It's hard to think of a word other than "solid" to describe Sony's Vaio S series. Even as a euphemism for average, it fits. That's not to say that there's anything wrong with the S series, either; simply that nothing really jumps out at you.
Unless, of course, you happen to buy the 13.3-inch laptop in pink or deep-blue, and not the slightly more reserved black, silver or white. We suppose there's the backlit keyboard, too; something we think should be in every laptop.
The 1366x768 screen is up to the usual Sony standard, and has a decent spray of ports, too, with dual USB 2.0 ports, a USB 3.0 port, HDMI, VGA, SD card reader, MS card reader and, interestingly, a docking port on the bottom. This is for a battery shim, a slimline piece that sits on the bottom of the laptop and provides extra battery charge. Sadly, we didn't have one to review for our tests, so the battery scores here are for the laptop alone.
There's some decent power in the S series, as well — although since Sony has a lot of SKUs, you'll have to mix and match to meet your needs.
Our review sample packed a Core i5 2520M, 4GB RAM and a 500GB hard drive, although, if you've got the cash, you can splurge for dual 128GB SSDs in RAID 0, something that's sure to speed things along. It also has Bluetooth and 2.4GHz 802.11n radios.
There's also an AMD Radeon HD 6470M inside, which can be switched to Intel HD 3000 graphics if you want to save battery life rather than engage higher-powered graphics. In a startling anachronism, though, Sony has opted to include a hardware switch to flip between the two, with a brief black-out of the screen occurring before the switch completes. Given the pains we've had with AMD's switchable graphics in software before, though, we think that Sony has implemented a good workaround to ensure that things operate as expected.
One thing to note is Vaio's "Battery care", which artificially limits your battery charge to 50 per cent or 80 per cent in an attempt to increase how many recharge cycles it can take. You can, of course, turn this off if you want your laptop to last longer between charges instead.
In 3DMark06 the S series pulled a respectable 5041, while PCMark05 gave 5462, hinting that the S series is an all-rounder; capable of mid-level detail in recent games, but also well suited for business or productivity work.
Turning off all power-saving features, ramping screen brightness and volume to maximum, switching to Intel graphics and playing back an XviD file full screen, the Vaio S lasted three hours and 49 minutes before going into hibernation — quite an admirable score.
While there may be nothing about the Vaio S that immediately jumps out at you, it seems like it sits in that perfect sweet spot of price, performance and battery life. We could easily see ourselves tucking this under our arm as a trusted companion for tackling the computing day.