIO SE Series’ specification. The included Blu-ray writer adds a lot to the price (a jaw-dropping £370), but watching HD movies on the SE Series is certain to make anyone go weak at the knees. Our Blu-ray of Avatar looked sublime, with every detail of Pandora’s kaleidoscopic colour palette brought to startling life. Make sure to plug some headphones in, however: the tinny speakers do movies and music little justice.
Our review unit didn’t afford quite the same eye-popping experience with games – the dedicated AMD Radeon HD 6470M chipset struggles at higher resolutions – but even set to lower resolutions and detail settings, the Sony’s intense colour reproduction helps make the most of the experience. And should you desire more oomph than the weakling AMD GPU can muster, fear not: an upgrade to the more powerful Radeon HD 6630M chipset costs a very reasonable £40.
Still too big!
I want a 13" screen at 1920 x 1080. Makes the difference between a portable and a "desktop replacement".
By JohnAHind on 11 Nov 2011
When I look on Sony's website the SE series is missing. This is a shame as non low resolution laptops are depressingly rare.
By tirons1 on 11 Nov 2011
Why do companies struggle so much with touchpads?
No two-fingered scrolling is a dealbreaker for me. This sounded fabulous until that point. The macbook showed years ago that fumbling for scrollbars could be consigned to the dustbin, why can't any other manufacturer understand how important the touchpad is?
I won't give in to the dark forces and buy a Macbook, due to the overheating graphics chipsets when running Windows. But I'm tearing my hair out trying to find a Windows machine that feels as nice.
By ChrisH on 11 Nov 2011
The VAIO SE Series
...is listed on Sony's website, here:
By SashaMuller on 15 Nov 2011
Seems like a great PC but how hot does it get with use? Yours was i5 and 4GB, what would an i7 and 8GB be like? It would be useful if, in all laptop reviews, the heat generated could be mentioned.
By GodfrayGuilbert on 15 Nov 2011
Try the Sony Vaio Z as that fits the bill or if you prefer dedicated graphics inside the machine try the older Sony Vaio Z model as that still packs a punch.
By monotok on 16 Nov 2011
What I don't get about Sony is why they continue, year after year, to include sub-par tinny speakers throughout their entire range. It's not like it's a difficult problem to fix, and you'd think a company like Sony (which likes to promote itself as being an high end audio company) would make it more of a priority to put right.
@Chrish - if it's a Synaptics there's a good chance you can use a generic driver to get 2 finger scrolling. Alps on the other hand (which Sony seem for some odd reason be fond of) might be more tricky.
By broccauley on 17 Nov 2011
@GodfrayGuilbert - it certainly gets pretty hot around the hinge area if you leave it looping Cinebench for an hour or two. I'd imagine that the Core i7 will be broadly similar, however, as both the i5 and i7 CPUs are dual core, 35 watt models. The amount of RAM will make no difference.
@broccauley - Thanks for the driver tip, I'll see if I can try that out. And as regards speakers, well, many manufacturers are guilty of providing substandard speakers. Very, very few laptops ever have good sound, and those that do normally come at a hefty premium! :)
By SashaMuller on 17 Nov 2011
Waiting for delivery
I had to order the 15.5" because Sony have stupidly taken the "lets copy everything Apple do" move of removing dedicated PgUp/Dn Home and End keys! Please laptop manufacutres - keep these keys! It's a deal breaker for me. This machine has dedicated keys for those interested, unlike the Dell 15z which lost out on a sale due to lack of these keys. PCPro - Sasha, please cover removal of these keys in your reviews as reading other comments on other blogs it's not just a problem for me.
By John_F_R on 17 Nov 2011
online laptop battery store
Welcome to our online shop www.cbattey.net. and www.batterymag.co.uk. 100% safe and cheap laptop battery deals!
By cbattery on 19 Nov 2011
I have a dell 14z that has those keys and is a very good laptop.
By curiousclive on 19 Nov 2011
A little expensive, but battery are cheap here http://www.buy-laptopbattery.com/sony-battery.htm
By AdelaAlan on 31 May 2012
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