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Sony Vaio S Series 13P (SVS13A16GGB) review: Sony Vaio S Series 13P (SVS13A16GGB)

Sony's latest Vaio S is a passable all-rounder. We have heat and noise concerns, and considering the price, the screen quality could be better.

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Craig Simms
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Craig Simms

Special to CNET News

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.

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The Vaio S is typically Sony's mid-range, all-rounder product. This particular 13-inch model we received for review, therefore, came with a DVD drive, two USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0 port, gigabit Ethernet, HDMI and VGA ports, headset jack, an SD card reader and, of course, Sony's MagicGate slot, because it wouldn't be Sony without a proprietary element somewhere.

sony-vaio-s_1.jpg
7.0

Sony Vaio S Series 13P (SVS13A16GGB)

The Good

Higher resolution screen than normal. Backlit keyboard. Huge touchpad.

The Bad

Gets very warm underneath near the monitor. Loud when gaming. Battery life could be better. Coating on screen makes it look a little greasy.

The Bottom Line

Sony's latest Vaio S is a passable all-rounder. We have heat and noise concerns, and considering the price the screen quality could be better.

Connectivity

  • USB 3.0: 2
  • USB 2.0: 1
  • Optical: DVD&plusm;RW
  • Video: HDMI, VGA
  • Ethernet: gigabit
  • Wireless: single-channel 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0

It's also got a backlit keyboard, a huge touchpad, and AU$1499 will get you the base model with a Core i5 3210M, a 1366x768 display, 4GB RAM, a 640GB 5400RPM HDD and a GeForce GT 640M LE with 1GB memory. Crank it up to our review model, and suddenly things cost AU$2899, granting you a Core i7 3520M, 8GB RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 1600x900 screen.

The extra resolution is nice, but the screen itself, not so much, looking like it has some sort of greasy coating over the top and lacking in vibrancy.

While the base model is fine, the top of the line SKU isn't a great value proposition — the price-hike is disproportionate to what you get — a cheaper option would be to buy the AU$2299 SKU with the 750GB hard drive instead, and installing your own SSD.

Sony's kept its Stamina/Speed switch at the top left, which allows you to choose between integrated and discrete graphics, depending on whether you want long battery life or high graphical performance. It's a remnant from when AMD graphics didn't do seamless automatic software switching well, and is awkwardly vestigial, considering Nvidia's Optimus switching software works perfectly fine. You could, we suppose, use it to simply lock the laptop to only using the integrated graphics at all times by switching it to Stamina — if you switch it to Speed, it just uses Nvidia's Optimus settings anyway.

A hot air vent sits at the back of the Vaio, under the monitor — it exhausts both outwards and downwards, meaning that things can get quite warm and uncomfortable quickly, should you have this on your lap. A bright yellow sticker on the base warns you to "not place this computer in contact with your skin", as it "could result in injury". Confidence building, that.

Application performance

Choose a benchmark: Handbrake | iTunes | Photoshop | Multimedia

Handbrake encoding (in seconds)

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)


While initial performance tests were coming under where we'd expect, a firmware upgrade helped bring things back into frame, with the speedy dual core performing well.

Gaming performance

Batman: Arkham Asylum
Playable on:
HIGH
settings
FPS
MaxAvgMin
906538
1600x900, 4x AA, Detail level: High, PhysX off.
"="">NOT
PLAYABLE
Metro 2033
FPS
MaxAvgMin
35134
1366x768, DirectX 9, 0x AA, Quality: Low, PhysX: Off.
"="">NOT
PLAYABLE
The Witcher 2
FPS
MaxAvgMin
262015
1366x768, low spec.
Skyrim
Playable on:
VERY LOW
settings
FPS
MaxAvgMin
734736
1366x768, low detail.

The GeForce GT 640M LE isn't as powerful as the regular 640M, and Sony's latest Vaio S is quite loud as well when gaming. While it should be capable of older or basic games, there's just not enough "oomph" here if you intend on gaming regularly.

Battery Life

Battery life (time)

  • Heavy battery test
  • Light battery test

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


The Vaio S puts in a decent showing, but even with Optimus enabled, it looks like it could do with a higher capacity battery.

Conclusion

Sony's latest Vaio S is a passable all-rounder. We have heat and noise concerns, and considering the price, the screen quality could be better.


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