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Sony VAIO S (2011) review

Ardjuna Seghers



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Sony VAIO S (2011)
  • Sony VAIO S (2011)
  • Sony VAIO S (2011)
  • Sony VAIO S (2011)
  • Sony VAIO S (2011)
  • Sony VAIO S (2011)
  • Sony VAIO S (2011)
  • Sony VAIO S (2011)
  • Sony VAIO S (2011)
  • Sony VAIO S (2011)
  • Sony VAIO S
  • Sony VAIO S
  • Sony VAIO S
  • Sony VAIO S
  • Sony VAIO S


Our Score:



  • Light, thin and attractive
  • Good screen and connectivity
  • Excellent backlit keyboard
  • Flexible specs with discrete graphics
  • Dock for extended battery life


  • Battery life inferior to competition
  • Noisy under load!
  • Dreadful speakers

Key Features

  • Edgy aluminium design in various colours
  • 13.3in, 1366 x 768, matt screen
  • Core i3-i5, up to 8GB RAM, Radeon HD 6470M graphics
  • Up to 750GB 5,400rpm HDD or 128GB SSD
  • Backlit keyboard, USB 3.0, Optional Blu-ray
  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Review Price: £769.00

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.

Sony VAIO S 5

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.

Chris Hamer

July 28, 2011, 4:40 am

"However, in Stamina mode you might get closer than we did." So you ran the battery test in speed mode? That is quite unfair tbh! Considering you put this against others without having to run a ATI chip. If you did run it in speed mode and achieved 5 hours that is remarkable! Considering sony states in speed mode the battery should last 3.5 hours and stamina 7.5 hours!
At the bottom of the page under primary battery.
When i ran the SA (love it, replacing my thinkpad!) in stamina mode with 50-60% brightness with the extended battery i was predicted over 12 hours with battery bar. Another way is to limit the CPU to 50% of it's power consumption on battery. Also with the fans making a noise did you check the vaio control panel to have the fan's in balanced mode?
Thought I would post my comments after purchasing the SA!


July 28, 2011, 8:36 pm

I'd be interested in seeing the results of the battery tests in stamina mode, too. If it's one of the things preventing an award, it would surely make a big difference?


August 2, 2011, 2:09 am

Review should have used stamina mode for battery test. Otherwise, a helpful review. Disapointed to hear there is no mic input.

@Chris, I'd be interested to know how long your SA is able to last in stamina mode with light use and without the battery slice. Also, are you getting excessive noise under load.


August 2, 2011, 2:12 am

Also, what is the effect of the battery slice on weight and dimensions?

Chris Hamer

August 3, 2011, 5:30 pm

@ Ozaz
Ill try and do a battery test for you soon!
I done some measurements to compare to the laptop this is replacing!
Power Supply: 400g
Battery Slice: 500g
Laptop: 1600g (With HDD)
Total: 2500g


August 6, 2011, 6:39 pm

Thanks for the info on the weight. No need to bother with the battery test. I've been reading a few other reviews and user comments and the consistent picture is that the built in battery is good for about 6.5 hours during real-world light use with WLAN on and stamina mode on.


August 16, 2011, 2:31 pm

@Chris and all:
Sorry for the tardy comment, I had submitted one before but it must have gotten lost in the great data tides.
No, I did NOT run the battery test in Speed mode - nor in Stamina mode, but on the same settings as every other laptop, hence keeping it fair.

Glad you found it helpful. We used custom battery-test settings to keep it on even footing with rivals.


August 16, 2011, 4:37 pm

How did you run it in neither speed mode nor stamina mode? Isn't the hardware switch a 2-level switch which can only be set to either speed or stamina?

IMO, battery tests should use the power saving features of the laptop as efficient battery usage modes would be a good reason for buying a laptop.


February 1, 2012, 3:19 pm

DUAL MONITORS - a warning. I read the specifications, saw it had VGA and HDMI outputs and got one for work. Guess what? It doesn't support dual monitors from both outputs. That is official from Sony technical support. Such a basic function from a laptop aimed partially at business and one with a dedicated ATI GPU as well. All my previous laptops which cost half this has this feature. I'm really surprised this isn't picked up in any review.


July 31, 2012, 4:00 pm

The sound and the speakers needed to be improved and it will be a great business laptop.

Mackenzie Gorman

April 23, 2014, 5:24 pm

I bought this computer because I am a student and thought it would be a great laptop to get me through school....boy was I wrong. This is actually the worst computer I have ever heard of. I have only had it for just under three years and I will need to get a new one in a couple weeks. I would like to point out that I DO take GREAT care of all of my electronics, but for whatever reason my vaio has decided to chack out. The first year after I purchased it I had to replace the hard drive because it crashed on me. After I did that I needed to purchase another firewall and protection program as myone time use had been on the other hard drive. So far that is the cost of the laptop (which was not cheap) plus another $250 for the hard drive and premium protection. Now I need to get a new computer because this obe has completely died. First the screen would take longer to load than normal, and today it just completely shut down and I cannot get it to turn back on no matter what I do. Sorry, but this comouter is a piece of crap and I would NOT recommend it AT ALL. Your money is better spent on something different.

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