Fancy a slim, light and simply sexy 13in ultra-portable? Apple provides just that with its MacBook Air, but if you also want cutting-edge power and connectivity with some truly long-haul battery life thrown in, you're out of luck. In fact, that holds true for many ultra-portable solutions. One solid exception to this rule has always been Sony's VAIO thin and light range, as exemplified by the likes of the Z Series.
There's now a more affordable yet equally attractive 13.3in option in the form of the new S Series, with highlights such as a light metal chassis, hybrid graphics, Sandy Bridge processing power and (up to) 14-hour battery life. We first told you about the S Series yesterday, but now we're bringing you our hands-on impressions.
Though nowhere near as slim or elegant as a MacBook Air, the S Series is nonetheless a fairly stylish machine. It's very slim (under 24mm) and light (under 1.8kg), while a "full flat" design ensures it will fit perfectly into most compartments and cases.
Build quality is superb, with a magnesium alloy lid and brushed aluminium keyboard surround. The lid is very flexible, but not because Sony has skimped on quality. Rather, it's made to resist bumps, dents and scrapes; to bend rather than break, so to speak. This and decreased weight are the main reasons Sony went with magnesium over aluminium for the lid, and as an added bonus it doesn't show off fingerprints, dust or scratches.
The lower half of the laptop is brick-like in its solidity, with not a hint of flex or creak anywhere. The aluminium palm-rest feels lovely (though a tad cold if you've been carrying the laptop around in chilly weather).
Typing is not an unconditional pleasure, however, with feedback on the isolation keys too shallow to be truly comfortable. This is a shame after our good experience on Sony's F Series, but it's still perfectly usable. Just like on the F Series, there's an ambient light sensor that controls both keyboard backlighting and the screen's brightness.
We had no complaints regarding the multi-gesture touchpad, which was relatively large and smooth, with perfect feedback on its individual buttons.