Sony's VAIO X Series (VPCX113KGB) ultraportable laptop is designed for executives who want something stylish and very light. It has an 11.1in screen, it's made out of carbon fibre and aluminium and it weighs just 655 grams.
It's one of the lightest notebooks we've ever tested and is a very convenient travelling companion; but it's not a fast computer, and it has some usability issues. However, this type of laptop shouldn't be treated as a main computer but as a complement to a desktop PC or a larger, workhorse notebook — it doesn't need to have a full set of features. Its biggest drawback is its sluggish speed, but this won't be too much of a problem unless you try to multitask or perform other taxing actions.
Configuration and performance
Essentially, the Sony VAIO X Series (VPCX113KGB) is a netbook with an expensive exterior. For $1699 you don't get much grunt nor many ports, but this is to be expected of a notebook that is only about 14mm thick with the lid closed. The base itself is only 10mm thick, which is as thick as its biggest port — the VGA port on the right side of the notebook. Housed inside the base are an Intel Atom Z540 CPU, which runs at 1.86GHz and has HyperThreading, 2GB of DDR2 SDRAM (this can't be upgraded), an Intel GMA 500 graphics chip, and a 64GB solid-state drive (with a parallel interface).
This configuration is actually a little faster than a typical netbook computer (which usually run at up to 1.66GHz), and this was shown in our performance tests. The VAIO X returned a time of 6min 23sec in our iTunes MP3 encoding test, and 7min 10sec in the Blender 3D rendering test. Both times are faster than every other netbook we've seen to date and this is due to the slightly higher than normal CPU frequency. But this didn't translate into fast overall system performance, as the VAIO X only recorded 34 in WorldBench 6 (two points slower than the fastest netbook in this benchmark suite, the Samsung NC10). It performed slowly in our file transfer tests as well, with the 64GB solid-state drive only returning an average speed of 16.18 megabytes per second. Most netbooks with conventional hard drives average 20MBps.
Under Windows 7 Premium 32-bit the netbook was noticeably sluggish during our test period, with applications taking a long time to install. It was also lethargic when switching between open programs. However, for browsing the Web, word processing and even watching videos, the VAIO X will do fine. Just don't try to do too much at once.
Construction and design
Rather than CPU power, the focus of the Sony VAIO X laptop is its small and light frame. Carbon fibre has been used to house the LCD screen, while a single piece of aluminium makes up the keyboard and palm rest area. It's a very strong laptop; you can bend and twist the LCD screen with a good amount of force and it will produce barely any puddles. Furthermore, when the lid is closed it can withstand a great deal of force; you can accidentally leave it under a pile of books without fear of it getting damaged.
The design of the laptop is a little awkward, however. Because the battery is located under the palm rest the keyboard has been pushed back significantly, leaving a large area for you to rest your hands. We think it would be a bit more comfortable if the keyboard was a little further forward, but this wouldn't be possible with the current design. The keyboard itself has very small, chiclet-style keys. They can be hard to hit until you get used to them, and sometimes they require a couple of presses to work. It can be annoying to type on the VAIO X for a prolonged amount of time, but, as with most things, eventually you get used to it.
The touchpad is harder to get used to. It is far too small, which is a shame considering how much space is available on the palm rest. Sony has installed a driver so that vertical and horizontal scroll gestures can be recognised. The touchpad is too small for the gestures to be useful; instead they become annoying when you try to navigate and accidentally invoke one of them. We disabled them and enjoyed a much better user experience. The touchpad's buttons are also too small and they are hard to press. You really have to be looking at the keys when you want to press them, as it is awkward to feel around for them.
Usability issues aside, the Sony VAIO X comes into its own when all you want is something truly very light and easy to carry. Even the power adapter is tiny compared to the ones most notebooks use. The standard battery lasted for 1hr 51min in our video rundown test, in which we maximise the screen brightness, turn on the wireless radio and disable power management. You can get much more life out of it if you turn down the brightness. The best part about using the VAIO X on the road is that the suspend feature works brilliantly, so you can just close the lid (rather than shutting down), then press the space bar or power button to resume from where you left off.
The 11.1in screen is very bright and has a native resolution of 1366x768. While it has good contrast, it also has a noticeable grid-like pattern that is annoying when you view photos. Since the VAIO X isn't designed for editing photos this can be overlooked, and it probably won't even be noticeable unless you are quite close to the screen anyway. Nevertheless, the screen is only 4mm thick, so it's hard to criticise it too much — it does the job.
Overall, the Sony VAIO X notebook is a great little unit for an executive who doesn't want to be burdened with a feature-packed but much clunkier notebook and who wants something that makes a bolder statement than a typical netbook. The VAIO X has only the essentials: enough CPU power for basic office and online tasks, two USB ports, a headphone jack, a VGA port, and SD and Memory Stick Duo card readers. You also get a Gigabit Ethernet port, which is cleverly concealed along the right edge of the notebook, and fast 802.11n Wi-Fi. If you want something with more CPU power, a few more features, and similar dimensions and weight, then the next best thing is Toshiba's Portege R600 — but it's a lot more expensive.
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