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Sony VAIO VGN-NW11S/S - 15.5in Laptop - Sony VAIO VGN-NW11S/S
Typically Sony is just a little more parsimonious (read stingy) than most when it comes to connectivity. To an extent this is true of the NW Series, for instance there's no eSATA and none of the USB ports are ‘sleep & charge' enabled, but overall it serves up all the things most people will need and a few they probably won't. This list includes three USB ports, VGA and HDMI for video, a mini-FireWire port, a 34mm ExpressCard slot and (on the front) memory card slots of Sony's propriety formats and the more common SD format. One unusual addition is a modem connection (just in case), though you get just the two audio jacks - one line-in, one line-out.
As we noted earlier, the Intel Core 2 Duo T6500 in the NW11 isn't at the bleeding-edge of Intel's processor range (as the comparison to the Dell Studio 1555 demonstrates), but it's still a very capable performer, scoring over 3,000 in PCMark Vantage. That's a good score for any laptop in this price range and in real-world use any productivity, image editing and multimedia tasks you throw at it should be dealt with smoothly. This includes high-definition video, though editing HD camcorder footage - while still possible - will prove more challenging. Gaming performance is good (particularly for the price), though that's only true of mid-tier titles - the most recent and demanding games will still require significant compromise.
This decent performance is made all the more impressive by the battery life on offer. While the six-cell, 4,400mAh capacity battery isn't a whopper by modern standards, it delivered precisely four hours of use in MobileMark 2007's Productivity segment - extending to an impressive four hours and 34 minutes in the low intensity Reader test. Both these results surpassed the Dell Studio 1555 we reviewed recently, though in the DVD playback test it fell behind with a still creditable two hours and 32 minutes. Given this test is run at 100 per cent screen brightness, reducing this a little will give you enough life to watch most films.
This completes a generally impressive performance from the NW11S. It's not without its faults, it could do with better speakers and an eSATA port wouldn't hurt, but it's fundamentally a very good laptop made all the better by its hard wearing, non-glossy exterior. If you can stretch to it then the Dell Studio 1555, which is more expensive sans its current discounted pricing, is still marginally the better machine, but if not then this will do the job nicely.
It's not quite perfect, but the NW11S is easily the best mainstream laptop Sony has produced in a long while. It has a nicely balanced specification and feature set, is reasonably priced and won't attract the dust, grease and grime so prevalent on laptops these days.