The Sony VAIO SB is undoubtedly one of the best mid-range laptops. Sony claim the SB series should compete directly with the 13-inch Macbook Pro. Sony VAIO SB aims just below the VAIO SA series, itself a pared-down version of the VAIO Z. This is the same VAIO S series notebook released in the US in Q2. Let us first take a look at some pictures of this Sony VAIO SB laptop:
The Sony Vaio SB Specification
The 0.95 inch thick SB series (fatter than its SA sibling) arrives in a matte magnesium alloy housing. The lightly textured lid is available in white, bubblegum pink or bright blue. Sony’s time-honoured dedicated switches for WiFi and Speed/Stamina Modes, and dedicated keys for booting up the browser or VAIO assist, they’re all here. No big design changes from the rest of the range, but if it ain’t broke…
Weighing 3.8 pounds, this laptop is robust, although the lid wobbles too much when the machine is set down, even carefully.
The guts of the system are a 3GHz Core i5-2410M processor, 4GB of RAM and 500GB hard drive storage. Graphics are switchable to suit task and battery considerations – integrated Intel stands in when the AMD Radeon HD 6470M 512MB card is locked down.
Sony has stuffed all the ports and slots on one side, except for the DVD and headphone jack on the other, which could be a bit crowded, we thought. It’s a full-featured set of ports, though – 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0 port, plus HDMI and VGA outputs and Ethernet jack. A VGA webcam is set into the bezel. Sony’s chiclet keyboard and trackpad are largely unchanged. Typing on the the soft, matte-finished keys is hushed. Maybe a bit shallow to type on, if we have to make a criticism. And the mousepad could be a bit heavy-going too, with a lot of friction.
This mid-ranger has a pedestrian 1366 x 768 resolution, although viewing angles on the 13.3 inch display are very good. The vibrant glare-free panel is a tribute to Sony’s pre-eminence in display technology. Perhaps GM listens to too many bassy beats and throbbing superwoofers, but the VAIO SB’s speakers seemed tinnier than the usual tinny tinniness. The SB falls well short of HP’s Beats Audio system, now standard on all its notebooks.
The Sony VAIO SB boots in 50 seconds, acceptable for an SSD-less Windows 7 machine. Not surprisingly for a $1000 laptop, multi-tasking (simultaneous tab-jumping in Chrome, checking email, streaming YouTube and chatting, all whilst downloading and installing programs) poses no problem. There are faster machines out there for the money. But they’re rarely as good-looking as the SB.
Engadget made few interesting benchmark comparisons of Sony VAIO SB laptop, 2011 MacBook Air, Lenovo ThinkPad X1, Samsung Series 9, ThinkPad X220, and other great laptops in the same category. Click on this chart to enlarge.
Battery life is good, with or without discrete graphics enabled. Five and a half hours in stamina mode, or 3:39 in ‘speed’ mode, but using the sheet battery (yours, on offer, for $75) with integrated graphics in stamina mode the battery can last a knee-trembling 12 and a half hours.
Sony VAIO SB starts at $899 for a 2.1GHz i3 with 4GB RAM and 320GB. All models ship with the same AMD Radeon 6470M 512MB card. But IMHO, you’d be mad not to upgrade to an i5-2410M for an extra $80, or even the i5-2520M for an extra $130. Hard drives are available in various guises, while the sheet super-battery can be had on offer for $75. A Blu-ray player is another $100. Gutsy yet gorgeous, the Sony SB is quite simply a great machine.
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