With a standard 1,366 x 768 resolution and semi-matt finish, the VAIO S’s screen holds up quite well. It’s nicely integrated and evenly backlit, with no sign of light bleed. Viewing angles are merely decent, with horizontal viewing angles being as atrocious as ever some noticeable contrast shift when getting to the edges horizontally. However, while it doesn’t match up to the Samsung Series 9 or IPS-sporting ThinkPad X1, it’s certainly no worse than most laptop screens in this regard.
Contrast is above average, if not quite up there with the best. This Sony maintained decent dark detailing along with pure whites, but did struggle to distinguish the two darkest shades in our greyscale test. In other respects the display put in a flawless performance, with no noticeable banding or other artefacts and perfect sharpness.
Unfortunately, the speakers don’t hold up well at all. In fact, they’re the worst we’ve come across on an ultraportable in a while. They distort even when not at their already unimpressive maximum volume, generally lack clarity and depth, and as for bass – you’d probably get more out of a piccolo.
Sony allows quite a bit of flexibility in its configurations of the SB, so you can get choose to get either a Core i3 or Core i5 model (if you desire a Core i7, you’ll need to opt for the more expensive SA Series). For an average daily workload, the cheapest Core i3 ought to do you, but if you want Turbo clocking the cheaper Core i5 is only £40 extra over the base spec. That gets you a Core i5-2410M running at 2.3GHz, which can clock up to 2.9GHz if just one core is in use and is also the CPU found on our test sample. It will easily handle most tasks.
It’s backed by 4GB or RAM, and you can upgrade to a whole 8GB for a very reasonable £60. Likewise, the 500GB hard drive can be upgraded all the way up to a 750GB model, though regardless it will run at a relatively slow 5,400rpm. If you want speed here, there’s a 128GB SSD upgrade available for a wallet-crunching £340, making it well worth trying this upgrade yourself.
One of the features that gives this 13.3in laptop an edge over many more expensive rivals is its dedicated graphics. No matter which configuration of the SB you get, it will have an AMD Radeon HD6470M with 512MB of dedicated memory. While this is hardly a cutting-edge gaming chip, it sure beats the hell out of Intel’s integrated HD3000, and will do nicely for casual or undemanding games. Just remember to have that aforementioned ‘power-plan switch’ on Speed rather than Stamina – as you can see from the below graph, it makes a significant difference.
Also, the HD6470M really is only for light gaming, as its limitations are felt whenever trying to run an even slightly ambitious game. In Stalker: Call of Pripyat, for example, it only managed a practically unplayable 23.7 frames per second – and that was at Medium Detail and a resolution of 1,280 x 720 (lower than the laptop’s native screen rez).
As seems to be becoming standard, the nicely-integrated webcam is of the HD variety, making for nice, crisp video calls. Running it all, meanwhile, is a 64-bit version of Windows Home Premium. Sony offers upgrades to Professional or Ultimate on its website, but once again prohibitive prices mean you’re better off doing it yourself afterwards. One neat little customisation is Sony’s customisable XMB-like media bar, giving Windows a hint of Mac OS.