The Bottom Line
Sep 14 2012 - For those looking at a portable laptop that keeps an internal DVD burner, the Sony VAIO S is one of the few options left. It does a surprisingly good job with running times that are better than some ultrabooks which is surprisingly for a full laptop and it does offer more storage space. The downside is that it doesn't really have much more to offer that these items. A number of smaller issues such as slower drive performance and a keyboard that flexes too much hold it back from what it could be.
- Good Battery Life
- Larger Hard Drive
- Includes Interal DVD Burner For Those That Need It
- Hard Drive Holds Back Performance
- Keyboard Flexes And Leaks Too Much Light
- Could Really Use A Dedicated Graphics Processor
- Intel Core i5-3210M Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 6GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 640GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- 8x DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Burner
- 13.3" WXGA (1366x768) Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated Graphics
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 3.0, One USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, 4-in-1 Card Reader
- 13" x 8.9" x 1" @ 3.8 lbs.
- Windows 7 Home Premium, Office Starter
Review - Sony VAIO SVS13112FX
Sep 14 2012 - The Sony VAIO S is among a dying breed of small but full features laptop systems. The design has changed little for the 2012 version from past models beyond some internal updates. In terms of design, it would be most closely related to the old Apple MacBook with its white plastic body but Sony uses a magnesium alloy body which gives it a sturdier feel but not quite as nice as Apple's unibody MacBook Pro 13.
For the processor, Sony has upgraded to the Ivy Bridge based Intel Core i5-3210M dual core processor. This gives a stronger overall performance than the ultra-low voltage processors that are found in the huge number of ultrabooks on the market. Combined with 6GB of DDR3 memory, the system provides a much more solid level of performance especially for anyone wanting a smaller laptop but going to be multitasking or doing demanding tasks such as desktop video editing.
Since this is a traditional laptop, it does come with a DVD burner which many companies are dropping from their small systems. This of course does add to the thickness of the system but it still measures just one inch thick. Playback and recording of CD or DVD media can also be very useful for some buyers. In terms of storage space, Sony is offering a larger 640GB hard drive that offers some extra storage over the more traditional 500GB drives found in other 13-inch laptops. The only downside here is the drive with its 5400rpm spin rate and lack of any hybrid cache means that it really lags when it comes to booting and loading applications. The average boot time is just under one minute which is twice as slow as hybrid drive offerings. If you do need additional space, there are two USB 3.0 ports for high speed external storage.
Sony has generally been known for some good displays but it seems like they have skimped a bit for the VAIO S. The 13.3-inch screen uses the standard TN panel technology common to most laptop displays with a 1366x768 native resolution. The brightness levels seem to a bit better than average but the colors are definitely more muted than the average 13-inch laptop. The graphics are driven by the Intel HD Graphics 4000 that are built into the processor. It would have been nice to see a dedicated graphics processor to really set this laptop apart from the ultrabooks but size, power and price are all things to consider. The graphics do have improved 3D performance but still is limited to older PC games at lower resolutions and detail levels. What it does provide though is some excellent acceleration for video transcoding when using Quick Sync enabled programs.
Sony continues to use their isolated keyboard design that has worked well for them in the past. The keyboard is accurate but does have a fair deal of flex when used. In addition, the backlighting for the keyboard had a tendency to leak from under the keys which can be disruptive in darker environments. While past versions of the Sony Vaio S featured a trackpad with dedicated buttons, this new version uses a clickpad with integrated buttons. Accuracy was good overall with a nice level of feedback.
For the battery in the Sony VAIO S uses a standard 4400mAh rated battery pack. Sony claims that this can allow the system to run up to seven hours of running time. In my digital video playback testing, the system was able to run for just under five hours. This is actually quite impressive as it is actually able to run long than many ultrabooks with their lower power designs. In fact, it might be able to achieve the seven hour of running time under very minimal usage. It still lags before Apple's MacBook Pro 13 which is able to achieve six hours but it is certainly better than most full equipped laptops. If this isn't enough power for you, there is an optional sheet battery that can attached to the button of the laptop that doubles the capacity. The downside is it does add nearly a half inch to the thickness and another pound and a half to the weight.
In terms of competition, there are three similar systems available on the market in the Apple MacBook Pro 13, Lenovo's IdeaPad Z370 and Toshiba's Portege R930. Apple is clearly more expensive but offers a more stylish system with longer battery life. Lenovo's option is more affordable, has more RAM but is heavier and thicker. Toshiba offers a larger hard drive and lighter weight but sacrifices some sturdiness and quality.