Sony VAIO SE Series review

10 Nov 2011

A sumptuous Full HD screen is complemented by a host of other pedigree components – highly recommended

Price when reviewed 
1,184
5

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.

Sony VAIO SE Series - rear

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £987
Price inc VAT £1,184
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 2yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 382 x 260 x 26mm (WDH)
Weight 2.000kg
Travelling weight 2.4kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-2430M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM65
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 1
SODIMM sockets total 1

Screen and video

Screen size 15.5in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 3000 / AMD Radeon HD 6470M
Graphics card RAM N/A
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 Travelstar 5K750
Optical disc technology Blu-ray writer
Optical drive Matshita BD-CMB UJ152
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

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 no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch yes
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 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 22min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 56fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.84
Responsiveness score 0.66
Media score 0.53
Multitasking score 0.68

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition, burn own recovery discs
Software supplied Adobe Photoshop Elements