Product Review–Sony VAIO S Series notebook computer (Model: SB36FG/R)

Introduction

I am reviewing the Sony VAIO S Series ultraportable notebook which is Sony’s entry in to the 13” mainstream subnotebook / ultraportable computer. In a lot of ways it is similar to and positioned squarely at the same market as the Toshiba Satellite L730 ultraportable which,  like this unit, has an integrated optical drive.

Sony VAIO S Series ultraportable

Price
– this configuration
AUD$1399
Processor Intel
i5-2430M
RAM 4Gb shared with graphics
Secondary Storage 500Gb hard disk DVD burner, SD card reader, MemoryStick card reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD graphics + AMD Radeon HD discrete graphics
Screen 13” widescreen (1366×768) LED-backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD audio
Network Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth 3.0
Connectors USB 3 x USB 2.0
Video External display
Audio External audio
Operating System on supplied unit Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 Home Premium
Windows Experience Index – ‘Stamina” mode Overall:4.7 Graphics: 4.7
Advanced Graphics: 6.2
Windows Experience Index – “Speed” mode Overall: 5.3 It Graphics: 5.3
Advanced Graphics: 6.4

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build quality

Sony VAIO S Series lid view

Lid view

The Sony VAIO S Series is finished in a red aluminium shell with the back of the lid finished in black.It is thick like the Toshiba Satellite L730 ultraportable and is well-built and runs cool, thus being suitable for long-term use.

User interface

The Sony VAIO S’s illuminated chiclet keyboard is something that you can still touch-type on but feels very plasticky and slippery. Personally, I would go for a keyboard that uses a rubberised feel.

The trackpad is easy to locate and operate by touch and feel and is augmented by a fingerprint sensor.This is part of the login setup for password-protected logins but could also work with a password vault program that is independent of the login setup.

Audio and Video

Sony VAIO S Series ultraportable STAMINA-SPEED switch

Dual graphics with an easy-to-use operating-mode switch

Like most recent laptops, the Sony VAIO S Series uses a dual-GPU setup but this is implemented differently from the norm. Here, the user can change modes by flicking a switch located above the keyboard between “Stamina” which is the battery-saving mode and “Speed” which is the performance mode. This method makes it easier to know which mode you want the computer in to suit the situation at hand and reminds me of the overdrive switch or “sport-mode” switch found in a lot of European cars, where you can engage this mode for performance or disengage it for economy.

As for the display, it isn’t too glossy and reflective, thus allowing the VAIO to be used in many different lighting scenarios, even outdoors.

The sound subsystem is typical to most laptops, with the tinny speakers and the integrated sound card. The VAIO would be best used with a pair of headphones or external speakers if you want more mileage out of the sound.

Connectivity and Expansion

Sony VAIO S Series ultraportable - RHS

Right-hand side – SD card and Memory-Stick slots, locking slot under SD card slot, VGA, HDMI, USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, Ethernet

The expansion options that the Sony VAIO S Series has are plentiful, with 3 USB sockets, one of them being a USB 3.0 socket. You can also connect the VAIO to external displays through a VGA or HDMI connector.

This laptop has what I would expect of a standard ultraportable, with dual-band 802.11a/g/n wireless and Gigabit Ethernet network interfaces.

The SD card slot’s location is very disappointing in my view due to its close proximity to the locking slot. Here, you wouldn’t be able to remove or insert an SD card in this slot if you use a locking device to stop the laptop from being stolen. Some users may see it as a bonus if they want to stop copying of data from the computer while it is unsupervised but this setup may limit use with Kensington’s ClickSafe two-part key-based locks or similar devices.

Battery life

Sony VAIO S Series ultraportable - LHS

Left had side with audio socket and DVD burner

The VAIO S’s STAMINA / SPEED switch allows you to make sure you are running the laptop on a battery-conserving mode when you are running it on batteries and this does pay off with the long run time.

This has really shown a difference with the computer taking very little power to do the basic tasks and running for times in order of five hours consecutively.

Limitations and Points of improvement

I haven’t seen many limitations for the VAIO S Series but Sony could move the locking slot from next to the SD card reader. This could make it suitable for those environments where you require the laptop to be tethered down at all times

Conclusion

Sony VAIO S Series

Still very suitable for hotspot surfing

I would position the Sony VAIO S Series as a fully-fledged ultraportable notebook for those of us who want the integrated optical drive. This is more so as an alternative to the Toshiba Satellite L730 and could be considered as a “journalist’s friend” computer or a machine to give that student who is heading out on that long trip. It can even also work well as a hotspot-surfing laptop when you use that cafe as a second office.

Send to Kindle

Leave a Reply

*