Sony VAIO VGN-NS20E/S - 15.4in Laptop - Sony VAIO VGN-NS20E/S

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers



Our Score:


Getting onto connectivity we encounter our first major disappointment: analogue VGA is the only type of video output you'll find here, with no sign of digital HDMI. Since the latter is a connection that's found on most consumer laptops (even ones around the £400 mark), its omission here is difficult to forgive.

Together with the VGA port we find headphone and microphone jacks, two USB ports and a mini-FireWire port on the VAIO's left. There's also an ExpressCard slot of the thinner 34mm variety, with a great little flap to keep the dust out - a much better solution than the easily-lost placeholders found in most other laptops.

Along the front is a wireless switch, SD card reader and separate reader for Sony's somewhat unpopular proprietary Memory Stick format. There are also three LED indicators for power, battery life and hard drive activity that are plainly visible with the laptop closed. On the right there are a further two USB ports and the DVD-writer, while the back houses modem, Gigabit Ethernet and power connections.

Another area where there has been some obvious cost-cutting is in processing power. Rather than the Core 2 CPUs we're used to seeing, Sony has used the older Mobile Pentium T3400. This dual-core processor still runs at a relatively nippy 2.16GHz, but less cache, a slower 667MHz front-side bus and a less efficient architecture mean performance isn't as impressive as lower-clocked Core 2 Duos. Still, it should handle the average user's demands with ease.

Since the NS20 comes with the 32-bit version of Windows Vista Premium pre-installed, the provided 3GB of RAM is as much as the system can use. Likewise the 250GB hard drive is about what you'd expect at this price point. Though there's no Bluetooth, Wi-Fi is surprisingly up to Draft-N standard and there's also a 1.3 megapixel webcam to take care of video chatting.

Graphics are handled by an integrated Intel Express 4 series chipset, so the poor score of 12.7fps in TrackMania Nations Forever (on medium detail at the screen's native resolution of 1,280 x 800) is not unexpected. Basically, you won't be able to run any but the most basic games on this Sony.

Unlike the latest laptops, the NS20 still employs a 16:10 aspect display. In this instance it's a 15.4in display with a typical 1,280 x 800 native resolution and it's a pretty good effort, too. If you can get past the reflections, the glossy finish does lend a hint of extra verve to colours and manages to make blacks appear slightly deeper. Other positives of the display include even backlighting and reasonable colour fidelity, though viewing angles could be better, being shallow enough to make it difficult for more than two people to view the screen at once.

Audio, on the other hand, leaves more to be desired. Though the speakers go up to high volume levels, strong distortion means they aren't usable at anything above medium. Even at lower levels audio lacks clarity and a severe bass deficiency leaves relevant material sounding decidedly tinny.


June 17, 2009, 8:16 am

Why is it you have to buy a more premium laptop so you aren't lumbered with a blobby, big boned, fisher price device?? They must deliberately make these low end models less attractive than the other ones. I'm sure they could sleek up these products.


June 17, 2009, 1:20 pm


Obvious answer - they want you to pay more to get more.


June 17, 2009, 2:00 pm

There are certainly ways they could sleek it up a bit but not very much without adding to the cost.


June 17, 2009, 2:32 pm


To be honest, most of us in the office rather liked the design. It's not sleek, but doesn't feel particularly chunky, and is FAR more rugged than most - how good is that glossy designer laptop going to look after three months' use with scratches and fingerprints all over it?


June 17, 2009, 3:45 pm

Ive got the VGN-NS11J/S of this series, i got it for £600 with a 2 year warrenty from john lewis and I love it. Granted however since i bought it more powerful laptops have come out for the price but hay thats just technology going out of date fast as usual.

Dave 13

June 18, 2009, 3:52 pm

I never really liked Sony's budget models, my advice is to get the cheapest version of their premium line you can get.

Back in December I got my dad an FW11E for £580. The best thing is I picked it up in Argos, LOL.

Nicholas Phan

June 19, 2009, 7:57 am

The NS sounds great! But looks like it just got replaced by the NW. The NW looks and sounds fantastic! And has great value too!


June 20, 2009, 10:31 pm

Do Sony still fill their machines with buggy bloatware and inappropriate software? The last Sony portable I owned (some years back) even had SQL Server running on it, grabbing 5% CPU now and again. Why? Who knows, but took days to dig it all out and remove it.

Paul N

January 26, 2010, 12:34 am

I have had one of these for nearly a year and agree with the above review, but am now experiencing one annoying fault -- the L key is malfunctioning. It has to be hit hard to produce a character.

The strange thing is that this seems ony to happen in Internet Explorer and Outlook -- not, for example, in NotePad. I suspect therefore that it's a software problem connected with processing time, as opposed to a poor quality key.


February 24, 2010, 2:43 pm

hi i went onto my vaio recovery centre and did a factory restore but now its saying "windows couls not complete the installation. to install windows on this computer restart the installation" so i clicked ok and it does the same thing over and over again. i also have vaio recovery discs which i bought a while ago but i can use them as i cant see anything on my laptop screen as its broke so ive been connecting it to a monitor. can someone please help me on what to do thanks x


April 11, 2014, 10:13 pm

I brought my one 5 years ago and it's still going - not as well anymore but I've had serious use out of it and it's been brilliant. Trying to decide what to go for next as a lot of the latest laptops look plasticy - I really like the silver bevel finish on the NS. I'll definately be sticking with Sony though as this was really reliable and no issues in the first 3-4 years I've owned it.

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