Gaming Performance

The Sony VAIO S' AMD Radeon HD 6470M is going to be good enough for light gaming (really, the lightest of gaming), but as you'll see from our test results, I still really have to question the point of even including it along with the muxes and additional hardware and cooling complications it brings. Intel's HD 3000 integrated graphics aren't spectacular, but the 6470M isn't either. A downclocked HD 6630M would have been a far better choice for a discrete GPU.

At no point in our "low" testing suite does the VAIO's HD 6470M mean the difference between playable and not playable compared to the HD 3000, and in every situation but the notoriously CPU-limited StarCraft II it falls behind Llano. I think what may really be damning are the results for the entry-level NVIDIA GeForce GT 425M (slower than the current generation GeForce GT 525M), which consistently outpaces the 6470M and offers Optimus technology, allowing the ASUS U41JF to eschew muxes entirely.

At our "Medium" settings the 6470M starts to separate from Intel's HD 3000, but it's still never quite enough to really justify its inclusion. If gaming on the VAIO S is going to be any kind of priority, you'll likely be better off investing in the offered AMD Radeon HD 6630M upgrade as the 6470M is just too meager for any serious use. Like the old GeForce G 310M and the current GT 520M/520MX, we just don't see much point in continuing to include barely-faster-than-IGP discrete GPUs. Hopefully when Ivy Bridge hits, we'll finally see the end of discrete mobile GPUs below the GT 525M/HD 6630M.

One other item we need to mention with regards to gaming is the drivers. Our test suite is sufficiently old at this point that we didn't encounter any difficulties, but we'll be revamping our games list in the near future. Why that matters is that Sony isn't participating in AMD's mobile driver program. More to the point, AMD's reference drivers won't work with their switchable graphics solution regardless. You need a single package that contains both the Intel and AMD graphics drivers, along with knowledge of Sony's switching hardware, and the only place you're going to find that is at Sony's support site. We haven't tested newer titles with the VAIO S, but we'll be looking at another laptop with AMD's switchable graphics in the near future, and we're going to be testing a bunch of newer titles for compatibility.

Long-term, we're more than a little concerned for gaming prospects with the HD 6470M, and the HD 6630M may only see one or two driver updates over its lifetime (if we're lucky). With every month that passes, the chances of a new title having a graphics bug that requires a new driver increases, and if you can't get updated drivers you're basically at a dead end. So for gaming enthusiasts, we'd be very cautious about considering the VAIO S.

Application and Futuremark Performance Battery, Noise, and Heat
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  • Brad4 - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the news update. I also like Sony products, but I'm going to pass on this one. The first thing I scanned for was the display, and I was disappointed to see yet another 16:9 monitor. This would be a nice portable dvd player, but horrible for real productive work. Reply
  • tmensonides - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    Is there anyone out there now doing differently? I think alienware, hp, dell, lenovo all dropped their 1920*1200 options from their laptop lineups...their might be a few 1440*900 left but i haven't looked.....and certainly not on a 13....

    I agree though, 16:9 is not great for working....i wonder at the engineers who design these things and then have to actually use them....must be a marketing dept mandate or something
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    Honestly, good luck with that. 16:10 is dead. At some point you're just going to have to suck it up, buttercup, and either buy a used 16:10 notebook with outdated hardware, an Apple MacBook Pro for as long as those 16:10 panels last (hint: probably not long), or cope with having ONLY 1600x900 available in a 13.3" form factor, which in my experience is still the highest resolution I've ever seen on a 13" notebook. Reply
  • quillaja - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    You forgot the 1920x1080 13.3" screen on the Sony Z series. I wish that screen was an option on the S. Reply
  • bennyg - Thursday, September 15, 2011 - link

    I would love to see a good hi res screen on a 12/13/14 incher. And a sane one not the Veyron of laptops (Vaio Z) - "spec to the max price bedamned". Can't understand why Asus haven't offered the high-end SKUs of the U36 models with high-res screens.

    ---

    Having used both WUXGA and 1080p on my last two 15 inch lappys, aspect doesn't mean anything, screen quality is much more important than 120 vertical pixels.
    Reply
  • sferrin - Saturday, September 10, 2011 - link

    The OP has a point and it's not so much the resolution as it is the ratio. I have a 790Z with the 1600 x 900 screen and it's a pain in the ass for some work as it's like looking through a slot. I hadn't really noticed how bad it was until I had my dinosaur Sony Z1 with a 1400 x 1050 screen out at it felt like I had a TON more space. I love that thing (if it had updated guts and say a 2000 x 1500 display, or even 1600 x 1200 I'd prefer it over my 790z for everyday stuff). Reply
  • seapeople - Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - link

    Honestly I would prefer the 1600x900 over a 1400x1050 if I'm using just one screen. With 1600x900 you can actually put more than one thing on the screen side by side, while with the 1400x1050 you're pretty much stuck using just one application (albeit with more vertical space). Reply
  • Ushio01 - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    Then get the 1600x900 upgrade 100 more vertical pixels than the old 16:10 1280x800 used to offer. Reply
  • retrospooty - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    "Then get the 1600x900 upgrade 100 more vertical pixels than the old 16:10 1280x800 used to offer. "

    1600x900 is better than 1280x800, but in the marketplace its really replacing the 1680x1050 res. Still a step down. Especially vertically (particularly)
    Reply
  • Ushio01 - Friday, September 9, 2011 - link

    Please point me to a 13" laptop that ever had a 1680x1050 display?

    If you mean desktop monitors it's 1920x1080 that are replacing 1680x1050 with IPS screens to boot.
    Reply

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