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Sony VAIO S - Connectivity and Usability

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers



Our Score:


Connectivity is accomplished for such a slim and light ultraportable, especially considering Sony also packs in a tray-loading DVD rewriter (upgradeable to a Blu-ray writer for an utterly ridiculous £350!). This is found at the left, along with a headphone jack, which we have a few issues with. First there's the jack's placement: set behind the optical drive, the cable of any headphones will get in the way of the drive's tray when inserting or ejecting discs. Secondly, this is not a combined headphone/microphone jack, but rather only supports the former, meaning non-USB headsets aren't supported – a real annoyance on a premium machine such as this.

Thankfully, things improve from here on out. There's a handy wireless switch at the laptop's front, and all the other connectivity is found on the right side, where we have two memory card readers (one for Sony's proprietary HG Duo format, the other supporting SDXC), a Kensington lock slot, VGA and HDMI 1.4 for video, a USB 3.0 port, two older USB 2 ports, and a Gigabit Ethernet jack. As for wireless, there's Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 2.1.

While we found the keyboard on Sony's plasticky VAIO C to be nice but flawed, on the S Series we have no real complaints. With its seamless metal keyboard surround the chiclet keyboard looks great, and both layout and spacing are excellent.

Though key feedback is shallow it's nicely defined with a positive click, and overall it makes for a great typing experience. Adding further to the goodness is white key backlighting automatically controlled by a light sensor, to make working in the dark child's play. Our only minor niggle with the keyboard is that there is still a little flex and a hint of rattle, especially on the left side.

Above the keyboard you'll find a number of controls. On the left there's the optical drive eject button and a Stamina/Speed switch, which allows you to change power plans at the – well, flick of a switch. This is an important point, because setting this switch to Stamina completely disables the dedicated Radeon graphics. In other words, if you want to game or run GPU-accelerated software, make sure it's set to Speed.

To the right of the laptop we find the usual VAIO triumvirate, consisting of Assist, Web and VAIO buttons. Assist brings up VAIO Care, which is an interactive support centre that does troubleshooting, diagnostics and recovery, or puts you in touch with Sony's support. Though it offers nothing new, having it all on a single physical button is a great feature for those new to computers. We only wish Sony hadn't made the unfortunate choice of labelling the Assist button in pink. Painfully obvious pink, which puts a noticeable dent in the executive look and feel.

The Web button is rather boring if you press it in Windows, where it merely launches the browser. However, if you press it when the computer is turned off, it boots into a Linux-based 'lite' OS which lets you browse the web using Firefox, supposedly tripling the VAIO's battery life compared to doing the same under Windows. Last but not least, the VAIO button opens the VAIO Media Gallery by default but is user assignable.

Set into the laptop's front edge, the large touchpad naturally supports multi-touch and offers a pleasant, smooth surface. Its individual buttons - between which you'll find a fingerprint scanner for secure, password-free logins - can be rather stiff depending on how and where you press them, but they're still quite usable.

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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