A good design, but the finish could be improved
Leaving the choice of colours to one side, a matter of subjective choice, the VPCCA1S1E's finish is ok but could be better. Take the keyboard for example. The chassis sinks in when you press down on it.
In addition to this minor issue with the keyboard, the keys (separated) aren't all that nice to use. They're well proportioned and well positioned, but keying is hard and noisy. Note also that there aren't many shortcuts available: the basic features are there (brightness, volume and so on) but others, such as backlighting, are missing. For these additional settings you have to go into the VAIO Control Center submenus.
The multitouch touchpad impressed us however. Although the indentations made us think it would be unpleasant to use, in fact it was quite the opposite. The glide is fluid, the cursor is easy to move around and you can move it across the screen without having to start over several times. The clicks are however a little noisy.
The webcam handles brightness and movements well. Colours do tend to be faded but this is really only a problem when you're making videos. For video-conferencing it does perfectly well.
Connectivity pretty much covers all the bases. On the right you'll find the headphones and mic sockets, two USB 2.0 ports and a DVD rewriter. The power socket, RJ45, HDMI and VGA outs as well as the third USB 2.0 port and a USB 3.0 port are on the other side. On the front, there's an SD card reader (SDHC and SDXC) and Memory Stick, as well as a button to turn wi-fi on or off.
Very quiet at idle, this 14 inch gets a bit louder when you put more demands on its components, though it never gets too loud and any background noise will cover it. Temperatures are well handled but best not to have it on your lap when you're carrying out particularly heavy tasks.
Underneath, with the panels off
Power supply, RJ45, VGA out, HDMI, USB 3.0 and USB 2.0
Headphones socket, mic, USB 2.0 (x2) and DVD rewriter
Processor power: good performance
The processor used in this 14 inch is effective. While not as fast as the models equipped with a Core i7, its i5-2410M gives fluid performance in office documents, Internet browsing and so on). You'll also be able to do photo retouching, HD video encoding or any other activity that requires heavy processing reasonably quickly. For tasks such as 3D modelling, optimised to share the load across different cores, the fact that it has two fewer physical cores (or 4 fewer virtual ones) than a Core i7 will make itself felt (processing will take twice as long).
You can play HD 1080p (Blu-Ray equivalent) no problem on this machine. We advise you to use the video playback capacities of the discrete graphics solution. This hardware acceleration allows you to decode Full HD 1080p videos without occupying the processor, which is then freed up for other tasks.
Windows 7 Family Premium edition (64-bit) takes 57 seconds to boot. You then have to wait another 10 to 20 seconds for the various pieces of software and connection to a wi-fi network to launch. It turns off in under ten seconds.
Note that this machine also has a mini OS that allows you to consult your mails and browse the Internet. It starts up in under ten seconds. To launch it you just push on the WEB button at the top of the keyboard when the machine is off.
Gaming: reduced capacities
While the AMD HD6470M is perfect for decoding HD videos, it's not so successful with games. With titles such as FIFA 2011 or Left 4 Dead, you can push options to a maximum and keep good fluidity at the same time. On more demanding titles, you have to make plenty of concessions on the options setting AND on the resolution if you want to play under decent conditions.
The audio is good here. The speakers aren't very powerful and the low notes are quickly lost but the sound is very clean. The signal is also clean on the headphones out and the same goes for the mic in. There shouldn't be any stereo or background noise problems either.
Battery life: don't stray too far from the power socketWhile a 14.5 inch isn't really an ultra, the VPCCA1S1E is sufficiently compact to be slipped into your rucksack. At over two and a half kilos, it sits better on your knees than under your arm, but in a rucksack, it can be carried around without too much trouble.
Unfortunately, however, battery life is just 2h10 for video playback (wi-fi deactivated, headphones plugged in, brightness at 100 cd/m²). This is a shame for a product of this size.
- Good CPU performance
- Poor audio quality
- USB 3.0
- Touchpad nice to use
- Battery life 2h10
- Low gaming capacity
- Finish could be better
- Glossy panel, mediocre quality
- Keyboard needs revisiting
Although its graphics card won't give the sort of performance gamers are looking for, coupled with its powerful processor it is efficient for multimedia, Internet and document usage. Make sure you don't stray too far from the socket however as its battery life is pretty poor.