In use the CS11 is no speed demon, but it will handle most tasks with ease. An nVidia GeForce 9300M GS graphics chip won’t let you play Call of Duty 4, but does deliver a 32.1 frames per second average in TrackMania Nations Forever at medium detail.
An Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 heads the rest of the cast, running at 2.26GHz on a 1,066Mhz front side bus. This is backed by 4GB of 800MHz DDR2 RAM, which is more than the included 32-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium knows what to do with, while a generous 320GB of hard drive space is plenty for most users. Wireless duties are also nicely covered by Bluetooth 2.0 and Draft-N Wi-Fi, while the obligatory 1.3 Megapixel camera takes care of video chatting.
On the software side, there’s a bit of bloatware like Google Desktop, but there are also some useful things like Adobe Photoshop Elements 6, Microsoft Works 9, Easy Media Creator, Adobe Reader 8.1 and DivX Player.
One other area, aside from the touchpad, where CS11 is rather strong is in battery life. Despite using only a 4,400mAh six-cell battery, this notebook managed a heartening three hours and 43 minutes in the semi-intensive Productivity benchmark, though this is with all wireless radios turned off. Another advantage the Sony has here is that in a well-lit environment its screen remains legible even at fairly low brightness settings, meaning you could get over four hours of frugal use when on the move. Just keep in mind that at around 2.5kg, this notebook is no lightweight.
When it comes down to it though, there simply aren’t enough reasons to recommend the CS11. Something like the 15.4in Medion Akoya S5610 will give you a very similar working experience and far superior connectivity for £300 less, while likes of Acer, Dell, HP, Samsung or Toshiba offer machines with plenty of style and similar specifications, but with better build quality and features for less money.
Buying direct from Sony is even worse, since you end up paying nearly £900 for the configuration in this review, or just shy of £1,000 for the pointless Blu-ray version. For this kind of money, a current version of the Dell Studio 15 will get you everything the Sony offers plus a faster CPU, more choice of colours and designs, a Full HD 1,920 x 1,200 15.4in display to enjoy those Blu-rays on and a larger 9-cell battery.
Sony has really hurt the VAIO name with its VGN-CS11S/W. Shockingly poor build quality is just one among a whole raft of other issues and given its high price you’re better off looking elsewhere.