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Sony VAIO VGN-S1VP - Notebook - Sony VAIO VGN-S1VP
There’s no doubt that Sony has got the first part of the equation right. The screen is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a slim and light notebook. The first thing you notice is that it’s a widescreen display, giving you a bit of extra desktop real estate. With a native resolution of 1,280 x 800, you’ve got a fair amount of space at your disposal - the resolution isn’t as high as the now common 1,400 x 1,050 resolution, but it is pretty impressive considering the physical size of the notebook as a whole. But it’s not the aspect ratio or the resolution that make this screen stand out from the crowd, it’s Sony’s X-Black finish. Although Sony isn’t the only manufacturer to use this screen finish (Rock is now using the same technology and calling it X-Glass), it is still a wonderful feature and changes the whole characteristic of a TFT display. As I’ve said before, there is a down side of a slightly more reflective screen, but the overall effect far outweighs this problem. And even then, I’m now sitting on a train with windows on either side of me and strong ambient light streaming in from all angles, and I can still see this screen perfectly. If you’ve ever felt that TFT screens are a little dull and lifeless, you need to see an X-Black display - the screen is incredibly bright and the colours are just so vivid and lifelike. If you’re looking at digital images or even watching a movie, you will be amazed at how good this screen looks, but even the look of general Windows applications is vastly improved.
The keyboard is a decent size and Sony has done a great job with the layout. Sony is one of the very few notebook manufacturers that keeps the Ctrl key at the bottom left of the keyboard where it’s supposed to be. On most notebooks you’ll find the Fn key there instead which can be annoying for anyone that uses a lot of keyboard shortcuts. The Return and Backspace keys are both large, as are the right Shift key, the Tab key and the Caps Lock key. The cursor keys are positioned correctly and removed slightly from the main keyboard for ease of use. In use the keyboard feels good, but there is some noticeable flex when typing at speed. This isn’t enough to affect your typing, but you don’t feel like every single key is independent, like you do when typing on an IBM ThinkPad. That said, there’s a good amount of travel on each key and the break is solid enough to spring your fingertip back, ready for the next keystroke. Above the keyboard you’ll find the power button and two buttons marked S1 and S2. The S2 button is programmed to switch to an external monitor, while dropping the resolution to 1,024 x 768, in order to match the 4:3 aspect ratio of an external screen. The S1 button will bring up the volume control, while a quick second press will mute the sound.
Below the Spacebar is a small touch pad shaped in a widescreen aspect ratio to match the screen. Even though I generally prefer track points, the touch pad on the S1VP is truly excellent. Pointer manipulation is smooth and accurate, and although the touch pad responds to the lightest of touches, I never found myself inadvertently tapping it by mistake when hitting the Spacebar. Below the touch pad are two chrome plated buttons, which, as I already mentioned, some members of the team liked while others vehemently disliked.