When we first saw Sony's 'affordable' premium VAIO S series, we were very optimistic. Thin, light and oozing executive class without compromising on performance or connectivity, this aluminium and magnesium alloy 13.3in laptop with its backlit keyboard seemed like uptraportable heaven. That's especially true when you consider that it packs a Sandy Bridge CPU, dedicated Radeon graphics and an optional Blu-ray writer. Now we have one in our labs, so join us as we discover how it holds up under pressure.
First, let's just clarify where this VAIO S stands. As mentioned, it's not the highest-end choice in Sony's 13in ultraportable range. That honour goes to the stunning VAIO Z, a carbon-fibre slice of desirability offering a USB 3.0 implementation of Intel's Thunderbolt connection and an external dock with dedicated graphics.
Within the S family, meanwhile, there's the high-end SA series - which starts at £1,050 - and the more down-to-earth SB series, which can be found for a less wallet-flattening £650. In these economically challenged times, we've decided to look at the latter, which still offers plenty of power with an Intel 'Sandy Bridge' Core-i processor and dedicated graphics. The SB range also offers the additional advantage of being available in more colours, namely: black, pink, white, blue and silver. So at least as far as colour choices go, you're likely to be covered no matter what your taste.
Thankfully, the same is likely to be true of the design, which is stylish and edgy. Of course (and we're getting sick of saying this, but it's the sad truth) this is no MacBook Air, which still reigns supreme when it comes to uncluttered, super-stylish uptraportable design. However, to an extent they're just different beasts, as the Sony is far more flexible in both its configuration and connectivity, even when taking the new Air's Thunderbolt port into consideration. In fact, it's probably a closer competitor to the Samsung Series 9 and Lenovo's ThinkPad X1, except it's far cheaper.
The Sony's lid sports a textured plastic finish that's quite durable and provides a great grip, while the entire keyboard surround is a single piece of smooth aluminium, providing a lovely if initially somewhat chilly palm-rest. The screen's bezel is plastic but matches the metal perfectly, and overall this is one premium-looking and feeling laptop.
Build quality matches up too, with a semi-flexible yet strong lid and very solid lower half. And weighing in at just 1.7kg (down to 1.68kg if you opt for an SSD rather than a physical hard drive), this VAIO is light enough to carry around all day with little effort.