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With the 15-inch VAIO S, Sony just opened up a second front in its laptop war against Apple. Just as the 13-inch VAIO S challenged the similarly sized MacBook Pro, this larger mainstream system goes head to head against the 15-inch MacBook Pro. And with a starting price of just $999 ($1,299 as configured), the Sony costs several hundred less than the Mac. But is the VAIO S the best 15-incher among its Windows-based competition? Design Much like the 13-inch VAIO S, the 15-inch version has a simple, understated look. Both the lid and deck are a matte black aluminum that’s great at resisting fingerprints. The only bits of flair are the chrome VAIO logo and hinge. Those looking for a little more bling can opt for a platinum silver finish. It’s a marked contrast to a system such as the Dell XPS 15z, whose silver chassis and myriad design elements stand out much more–for better and worse. For a 15-inch laptop, the VAIO S is a remarkably light 4.4 pounds. That’s more than a pound lighter than the MacBook Pro (5.6 pounds) as well as the Acer Aspire TimelineX 5830T (5.4 pounds) and the Dell Inspiron 15z (5.6 pounds); with its slice battery, the VAIO S increases to 5.8 pounds.
The super-slim and super-light Sony VAIO Z wasn’t just designed to take on ultraportables such as the MacBook Air and Samsung Series 9. This 2.6-pound wonder (starting at $2,000) attempts to take the entire category to the next level with a very unique dock that’s powered by Intel’s blazing Light Peak technology. The bundled Power Media Dock adds a 1GB AMD graphics card, a Blu-ray drive, and the ability to support three external monitors simultaneously, making it a good choice for business users who need a lot of power. Not that the VAIO Z isn’t feature-rich on its own. Our top-of-the-line $2,749 configuration packs a fast Core i7 processor, a full HD 13-inch display, backlit keyboard, and dual 128GB SSDs. An extra $150 gets you the optional sheet battery, doubling your endurance. Does the VAIO Z’s versatility make it worth at least twice as much as the competition? Design The VAIO Z looks like the kind of laptop that would be at home on Christian Bale’s desk in American Psycho, and we mean that as a compliment. While the rounded edges on the MacBook Air and Samsung Series 9 give them more of a space-age vibe, this black machine is all about square edges and pointed corners, giving it more of a retro-80s look. (The front two corners are almost too sharp.) Sony offers three color choices for the lid: Carbon black, carbon indigo, and premium carbon black. Ours came in Carbon black, which looks cool and classy.
Sony is so confident that the VAIO S is a superior ultraportable laptop that the company proudly compares the notebook to Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro. And in a lot of ways this notebook is better, thanks to a lighter weight, higher-resolution display, more storage space, and a Blu-ray drive. This $1,399 Core i5 machine also packs switchable AMD graphics and lasts more than five hours on a charge–and that’s without the optional battery slice that adds several more hours of juice. Does this 13-incher provide enough bang for your buck to bring down the champ? Design Aesthetically, the Sony VAIO S follows a less-is-more path. The notebook’s jet-black magnesium lid is highly resistant to fingerprints and smudges. (You can also order this version of the VAIO S in platinum silver.) The chrome-plated VAIO insignia and hinge are the only exterior flourishes. The polished hinge looks attractive, but it didn’t feel as sturdy as the rest of the system. The lid on our unit occasionally wobbled back and forth when we lifted or moved Following the same minimalist design as the exterior, the interior features a black aluminum deck with a smaller version of the VAIO logo and the mouse buttons done in chrome plating. The deck sinks in at a subtle angle, where it houses an island-style keyboard. The only splashes of color come from the gray touchpad, the purple text on the ASSIST button, and the power button that glows green when the laptop is on and pink when it’s sleeping. The 13.0 x 8.8 x 0.9-inch VAIO S is around the same size as the 13-inch MacBook Pro (12.8 x 8.9 x 1 inches), but it weighs in at a waif-like 3.6 pounds, nearly a pound less than the Apple (4.5 pounds) and a little less than the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 (3.8 pounds). However, the VAIO S’ weight increases to 4.8 pounds–and its thickness to 1.3 inches–when its slice battery is snapped on, making it heavier than the MacBook Pro.
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