Business laptops: Sony VAIO S

Sony's latest Vaio S, eloquently named the VPCSB17GG, will turns heads with its style and ultra-slim screen.

NameBusiness laptop: Sony VAIO S
At a glance:Slim and lightweight,Switchable dedicated/integrated graphics,Excellent CPU and graphical performance,USB 3 support
Summary:Ideal for the frequent traveller: a great mix of portability and high performance.

This is part of a larger feature on business laptops that ran in April's issue of PC World. The rest will be up shortly, but in the meantime you can view the benchmarks from our tests or have a look at the [Asus B43J from the same roundup.

Sony's latest Vaio S, eloquently named the VPCSB17GG, will turns heads with its style and ultra-slim screen.

The VAIO S is only 24mm thick, and lightweight at just 1.72kg. An aluminium palm rest and magnesium-alloy body make it feel exceptionally strong, despite its small stature. The VAIO S is just 13.3 inches, but its components are the equal of larger business laptops.

The display runs at 1366 x 768 pixels, and at 13 inches that resolution balances text size and resolution better than on larger models. The maximum brightness is impressive, making the VAIO S usable even in direct, glaring sunlight.

The ‘island’ keyboard is comfortable, and great for long typing stretches, but given the small form-factor there’s no numeric keypad. The touchpad is a good size, with discrete buttons aside a fingerprint reader, and properly responsive.

Under the keyboard is a Core i5 2520M, from Intel’s second-generation Core range. Performance is fantastic, eclipsing the previous generation Core i5 560M and Core i7 620M chips in all CPU benchmarks by a significant, noticeable margin.

Graphics are handled by a hybrid setup that uses an AMD Radeon HD 6470M with 512MB of video memory to do the heavy lifting in ‘speed mode’, while the CPU's Intel HD Graphics 3000 takes over in ‘stamina mode’. This switch isn’t automatic – as it is with Nvidia’s Optimus technology – the AMD/Intel setup uses a physical switch above the keyboard.

The VAIO S did extremely well for its price and form factor in Cinebench OpenGL and 3D Mark 11 graphics benchmarks. If your work is graphics or animation-heavy, this may suit your needs.

Barring the headphone socket on the left, all of the VAIO’s connections are lined up neatly along the right-hand edge. These include three USB ports (one USB 3), separate SD card and Memory Stick readers, VGA, HDMI and Ethernet. You also get Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but no dial-up modem. That’s a pity: it’s such a portable machine, and that little antiquated addition would have helped guarantee connectivity wherever you travel. If you stick to first-world cities, however, you should be just fine.

For desktop use, a docking station is available for $235 – this gives you 4 USB ports, dual Ethernet ports, plus HDMI and VGA for connecting up an external monitor. It’s not a high-rise stand, but the station sets the notebook at a slight incline suitable for typing.

Support is via Sony’s standard one-year international warranty, which includes courier collection of your device. Extended or premium support plans aren’t currently available, so after that first year you’re on your own if anything should fail.

Like all the VAIO series laptops, the VAIO S is heavy on the pre-installed software and annoying “you have pressed a button” popups. However, all that can be uninstalled and turned off relatively easily.

I’ve worked with five notebooks this month, and the VAIO S is the one I chose to spend the most hours on and carried with me almost everywhere I went. If you’re mostly working at a desk, a larger model will serve you better. If you need a highly portable laptop that doesn’t sacrifice performance, this is your best bet.

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Harley Ogier

Harley Ogier

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