Conclusion: A Lot to Like...For Enthusiasts

The headline of my conclusion is probably leaving a few of you scratching your heads, but hear me out. Sony has engineered a very small, light, and capable notebook for a reasonable price. Most of the upgrade costs on their site are fair, too; they're not charging Apple prices on memory or hard drives.

Sony's VAIO S offers tremendous battery life alongside a mainstream processor and a clunky but workable switchable graphics solution. They've also opted for matte screens (someone out there is listening!) and they're one of the only consumer vendors that will provide a high resolution notebook screen. Plastic is kept to a minimum, too, and the whole notebook looks both stylish and professional. Even their pricing on the extra battery slice is good, for those of you that want to use your computer for twelve hours in one sitting.

The biggest problem with the VAIO S is, ironically, Sony, and this is where enthusiasts come in. While we can't do much about the fan whine (which may or may not be tolerable, depending on your point of view), we have it within us to fix the crucial problem: in its stock configuration, and probably even with any mechanical hard drive that has Sony's stock drive image, the VAIO S is far too slow. Sony bogs the poor machine down horrendously, and almost all of that mess is their own software. This notebook demands a clean Windows installation, but that may be a problem because while Sony's support site has been cleaned up substantially since my own experience back in the day with a Sony VAIO TR2A (I still miss that little thing), it's still not the friendliest one in the world.

Sony has also elected not to be a member of AMD's mobile driver program, so you're going to be relying on them (never a good thing) unless you feel like digging up drivers elsewhere on the internet. Oh, and that switchable graphics thing? It means more likely than not you won't be finding publicly available GPU drivers other than what Sony provides. Of course, it's unlikely most users will be gaming on the VAIO S, outside of older/less demanding titles where the HD 6470M doesn't fall flat. (If you're thinking of upgrading to the 6630M GPU, the driver situation definitely becomes more problematic.)

Because of that initial bloat I have a hard time recommending the VAIO S to any end user that can't fix it (including but not limited to just plain physically upgrading the hard drive) or doesn't know someone who can. This is an otherwise fantastic notebook with a lot of potential just looking for the right user, but if you're not comfortable getting elbow deep in cleaning it out (or preferably doing a clean Windows 7 installation), it's not going to be the notebook for you. For those of you who are willing and able to put in the time, though, you'll likely be very well served by the Sony VAIO S.

The Mediocre Matte
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  • hp79 - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    But I'm returning it because there were several problems with it.

    First unit had a bad bezel, not aligned/glued properly, and the 500gb WD Blue Scorpio 5400rpm made a click noise every time when idle. Returned.

    Second unit came with almost perfect bezel, and the hdd was a Hitachi, and was very satisfied. Then my Alps touchpad stopped working. When I place my hand on left palm rest, then it would work. One day later, it started working again. I decided not to keep it even though I had such a great deal.

    The screen has a very narrow viewing angle. I think it's even worse than the Acer 11" $200 netbook I had. You can't keep the lid open all the way for long time because it blocks the vent. The lid doesn't open too much either, so you'll be using it with the lid close to almost all the way to get that perfect viewing angle.

    I liked the laptop a lot if it weren't these problems. I had 8gb ram, and samsung 256gb ssd in it. It was blazing fast. AMD graphics did make a lot of noise though.
    Reply
  • duploxxx - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    dude how can the AMD graphics in this laptop create noise??? the heatpipe of the gpu is connected to the cpu with single fan. Seen few Vaio passing buy from friends all those fans are horrible. Reply
  • hp79 - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    You know what I meant there. I forgot to put "Using " in the beginning of that sentence.

    Of course they are connected to a heat pipe, duh.

    When using intel graphics, I never had any complaint about the noise because it was mostly quiet.
    Reply
  • waldojim42 - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    I never had a problem with the screen blocking the exhaust. But mine did die a very early death. How much fighting did you have to go through for a replacement? I ended up on the phone for many, many hours trying to understand their system. "We don't have authority to do that, customer relations does." Followed by "Nope, sorry, you have to talk to the San Diego tech department." Who never answered the phone... Reply
  • hp79 - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    Sorry to hear your experience. I just had to speak with Microsoft support person who was handling my case. When I finally said I want to return it, she said she'll email me a prepaid return label. No hassle at all. Reply
  • waldojim42 - Sunday, September 11, 2011 - link

    That is good to know, going through a third party may be the way to go from now on. Reply
  • icebox - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    I got my wife a 13'' vaio one year ago as she travels a lot. We had exactly the same problem, slow system, hdd was writting all the time. I reseted twice, uninstall everything I could it was still dead slow.
    It finally annoyed us so much that I went and bought a seagate momentus xt (she has to much files for an ssd to be an option) and installed windows off a standard oem disk (I had to call Microsoft's hot line for the activation but they were helpful and it worked) and only installed the needed drivers and nothing more (jumpy launchers, media players, demos, trials be damned) It's working fine ever since
    Reply
  • dingetje - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    yep, 16:9 is useless for anything except watching movies Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    ...except you can get it at 1600x900, which is a higher resolution than we ever got in 13" or 14" notebooks. I agree the native resolution is crappy (although reasonable for a 13" notebook), but how is 16:9 at 1600x900 worse than 16:10 at 1440x900? Reply
  • MobiusStrip - Saturday, September 17, 2011 - link

    Why? Reply

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