Sony Vaio C Series VPC-CA1S1E review

brightly coloured and stylish 14 inch laptops
Photo of Sony Vaio C Series VPC-CA1S1E
£749

As you’d expect from Sony, the new Vaio C Series is something of a looker. Our review model was the white version of this mid-range lifestyle laptop which comes in a choice of four other colours: black, pink, orange and green. The latter two are garishly bright and have light-emitting diodes embedded in the chassis, presumably for those keen on the idea of a laptop that looks like it belongs to a rave DJ (be sure to plaster some giant smiley face stickers on the lid, too).

Colours aside, the Vaio C is a compact 14in notebook with stylish lines and a very sturdy build. It’s a fairly compact machine, measuring 34cm wide by 23cm, but more chunky in terms of thickness at nearly 3cm. It also weighs more than you’d expect, at 2.5kg. Given the small overall footprint, though, we still still found it fairly portable.

Quality build
A feeling of quality is evident from the off, with the laptop’s display opening on a beautifully smooth hinge. The backlit keyboard has a firm and very pleasant action, with the chiclet-style keys widely spaced enough for comfort. The touchpad boasts a finely textured surface for better traction, and it’s also capable of recognising multi-touch gesturea, so users can, for instance, ‘pinch’ to zoom in on pictures or websites.

The Vaio C is kitted out with an Intel Core i5 2410M dual-core processor with a stock speed of 2.3GHz (and turbo-boost capability up to 2.9GHz). That nippy engine is backed up by a solid 4GB of RAM, although the built-in Radeon HD 6470M graphics don’t quite keep pace. Still, with 512MB of dedicated graphics memory on board, the Radeon does a decent enough job. Tthis laptop can be used for gaming – up to a point.

Rally game classic Dirt 2 ran reasonably smoothly at the 14in display’s native resolution of 1366×768 with many settings on high details, although we did have to turn reflections and shadows down to medium (and anti-aliasing off). Newer games also ran OK at medium levels of detail, but got rather choppy at higher settings. This isn’t a notebook a hardcore gamer would remotely consider, due to its graphics limitations – but a casual player who doesn’t mind dropping the detail levels will find it usable.

Display disappointments
We found the WXGA display rather bothersome when it came to gaming and watching movies on the Vaio C. It’s highly reflective, a fact that’s very noticeable in anything but a dark room. The viewing angles are pretty narrow too, particularly in the vertical plane. We found the display didn’t get the best out of the dark scenes in The Matrix, and we were constantly tilting the screen a bit or moving our head around to try and get the most out of the stingy viewing angle.

Connectivity is reasonable, with one USB 3.0 port and three standard USB 2 ports, headphone and microphone sockets, an SD card reader and an HDMI output. All the ports run along the sides of the notebook, with none on the back.

Rounding the machine off is a 1.3-megapixel HD webcam, a DVD writer, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and not the biggest hard drive in the world, with a 320GB capacity. Both the DVD drive, hard disk and system fans are pretty quiet, though, making this one of the stealthier laptops we’ve come across in terms of staying under the noise radar.

Battery matters
Battery life is on the short side, with a life expectancy of around three and a half hours while pottering around Windows. Watching a movie continuously, the Vaio C lasted for just two and a half hours with the brightness turned up before it gave up and headed for hibernation, so at least you can get enough juice out of it for more intensive tasks.

There’s one last element definitely worth talking about, and that’s the Vaio’s ‘Web’ button. One press of this turns the machine on with a quick-boot mode, which simply loads a bare-bones browser rather than Windows 7. This takes just 20 seconds to boot, allowing users to swiftly check their webmail or perform other online tasks. Very neat indeed.

Company: Sony

Contact: 0845 6000 124

Positives
  • Well built and stylish; handles most entertainment needs including some gaming.
Negative
  • Overly reflective display with poor viewing angles.

Verdict

The Vaio C Series has a lot going for it on a number of fronts, not the least of which is the excellent build quality and stylish appearance. It's a quiet running and pretty well specified machine with enough pep to run games, albeit without any bells and whistles. There are some smart extra trimmings too, and we particularly appreciated the quick-boot browser mode.

Battery life is on the short side, but the weakest point in this Vaio's armour is its display, which is overly reflective and suffers from narrow viewing angles.