by Kevin O'Brien
The VAIO CS is a 14.1” multimedia notebook from Sony that offers a light bar that pulses with the music you are playing. This sleek colorful notebook is offered in a wide range of colors including Sangria red, Glossy or Matte Black, Cosmopolitan Pink, Seashell Beige, Copper Brown, and Dove White. No matter if you are listening to music or watching an HD movie with the optional Blu-ray drive, the Sony VAIO CS is designed to handle your needs with a splash of style.
Sony VAIO CS (VGN-CS220J/T) Specifications:
Build and Design
The Sony VAIO CS looks great sitting closed on your desk. Our review unit has a luxurious copper finish with gold-colored trim around the edges of the screen. Opening up the notebook you see the same glossy copper paint around the palmrest and keyboard bezel, with a matte black inlay for the keyboard. Even the touchpad uses a metallic copper finish, albeit matte instead of glossy. Underneath the front edge of the keyboard is a fairly unique feature, a pulsing LED light bar that adds a bit of flare to whatever music you are listening to. I am not sure I would use it if I owned this notebook, but if you are into strobing lights and techno it would probably be fantastic.
The build quality of the VAIO CS is a mixture of durable alloy panels and flexible plastic bezels. If you were only going to look at the bottom of the CS, you would see excellent build quality with very rugged panels covering vital components. The bottom shell is made entirely of a metal alloy, with a nice rugged plate covering the hard drive to prevent impact from damaging your data. Once you flip over the notebook your opinions on the build quality quickly change. The screen cover, keyboard bezel, and hinge covers use very flexible and weak feeling plastics. When you open up the notebook the hinges squeak and creak as the plastic covers flex.
Carrying the notebook around closed the screen cover exhibits quite a bit of flex, but thankfully even strong pressure on the back of the screen doesn’t distort colors on the LCD. The paint quality is excellent with a nearly perfect glossy surface. Our review model has a metallic copper finish, which I might say is one of the nicest paint jobs I have seen on a notebook.
Screen and Speakers
The VAIO CS has a glossy 14.1 display using the 1280x800 16:10 aspect ratio. Colors appear bright and vibrant with very good levels of contrast thanks to the glossy surface. Black levels could be a tad deeper, but this is normal for a notebook in this price segment. Backlight brightness levels are adequate for viewing in bright office conditions, but with the glossy surface outdoor computing is limited to late at night. Viewing angles are average with colors quickly inverting about 20 degrees forward or back vertically. Horizontal viewing angles are much better, with colors staying accurate, only dimming until reflections off the glossy surface overpower what is on the screen.
The speakers are about average for a notebook of this size. Bass and midrange are weak, with only higher frequency sounds coming through. Peak volume levels are good, but don’t expect to start a rave with only this notebook providing the tunes. The LED light bar located beneath the touchpad buttons on the front edge of hte notebook only appears to work when using the Sony suppled “VAIO MusicBox” software. In a dark room it will slightly illuminate the desk in front of you. I think a better position would have been above the display so it would light up the keyboard and a larger area around the notebook.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is a VAIO-style chiclet layout (a similar keyboard layout is used on all Apple notebooks) that is comfortable to type on, but awkwardly sized compared to a normal notebook keyboard. Even with the 14.1” frame Sony condensed the keyboard slightly, making finger placement for blind typing difficult at first. Once you get used to it there are no problems, but it does have a slight learning curve.
Sony uses a large Synpatics touchpad on the VAIO CS, with is comfortable to use, but shows signs of some lag. Making quick movements side to side or around in a circle it almost seems like the refresh rate isn’t high enough. It isn’t too noticeable, just something that stuck out at us. The surface texture is a smooth matte finish, with two buttons located directly beneath it for the left and right mouse triggers. The buttons require greater than average pressure to activate, and have shallow feedback when pressed.
Ports and Features
Port selection on the VAIO CS as a multimedia notebook is lacking without HDMI out, especially considering that you can configure it with a Blu-ray drive. Not having HDMI means no digital video or audio out to connect the laptop up to a stereo for surround sound. Another feature missing is eSATA, which is becoming very common on most consumer notebooks. The ports offered are VGA, audio jacks, three USB ports, Firewire, LAN, and modem. The CS also sports a SD multi-card reader and MS slot.
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