The introduction of netbooks brought in low-power computing, but it also brought along compact laptops that were easy to carry around. Suddenly, ultra portable notebooks were seen as extremely expensive.

Sony's new compact VAIO S notebooks for those who want less baggage

Sony's new compact VAIO S notebooks for those who want less baggage

People have always wanted light-weight notebooks and it looks like Sony’s new VAIO S series might be offer users just that. They offer better performance and also, an optical drive which netbooks can’t. We’ve received one of the models from this series – VAIO S VPCSB16FG.  

Features

The VAIO S comes with a 13.3-inch display that supports a resolution of 1366×768. The processing power comes an Intel’s Sandy Bridge processor, the Core i5 2520M that’s clocked at 2.50 GHz bundled with 4GB of DDR3 memory. Sony bundled Windows 7 Home Premium on this particular model. There’s also an AMD Radeon HD 6470M graphics solution which should offer good HD playback performance as well as graphics performance sufficient for some gaming.  

External connectivity options include USB 3.0 devices

External connectivity options include USB 3.0 devices

Apart from that, the laptop comes with a USB 3.0 port along with two other USB 2.0 ports. External displays can be connected using the HDMI port or the D-Sub port. Two memory card readers are present on the side. One of the readers is dedicated for SD cards while the other for Sony’s Memorystick cards. There’s an slot hidden under a flap at the bottom of the laptop that is there to allow you to connect an extension battery to the laptop. 

Activity indicators and a switch to turn on wireless connectivity

Activity indicators and a switch to turn on wireless connectivity

There’s a dedicated slider for the wireless connectivity that lets you switch it on or off quickly. One of the other controls is the Stamina-Speed slider which sets the laptop into a more power saving mode and the speed mode offers better performance. LED indicators for the Caps lock and Num Lock are present above the array of keys.  

Build Quality and Design

The back of the laptop has a rough matte finish unlike most other notebooks that come with a clean glossy finish. The same treatment is given to the sides of the noteboook. Overall, the notebook is pretty sturdy. 

Something different - a rough matte finished back

Something different – a rough matte finished back

The hinge isn’t very sturdy and it wobbles with the slightest of movements. We weren’t terribly fond of the trackpad and the buttons on it. The clicks are hard to register if you press on the edges of the buttons.  

A decent keyboard layout that's easy to get used to

A decent keyboard layout that's easy to get used to

The keyboard is pretty good fun to use. The isolated keys – chiclet design is easy to use. Key strokes are hardly missed after a while of getting used to it. The layout is pretty spread out and there’s no clustering of keys. Being a 13.3-inch display notebook, it lacks a dedicated numerical pad. The keys don’t feel very sturdy and we noticed some squeaking sounds from some of the keys while using them rather roughly. Although this laptop isn’t designed for gamers, you might not want to go easy on the keys 

Performance

CPU and memory subsystem performance was decent. PCMark Vantage scores were 6771. Video encoding of our standard clip took no more than 1 min 12 seconds, which is pretty good for a notebook. It’s almost twice as fast as a good netbook but a little slower than a decent Core i7 based netbook.

Frame rates in Cinebench R11's OpenGL test was 18.32 fps, which is respectable. Frame rates in Unigine averaged 11.1 at high settings.  One should be able to do some amount of gaming on it at medium and low quality settings. Older games from a couple of years back should run perfectly fine though.

Switch to toggle between performance and power-saving modes

Switch to toggle between performance and power-saving modes

The hard drive performance was average. With a sequential 2GB set of data being written on the drive, we recorded speeds of 37.5 MB/s. In terms of power, it’s a relatively powerful configuration for mainstream desktop application, but not necessarily suitable for gaming or high-end content creation suites.  

Our intensive battery life test ran for 56 minutes, which is slightly below average. The battery test we run does stress the entire system quite a bit, but we’ve seen laptops run for close to an hour and a half.  

A fairly large trackpad, not necessarily the best

A fairly large trackpad, not necessarily the best

The touchpad supports multitouch and gestures, but it’s not the most sensitive and most accurate of trackpads we’ve seen. The viewing angles on the VAIO S are decent. The color rendition is pretty saturated and is great for browsing and watching movies. The contrast levels aren’t as impressive though. The darks appear grey instead of pitch black. Speaker quality is decent but they aren’t really loud.   

Verdict

At Rs. 56,990, it’s not exactly great value for money as far as performance is concerned. It’s design like many of Sony’s other designs are catchy. As you plan on using it as a mobile workhorse, you’re bound to get better performance in the battery-life department for cheaper. There’s a price to pay for slightly higher performance – in terms of money, as well as battery life.

If you’re going to be using this laptop at home or at in office on a powered line, the battery life shouldn’t be an issue and the new VAIO S makes a good buy for anyone looking out a light-weight portable laptop to carry everyday. There are other manufacturers offering solutions at similar prices but few of them include an optical drive solution.

Publish date: May 7, 2011 3:57 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 7:46 pm

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