The Vaio S is typically Sony's mid-range, all-rounder product. This particular 13-inch model we received for review, therefore, came with a DVD drive, two USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0 port, gigabit Ethernet, HDMI and VGA ports, headset jack, an SD card reader and, of course, Sony's MagicGate slot, because it wouldn't be Sony without a proprietary element somewhere.
- USB 3.0: 2
- USB 2.0: 1
- Optical: DVD±RW
- Video: HDMI, VGA
- Ethernet: gigabit
- Wireless: single-channel 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0
It's also got a backlit keyboard, a huge touchpad, and AU$1499 will get you the base model with a Core i5 3210M, a 1366x768 display, 4GB RAM, a 640GB 5400RPM HDD and a GeForce GT 640M LE with 1GB memory. Crank it up to our review model, and suddenly things cost AU$2899, granting you a Core i7 3520M, 8GB RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 1600x900 screen.
The extra resolution is nice, but the screen itself, not so much, looking like it has some sort of greasy coating over the top and lacking in vibrancy.
While the base model is fine, the top of the line SKU isn't a great value proposition — the price-hike is disproportionate to what you get — a cheaper option would be to buy the AU$2299 SKU with the 750GB hard drive instead, and installing your own SSD.
Sony's kept its Stamina/Speed switch at the top left, which allows you to choose between integrated and discrete graphics, depending on whether you want long battery life or high graphical performance. It's a remnant from when AMD graphics didn't do seamless automatic software switching well, and is awkwardly vestigial, considering Nvidia's Optimus switching software works perfectly fine. You could, we suppose, use it to simply lock the laptop to only using the integrated graphics at all times by switching it to Stamina — if you switch it to Speed, it just uses Nvidia's Optimus settings anyway.
A hot air vent sits at the back of the Vaio, under the monitor — it exhausts both outwards and downwards, meaning that things can get quite warm and uncomfortable quickly, should you have this on your lap. A bright yellow sticker on the base warns you to "not place this computer in contact with your skin", as it "could result in injury". Confidence building, that.
Handbrake encoding (in seconds)
Sony Vaio S SVS13A16GGB (Core i7 3520M, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, GeForce GT 640M LE)
Apple MacBook Air 13 (Core i7 3667U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)
Samsung Series 9 13-inch (Core i5 3317U, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
While initial performance tests were coming under where we'd expect, a firmware upgrade helped bring things back into frame, with the speedy dual core performing well.
|Batman: Arkham Asylum|
|1600x900, 4x AA, Detail level: High, PhysX off.|
|1366x768, DirectX 9, 0x AA, Quality: Low, PhysX: Off.|
|The Witcher 2|
|1366x768, low spec.|
|1366x768, low detail.|
The GeForce GT 640M LE isn't as powerful as the regular 640M, and Sony's latest Vaio S is quite loud as well when gaming. While it should be capable of older or basic games, there's just not enough "oomph" here if you intend on gaming regularly.
Battery life (time)
- Heavy battery test
- Light battery test
- 6h 11m
- HP Pavilion dm4 3114TX (Core i5 3210M, 4GB RAM, 640GB HDD, Radeon HD 7570M)
- 5h 35m
- Apple MacBook Air 13 (Core i7 3667U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)
- 5h 33m
- HP EliteBook 2570p (Core i7 3520M, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
- 4h 12m
- Sony Vaio S SVS13A16GGB (Core i7 3520M, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, GeForce GT 640M LE)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The Vaio S puts in a decent showing, but even with Optimus enabled, it looks like it could do with a higher capacity battery.
Sony's latest Vaio S is a passable all-rounder. We have heat and noise concerns, and considering the price, the screen quality could be better.