Sony's VAIO notebooks run the gamut from ultraportable to desktop replacement. For the mid-range 13.3in. S series, Sony uses a 'works hard, plays hard' tagline, suggesting that it's equally suitable for business and leisure.
Sony currently lists three S-series models at its web site, with a starting price of £948.99 (inc. VAT).
The VAIO S series uses a magnesium alloy chassis, which helps to protect it from knocks. The lid section is quite flexible, though, and there's no clasp to keep the upper and lower sections locked securely together in transit.
Business users will appreciate the hard disk shock protection system and the fingerprint sensor for biometric login. Although there's a webcam, this is not accompanied by software to facilitate login via face recognition.
All S series models run Windows 7 Professional and sport a 13.3in. display with a native resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels. Intel Core i3 and i5 processors are available. Hard drive capacities extend to a generous 640GB and there's also an option for a 128GB SSD.
Importantly for a notebook that claims to be suitable for both work and play, there's a broad range of ports and connectors. Three USB 2.0 ports is standard fare, but the VAIO S also has 4-pin i.LINK (FireWire), HDMI, VGA and Ethernet (RJ-45) ports, an ExpressCard/34 slot, plus microphone and headset jacks. There are separate SD (and compatible media) and Memory Stick slots on the front edge of the chassis.
You can specify discrete graphics in the shape of Nvidia's GeForce 310M chipset with 512MB of video memory; the entry-level model makes do with Intel's CPU-integrated HD Graphics. Mobile broadband is available on all models via a Qualcomm Gobi 2000 module — the SIM card slot is tucked away beneath the battery. Battery life for the top-end 2.4GHz Core i5-based model with a 128GB SSD is quoted at 5.3 hours.
Sony's chiclet-style keyboard feels superbly comfortable under the fingers, and a keyboard backlight makes it easier to work in dull lighting conditions.