Review: Sony Vaio S (SVS15115FGB)

Sony's Vaio 'S' series is oriented toward business users, and bridges the gap between the ultra-portable and performance categories. We tested the latest 15-inch model.

NameLaptop: Sony Vaio S (SVS15115FGB)
At a glance:Intel Core i5-3210M CPU,4GB DDR3L-1333 RAM,NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M with 2GB DDR3 video memory,640GB 5400RPM HDD (no SSD),15.5-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel display
Summary:Portable but not overly petite, a great 15-inch laptop for business users.
Rating:4.5/5
RRP:$2,050
Contact:sony.co.nz

Sony’s Vaio laptops have done mightily well in our books over the last couple of years, and the latest 15-inch Vaio S is no exception.

The ‘S’ series is oriented toward business users, and bridges the gap between the ultra-portable and performance categories. The business focus is hinted at by the existence of a fingerprint scanner and a number-pad on the keyboard, neither of which are common on laptops that are designed solely for home users.

Construction feels fairly plastic, with flex not only in the lid, but in the body as well. However, even flexing the lid to a disturbing degree does not distort the on-screen image. The 1920 x 1080-pixel ‘Vaio Display Plus’ TFT panel seems awfully resilient to knocks and twists, which is comforting given the laptop’s overall lack of rigidity.

On-screen images are crisp with rich colours, though the screen’s maximum brightness is somewhat lacking – it’s hard to see under bright sunlight. Despite the Vaio S’s light weight (2.0kg) and thin build (24mm), this really is a machine ideal for use on sunlight-starved office desks.

The backlit island keyboard has good key spacing and sufficient travel for comfortable text entry. Keystrokes are a little soft – I prefer more of a discernable ‘click’ – but that does make for quiet typing.

The 5.4-inch (13.6cm) touchpad is big, but frequently alternates between responsive and contrary for no apparent reason.The click buttons are an invisible part of the touchpad surface. This works fine on some laptops, such as Apple’s MacBook Pro, but on the Vaio S it’s just awkward to click anything. Right-clicking in particular left me cursing under my breath. It would be enough to drop a half-star from the Vaio’s rating, if not for the fact that it’s the kind of laptop you use on a desk – meaning that with an external mouse hooked up, you’re unlikely to use the touchpad much anyway.

Powering the Vaio S is an Intel Core i5-3210M dual-core CPU from Intel’s ‘Ivy Bridge’ third-generation Core range. That’s backed up by 4GB of DDR3L-1333 RAM, and a discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics chip with 2GB of dedicated video memory.

It’s not a mobile powerhouse like the Dell Inspiron 17R (opposite), but neither is it a total weakling. The Vaio S isn’t set up for intense 3D gaming, but it has ample graphical capabilities for a ‘productivity’ laptop. Graphically it provides just under 80% the performance of the (similarly priced and specced) Acer Aspire Timeline M3 reviewed in August’s issue.

Computationally, thanks to its newer Ivy Bridge CPU (the M3 used a second-generation ‘Sandy Bridge’ chip), the Vaio S manages a little over 10% better performance.

Battery life in our ‘productivity’ test was 3 hours 25 minutes. While that’s less than the Timeline M3’s 3 hours 44 minutes, it’s a fair trade for the Vaio S’ vastly superior screen resolution, in our book.

Storage on the Vaio S is a 640GB 5400RPM hard drive and it also has an optical drive: a slot-loading DVD writer. Ports include separate headphone and microphone jacks, full-sized gigabit Ethernet port, full-sized HDMI output, VGA output, two USB 3.0 ports, and an ‘always on’ USB 2.0 port for gadget-charging. Thre are separate card readers for SD/MMC and Memory Stick/MS Pro.

The Vaio S would be neck-and-neck with last month’s Acer Aspire Timeline M3, if not for one detail: while the M3 had a woefully low-resolution 1366 x 768-pixel screen, the Vaio S sports full-HD 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution in the same 15-inch panel size. In addition to the extra screen space, that pushes the dot-pitch (sharpness) up from 100 pixels-per-inch on the Acer, to 142ppi on the Sony Vaio.

Altogether, a brilliant 15-inch portable for business or home productivity.

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Tags businessperformancelaptopnotebookportable

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Harley Ogier

Harley Ogier

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