Review: Sony VAIO S Series (VPCSB16FG)

By Steven Vea

The Sony VAIO S Series has been largely overlooked in a market where the same brand names are repeatedly receiving all the attention. This, however, might all change with the release of this new Sony VAIO, which will definitely command consumers’ attention.

Once set down on a tabletop, users will have to spend a few minutes admiring the sleek and minimalist design of this new addition to the S Series. Its polished magnesium body sports aluminum palm rests that denote a sense of class, combined with a touch of style. Not only is its exterior expertly designed, but it’s wonderfully lightweight, weighing in at mere 1.72 kg. This notebook is an ideal choice for those who are constantly on the move and want something portable and suave.

Opening the lid of its remarkably thin and flat chassis reveals the 13.3-inch wide TFT color display and its ergonomic backlit keyboard. The chiclet-type workspace is great for long hours of typing—they are evenly spaced and respond accurately. However, what makes the workspace truly amazing is its ambient light sensor, which lights up the keys automatically in places with low light, making it perfect for those that like to burn the midnight oil.

Below the beloved keyboard is the gesture supported touchpad, and while the texture is smooth and inviting, the buttons are quite awkward to use. Sony positioned the clickers at the very edge of the laptop’s body, embedding it into the casing itself, which makes it quite difficult to press.

On the left hand side, a button to turn the WiFi on/off can be found, along with the DVD SuperMulti Drive and headphone jack, which was blended in so well with the rest of the exterior that they were actually quite tricky to see. On the right side of the notebook, users will find all of the connectivity options and ports: two USB 2.0, one SuperSpeed USB 3.0, SD Memory card reader, memory stick slot, Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI and VGA.

This laptop’s unique feature is its Dynamic Hybrid Graphics System, which provides a physical control located above the keyboard to allow users to switch between SPEED and STAMINA modes without having to restart the laptop. As the name implies, SPEED promotes greater performance, utilizing its AMD Radeon HD 6470M to process graphics. Toggling to STAMINA signals the laptop to use its Intel HD Graphics card and tells the software’s power manager to use its “balanced” settings, which is useful when users need to conserve battery life when they’re not performing graphic heavy tasks.

When on SPEED mode, the Sony S Series might awaken the slumbering gamer within. This laptop was able to handle recent titles such as Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Dragon Age 2 on recommended settings without any hiccups. Furthermore, HD streaming was also smooth and fluid on the notebook’s TFT LED backlit display with a resolution of 1366×768, producing vibrant images and causing no frustrations even when in a brightly lit room.

What’s under the hood? Running on Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, the Sony VPCSB16FG is equipped with a second generation Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM expandable up to 8GB, and 320GB of storage. With that kind of power, this laptop handled both mundane operations and multi-tasking effectively and efficiently.

With a touted battery life of up to 6 hours that can be extended up to 12 hours with an optional battery accessory, the Sony VAIO S (VPCSB16FG) will be getting its share of the limelight in a market that is saturated with a multitude of models to choose from. The ability to switch graphics dynamically without having to restart is a great option to have. This lightweight laptop comes equipped with impressive hardware and will definitely make heads turn.

Dimensions (WxHxD): 331 x 23.9 x 224.5mm
Weight: 1.72kg
Processor: Intel Core i5-2410M Processor 2.30 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 2.90 GHz
Display: 13.3-inch wide (WXGA: 1366×768) TFT color display (VAIO Display Plus, LED backlight)
Operating System: Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Memory/Storage: 4GB DDR3 SDRAM (8GB max)320GB HD
Optical drive: DVD SuperMulti Drive
Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6470M/Intel HD Graphics 3000, 512MB DDR3 VRAM
Connectivity/Ports: two USB 2.0, SuperSpeed USB 3.0, HDMI, SD Memory Card Slot, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Webcam: 0.3 megapixels
Battery: life up to 6 hours, 12 hours with optional battery

What’s Hot:
 • Dynamic graphic switching
• Excellent backlit keyboard
• Thin and light

What’s Not:

• Awkward touchpad placement
• Physical buttons feel flimsy

In a nutshell, the Sony VAIO S (VPCSB16FG) is one of the best notebooks out in the market. It’s solidly built, lightweight and packs a lot of processing power. Its stellar performance can appeal to just about anybody, making it a fabulous choice for those that are looking to purchase a new notebook.

Buy Meter: 9.5

[This review originally appeared in the August 2011 issue of Gadgets Magazine]