Sony VAIO S Series VPCSA255GG laptop
A stunning thin-and-light business laptop with good features and performance
- Size and weight
- Features and performance
- Good keyboard
- Screen hinge was poor
- No SSD
- No integrated 3G
The Sony VAIO S Series VPCSA25GG is for suit-wearing business users who want something that stands out. It's thin, it's light, it has USB 3.0 and other nice features, and it has good CPU and graphics performance. It could use an SSD and built-in 3G, and its hinge could be better, but overall we think it's a good unit.
Price$ 2,399.00 (AUD)
Features, specifications and performance
Even though it's a thin and light laptop that's only one step down from the ultra light (and ultra expensive) VAIO Z Series, the VAIO S Series has a good set of features. The left side has a built-in DVD burner and a combination headphone and microphone port; the right side has three USB 2.0 ports (one of them is also USB 3.0), Gigabit Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, and SD and Memory Stick Pro Duo card readers. There is also a Kensington cable lock on the right side, but it sits right under the SD card slot, which makes the slot unusable when the laptop is attached to a cable lock. The front of the unit has a Wi-Fi toggle and the screen has a built-in 1.3-megapixel webcam. You also get Bluetooth and 802.11n dual-band Wi-Fi (Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205). For security, there is a fingerprint reader and TPM 1.2.
The configuration of the laptop is quite powerful. You get an Intel Core i7-2620M CPU, which has two cores and Hyper-Threading, and which runs at a standard speed of 2.7GHz. It's joined by 6GB of DDR3 SDRAM and a 640GB, 5400rpm hard drive (a Toshiba MK6465GSXN). We're not fans of that last part. Even though that drive recorded a transfer rate of 29 megabytes per second in our tests, which is a decent rate for 5400rpm drive, we wish Sony would have gone for a 128GB or 256GB solid state drive, which would not only improve performance, but also cut down on noise and heat emissions, and maybe even make the laptop a little lighter, too. Sony offers a 256GB SSD only in the more expensive VPCSA28GG model ($3499).
As for the rest of the notebook's performance, it was mostly good. It recorded a time of 37sec in our Blender 3D rendering test, which is exactly what we expected of its CPU when compared to other laptops that use this CPU, such as the Fujitsu LifeBook S761, the HP ProBook 6560b and Dell XPS 15z. However, its time of 48sec in our iTunes MP3 encoding test and 51min in our AutoGordianKnot DVD-to-Xvid file conversion test are a little slow compared to those laptops, and we put this down to the use of a 5400rpm hard drive.
The graphics performance of the S Series is impressive. Despite being so small, it packs in an AMD Radeon HD 6630M graphics adapter, which recorded a score of 7516 in 3DMark06. This certainly allows the VAIO S Series to be used for some limited gaming. If you don't need this much graphics performance, you can choose to use the integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics adapter instead — it recorded a respectable score of 4791 in 3Dmark06. Choosing between the two graphics cards is very easy thanks to the switch above the keyboard: choose 'stamina' if you want to use the Intel graphics and prolong battery life and choose 'speed' if you want to use the AMD graphics.
Choose which graphics card you want to use simply by sliding the switch.
In our battery life tests, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the laptop lasted 3hr 51min when running the Intel HD graphics. It lasted 2hr 28min when running the AMD graphics. The battery in the S Series has a 49 Watt-hour rating and it's located under a cover that's screwed in place. Once this cover is removed, it exposes the battery, hard drive, Wi-Fi module and a single RAM slot (4GB is fixed to the motherboard and 2GB is installed via this slot).
The bottom panel is held by two screws. Once removed, you can access the battery, hard drive, RAM slot and Wi-Fi module.
A second battery can be installed to extend the laptop's life away from an outlet. This battery connects through the underside of the laptop and makes the chassis a little bit thicker (by about 10mm or so). Before connecting the second battery, a tiny rubber cover needs to be removed from the connector in the base — if you lose it, then that connectors will forever be exposed. The connector for the port replicator has the same sort of cover. We think some sort of fixed covers should have been installed instead.
The thin-and-light nature of this laptop, coupled with good features and speed, makes it an attractive proposition for business users who want something a little different to the norm. It's price-competitive against other lightweight 13.3in business laptops we've seen, such as the Toshiba Portege R830, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 and the Fujitsu S761, and in some respects it's a better unit because it has a higher resolution screen and faster graphics performance.
We definitely think it's a good unit, but think it could be even better if it came with a solid state drive and an integrated 3G module as standard. We also hope that the poor quality hinge on our test model doesn't make its way onto sale units. If you want this laptop with a solid state drive and integrated 3G, you'll have to pay a much higher price of $3499 for the VPCSA28GG, which also comes with 8GB of RAM and a Blu-ray drive. When you're talking that sort of money though, you may as well start considering the Z Series (VPCZ217GG). If you want a more affordable S Series laptop that's still lightweight and well featured, you can consider the VPCSB27GG or the VPCSB28GG. In the past, we have looked at the VPCSB16FG and we thought it was a terrific little model.
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