Of course, one of the most important factors for any ultraportable tends to be how long it can survive away from a socket. Sony claims seven hours for this machine, with an optional slice battery available for an extra £125 supposedly doubling this to a whopping 14 hours!
Unfortunately we didn't have a slice battery to hand to verify the doubling claim, and the SB didn't quite hold up to that seven hour estimate either. With screen brightness set to 40 percent and wireless radios turned off, our battery test isn't particularly demanding, yet the SB only managed five minutes over five hours. While that's hardly terrible, it's a bit too far from seven for our liking. However, in Stamina mode you might get closer than we did.
So how does the SB hold up in the value stakes? Rather well, actually. Admittedly it's not quite on a level with even slimmer, all-metal rivals like the 13in version of the Apple MacBook Air, Samsung Series 9 or Lenovo ThinkPad X1 (that's what Sony's VAIO Z is for), but then it costs considerably less. In fact, with a starting price of £700, it feels more expensive than it is.
Its affordable price puts the cheaper option in the Sony S Series into direct competition with the Toshiba Satellite R830. Between the two, we would say the Sony offers a sexier look, better keyboard and superior screen. On the other hand, the Toshiba has the edge in lightness, battery life, connectivity and – if you don't care about discrete graphics – specs, and also stays quieter under load.
In fact, we would have little hesitation recommending Sony's beautiful little laptop to anyone after an affordable ultraportable, were it not for one thing: it gets seriously noisy. All's fine when you're just typing away in a document or browsing the web. But when playing an intensive movie or game, the fans in the VAIO SB start to spin up, and they get loud!
To be fair, this is a complaint with many small, thin yet powerful laptops, including the Air. However, the SB does get noisier than most, which is a real shame as it's inaudible during light use. If this doesn't bother you, it's a versatile, well-connected all-rounder that represents excellent value.
Sony's 13.3in ultraportable is sleek, stylish, available in a range of colours, and stuffed with connectivity. It offers excellent build quality with a lovely aluminium keyboard surround; a good, backlit keyboard; decent screen and versatile specifications, which include discrete graphics for some light gaming. The only things preventing it from winning one of our coveted awards are that it trails the pack when it comes to battery life, and gets very noisy on occasion.