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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  • 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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