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Sony keyboards are generally good, but the example in the S4M is superb. As always, I have to say that it’s not quite up to the standards of an IBM ThinkPad, but it is very impressive nonetheless. The keys are larger than those on the T2XP, so you don’t need small hands to get the best results. There’s a surprising amount of travel in each key and the break and spring back are very solid, facilitating an easy and speedy typing rate. Despite the S4M being a small notebook, the Shift, Return, Backspace, and Tab keys are all oversized. Users of keyboard shortcuts will be glad to find the Ctrl key at the bottom left, where it’s meant to be, while the cursor keys are also thoughtfully separated from the rest of the keys.
Above the keyboard is the power button, along with two programmable shortcut buttons. By default the two buttons are set to mute the sound and switch to an external display, but there’s a pre-loaded utility allowing you to change the button assignation. Below the keyboard is a silver touchpad along with two silver selector buttons below it. Despite the fact that I much prefer trackpoints, this touchpad does offer fast and accurate pointer manipulation.
At the very front of the wrist rest is an array of indicator lights for power, battery charge, hard disk access, optical disc access, MemoryStick access and wireless power. Next to the indicator lights is a hard switch for the wireless – there’s an integrated Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG adapter for 802.11b and g compliance. Unfortunately there’s no integrated Bluetooth – you’ll have to go for one of the more expensive S Series VAIOs for that.
Unlike the majority of notebooks, the optical drive isn’t located at the side of the chassis, instead Sony has slid it into the front of the casing. Although this makes access difficult when the notebook is on your lap, it’s a lot easier to access when you’re on a plane. This drive is a fully featured DVD writer that can burn DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW, CD-R/RW and dual layer DVD+R discs. Also at the front of the casing is a MemoryStick slot – ideal if you’ve got a Sony camera, but I’d prefer to see a multi-card reader these days.