Sony VAIO S Series 13 review
13.3 in 1,366x768 display, 1.7kg, 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M, 4.00GB RAM, 500GB disk, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
The refreshed VAIO S 13 is the first laptop we've seen from Sony with the new mobile Ivy Bridge Core i5-3210M processor. Running at 2.5GHz and with Turbo Boost available in reserve, it doesn’t produce a significant performance improvement over the older Sandy Bridge architecture but an overall score of 53 in our multimedia benchmarks proves it’s still good enough to handle all your everyday applications. It’s a dual-core chip with Hyper Threading, meaning Windows sees four processor cores, and with 4GB of RAM on board multitasking shouldn’t be a problem.
Where the new processor architecture makes most difference is in graphics-intensive applications such as games. The integrated HD 4000 GPU managed to finish our Dirt 3 test with an average of 14fps – this isn’t exactly smooth, but disable anti-aliasing and you should be able to play most games at reasonable levels of detail. Sony also lets you configure the VAIO S with Nvidia dedicated graphics – adding a GeForce GT 640M with 1GB of dedicated memory will add a further £110 to the cost of the system, but will make it far more suited to playing modern games.
Ivy Bridge is considerably more energy-efficient than Sandy Bridge, making a huge difference to battery life – in our light-use test, the VAIO S managed an amazing nine hours away from the mains. On a full charge, you’ll easily be able to go an entire working day without having to reach for a power adaptor.
The 13.3in screen is a step above the similarly priced competition, thanks to the matt surface which eliminates unwanted light reflections, even if you’re working in bright light. It's brighter and more vibrant than most matt screens, with particularly accurate rendition of natural colours and skin tones. The 1,366x768 resolution is fairly average for a screen of this size, and you can only upgrade to a higher pixel density 1,600x900 screen if you opt to add a dedicated graphics card to the laptop.
The integrated speakers are underpowered and tinny - they're okay for system sounds, spoken word audio and fairly simple music without much bass, but more complex recordings with lots of instruments and a wide frequency range suffer from tinny treble tones, a muddy mid-range and non-existent bass. There’s only a combined 3.5mm headset port - you can still plug in an ordinary stereo headphone or speaker connector, but if you want to use a mic as well, you'll need a headset with the right three-ring jack.