Sony Vaio SB1V9E review

Sony's slender new Sandy Bridge ultraportable laptop is finally available, packing a powerful processor in a slender design. But can you really have your cake and eat it too? Alan Lu finds out.

The Intel chip is slower but prolongs battery life it managed just 9.6fps in our 3D graphics test, but the battery lasted just under seven and a half hours with it enabled. In contrast, the AMD chip managed a much smoother 24.2fps in our 3D test, but the battery lasted just four hours with it enabled. Although the battery is officially user replaceable, doing so is a chore as you have to remove a bottom panel and then several screws to do so.

Screen glare caused by reflected light shouldn't be a problem thanks to the 13.3in screen's antiglare finish. This matt finish does mean that the display isn't bright as others we've seen, but it's still bright enough for most tasks - even when brightness is turned down to conserve battery life. The 1,366x768 pixel resolution is large enough for most everyday office tasks, but we'd have preferred a higher resolution 1,440x900 screen which would have benefited complex tasks and applications with lots of windows and toolbars.

The integrated 3G modem makes working on the go easier. The SIM card slot is accessed by removing a small, easy-to-miss cover on the underside of the laptop. Giving presentations should be a doddle thanks to the HDMI and VGA ports for connecting projectors and TVs. If the 500GB hard disk isn't large enough for your needs then you can add external storage using either the two USB2 ports or the lone USB3 connector.

Security features are thin on the ground, but there is a fingerprint reader wedged in between the two touchpad buttons. You can use your fingerprint in place of your Windows and website login passwords. It works well and was simple to set up thanks to the illustrated setup wizard. We are concerned that the Kensington security slot is located directly underneath the SD card slot, potentially fouling it if you use a bulky security cable.

So what's our verdict?

Verdict

The Sony Vaio SB1V9E is a lightweight, well-specified ultraportable laptop with a powerful processor, plenty of useful ports and dual graphics. Its seven and a half hour battery life isn't nearly as impressive as the pricier 13in MacBook Air which lasted 13 hour and 40 minutes though. This isn't an entirely fair comparison as the MacBook Air was designed to be as thin and light as possible with a long lasting battery at the expense of powerful specifications. The Vaio SB1V9E, on the other hand, was designed to fit as powerful a computer as possible into a slender build. A more comparable model would the 13in MacBook Pro which is 300g heavier, but its battery can last as long as ten hours. If you must have an ultraportable that's also fast with lots of storage then the SB1V9E is a fine choice, but frequent travellers should consider Apple's models first.

Processor: Intel Core i5 2410M, 2.3GHz Memory: 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM Graphics: 512MB AMD Radeon HD 6470M and Intel HD Graphics Hard disk: 500GB hard disk Optical drive: DVD+/-RW +/-DL Display: 13.3in 1,366 x 768, LED-backlit screen Features: 0.3 megapixel camera, microphone, stereo speakers, fingerprint reader Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, Gigabit Ethernet Ports: 2 x USB2, 1 x USB3, 1x HDMI, 1 x VGA, 1 x SD card slot, 1 x Memory Stick Pro Duo slot, 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo audio socket, 1 x Kensington slot Dimensions: 333x227x25mm (WxDxH) Weight: 1.7kg Warranty: 1 year C&R warranty OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Part code: SB1V9E BENCHMARK RESULTS Image editing 71 Video encoding 48 Multiple apps 49 Overall 53 COD4 AMD 24.2fps COD4 INTEL 9.6fps Light usage battery life 7h23m Heavy usage battery life 4h01m POWER CONSUMPTION Sleep 2W Idle 17W Active 50W

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