The touch pad is slightly recessed from the wrist rest area and is finished in the same matt silver as the rest of casing. The touch pad is also presented in a widescreen aspect ratio to match the screen. Although I prefer track points to touch pads, this is a fine example of the breed and pointer manipulation proved to be smooth, accurate and simple. Below the touch pad are two long, thin selector buttons that greet you with a reassuring click when pressed.
Even though this is a large notebook, Sony has still managed to make it look stylish. The lid is finished in matt silver with a large VAIO logo and a small Sony one. Open up the lid and you’re greeted by more matt silver and a black keyboard. The screen is surrounded by a black bezel with a small VAIO logo underneath it. Just below the screen you’ll find the integrated stereo speakers, which produce reasonable sound for a notebook. Between the speakers are a silver power button, a mute button, volume buttons and a backlight adjust button. There’s also a button marked “S1” which can be programmed to launch the application of your choice. The last button is a magnify control - pressing this will drop the resolution to 1,280 x 768, in case you find the high-resolution too small. Pressing the magnify button again will return to the native resolution - this is particularly useful if you’re using the your notebook to show something to other people and you want to make things easier to read.
Although the VGN-A117S isn’t a Centrino branded notebook, it does use an Intel Pentium M CPU. The 1.7GHz chip isn’t the fastest mobile processor you can get, but it will take most applications in its stride. There’s 512MB of PC2700 DDR SDRAM to back-up the CPU, and although this should be enough for most uses, I’d probably want a bit more memory in a machine that has the potential to be a mobile image editing workhorse.
Storage comes in the form of an 80GB hard disk which is pretty capacious by notebook standards. Sony has also augmented the hard disk with a DVD writer, in case you want to backup important data, or just make space on the hard drive. It’s a dual format DVD writer that will burn DVD+R/-R media at four-speed, DVD-RW discs at two-speed and DVD+RW media at 2.4-speed. Interestingly, the optical drive itself has no eject button, and instead Sony has placed a software-driven button next to it. Although it looks good when you press it - a message appears on the screen saying that the drive is being ejected - it also means that when you’re not in Windows or remove the Sony utility that drives the button, you can’t eject the drive. Of course there is a manual eject hole for emergencies, but I think I’d still prefer a button on the drive tray. To the right of the optical drive is the modem connector, hidden behind a rubber bung.