Connectivity is decent, with all the essentials well catered for. Along the left you’ll find a Gigabit Ethernet port, VGA and HDMI for video, and both USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports for data. The front houses a memory card reader and physical wireless switch (always a feature we appreciate), while around the right we have headphone and microphone jacks, twin USB 2.0 ports and a DVD writer. All as expected then, since we didn’t think a Blu-ray drive would be included at this price point, though more expensive C models do come with one.
Aside from its semi-‘glow’ lid, the C-Series’ other unique claim to fame is its removable keyboard covers. With most of these laptops the keyboard area is a complementary colour or combination of colours. For example, you get an all-black keyboard on the green version, and a white area with silver keys on the pink one. That’s the same on our white model, and you can get any colour of cover to go over it.
Quite aside from changing the looks of your laptop, these covers also have a few practical advantages. For example, if you have children typing while eating sticky sweets or you’re working in the kitchen while sending messages and don’t fancy washing your hands every second minute, the machine-washable cover will ensure none of the grime gets on or between your actual keys. It’s a neat extra that we would like to see as standard on every laptop (since it’s a very easy, cheap addition), but hardly a reason to choose the C Series over its competitors.
Thankfully, the keyboard itself might be. Noticeable flex aside, the well-spaced keys offer decent feedback with more travel than most chiclet keyboards manage, though they could have done with a bit more of a defined click. In a nice touch, they’re also fully backlit with attractive white LED lighting controlled by an environment light sensor. Keyboard backlighting is far from a given at the VPCCA1S1E’s sub-£700 price point, so it’s nice to find it here.
Above the keyboard you’ll find three shortcut buttons. The first, 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.
The second button, Web, 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 (a process that takes about 19 seconds) which only lets you browse the web using Firefox, but supposedly triples the VAIO’s battery life compared to doing the same under Windows. The VAIO button opens the VAIO Media Gallery by default but is user assignable.
The touchpad sports a textured surface that’s just a tad too much like sandpaper for our liking. Personal preferences for smoothness aside, after extended use it may start to feel like the friction is wearing away the tip of your finger. At least it does mean you can’t miss the pad’s active surface in the dark, essential as it’s covered by the same transparent layer that covers the palm-rests and is not delineated in any other way. Its raised, individual buttons are within easy thumb-range and offer a positive, if slightly loud, click.