Sony VAIO S270 Review (pics, specs)

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The Choice

Like many who are about to become college freshmen, I found myself in need of a laptop. To be honest, I knew absolutely ZIP about laptops at that time. My first stop was at Dell after I heard about the $750 off coupon and without giving it a second thought, I purchased the Inspiron 6000 and soon returned it because of its weight, bulkiness, and mediocre performance and screen. Then, after a month of researching and comparing, I finally narrowed my choices to the Sony VAIO S360 and the Asus W3V. Both were so evenly matched in my mind that I only chose the S360 because of its better touchpad.

The Buying Experience

Now that I’ve decided on a computer, it’s time to actually buy it. As most of you know, the VAIO S360 went out of stock at most retailers a long time ago. I finally stumbled on a site called www.euclidcomputers.com that still had a few in stock. However, I saw that they had the VAIO S270 as well, which only varies from the 360 with a DVD-RW drive, but has a slower CPU at 1.6 GHz and a smaller harddrive at 60 gigs. It was cheaper as well and without any more thought, I purchased the computer. The computer totaled to about $1,620 after shipping and was tax free. It took only 3 days to arrive, which is incredible for Euclid computers.

First Thoughts

Even though the wait was short, I second guessed myself about this purchase right up until when the delivery man rang the doorbell. Then, I eagerly tore open the box and got my greedy little hands on my new laptop. From that point on, all doubts were dispelled. Here’s some quick specs:

  • Processor- Pentium M 725- 1.6 GHz
  • Display- 13.3 in TFT with XBright (glossy type)
  • Video- ATI mobility 9700
  • RAM- 1×512 MB Microdimm pc2700 ddr sdram
  • Harddrive- 60 gig 4200 rpm
  • Multimedia drive- DVD RW
  • Network- 2200 B/G internal wireless
  • Ports- 2x 2.0 USB, Audio, Microphone, Memory stick, port replicator, external monitor, PCMCIA, firewall
  • OS- Windows XP with SP 2

Design

Just about everyone thinks this is one of the sexiest laptops around and I would have to agree. The black exterior looks both sleek and professional and the shiny VAIO letters add a touch of style to this already very decadent computer. Open it up and you’ll find yourself staring at a beautifully designed keyboard and touchpad. The sides are filled with the standard ports, but there are a few complaints here. First, there is no multicard reader. Second, the little cap for the USB ports looks very cheap and don’t fit in with the overall classy design.

Sony VAIO S270 Top View

Sony VAIO S270 Front View

Sony VAIO S270 Right View

Sony VAIO S270 Left View

Screen

This is why most of us buy this laptop. This screen can go toe to toe with anything in the market today. There is virtually no flex to the screen, but the screen will ripple if you push very hard on the back. DVDs come to life on the 1280×800 screen. I personally find that resolution too high for normal use so I lower it to 1024×768 while typing and web surfing. The brightness can be adjusted on 8 different levels and can easily be seen outdoors and indoors. No complaints here.

Sound

Granted I am not picky about sound, you will be surprised at the quality of sound the S270 outputs with it’s 2 tiny speakers. I’ve watched Matrix Revolutions and Spiderman 2 on this computer with no external speakers and I must say that I am extremely pleased. Although the volume should not be pushed and bass is virtually nonexistent, I find it more than adequate for a laptop of this size.

Keyboard/Touchpad

I’ve been typing this review the entire time on the s270’s keyboard and although it’s a preference issue, I believe it to be the best laptop keyboard on the market (including IBMs). The depth of each key is shallow, more shallow than the IBM ThinkPad’s. I believe that because of this fact, the keyboard feels more comfortable and helps me type faster, but that’s just me. Two S buttons on the very top can be customized to do various things like hibernate and mute. A wireless switch on the lower right hand corner is easy access to the wireless. My only complaint here is that the directional keys are undersized, which makes games like Underground Racing 2 difficult. Of course, you can customize those controls to use other keys.

Like I said before, the touchpad was the only thing that tipped me over the edge into buying this laptop. I hate using a mouse during class because the desks are so small and there’s absolutely no place to even put the mouse. Simply taking out the notebook and being ready to go is very important to me and the touchpad delivers here. The touchpad itself is very sensitive and does not to be pressed very hard to get a response. The two buttons on the bottom make very little noise when clicked so other people won’t be bothered. No complaints here

Battery Life

I must say that this is where the S270 falls short of my expectations. Right out of the box, the battery life was a little more than 2 hours, which really bothered me since I was expecting at least 4. However, like all computers, there was hope. With Centrino hardware control (undervolting the CPU, dynamic switching, and underclocking GPU and using the lowest screen brightness), I got the battery life all the way to a little over 5 hours.

Heat

YES, despite what people say, there is still a heat issue with the s270. Without centrino hardware control, this thing gets scalding when playing games and running demanding applications like 3DMark. When I opened up the laptop to apply artic silver, I found the thermal tape completely melted! However, with CHC and Arctic Silver 5, idle temperatures dropped to 43 degrees, but still gets hot when gaming.

3DMark Benchmark Results

The 3DMark03 benchmark on this laptop right out of the box was around 2600. Yes, I was disappointed as well since I was expecting around 3000, but there was still hope. After a fresh install of Windows with bloatware removal and the latest modded 5.7 cat drivers, the 3Dmark score jumped to about 2800. Then I ordered 1GB of RAM from eBay and with that, the 3Dmark score went to about 2950. Finally, with overclocking at 430/230, the 3DMark score went to about 3200. Also, I bought the new Hitachi 7K60 hard drive (7200 RPM, 60GB) off ebay and installed it myself (great sense of self satisfaction), but suprisingly, it resulted in no increase in the 3DMark score.

Actual Gaming

I mainly used Battlefield 2 (BF2) as my benchmark while testing this computer. After I installed the 5.7 Cat drivers and while using 512MB of RAM, playing BF2 at lowest settings and lowest resolutions was averaging 60 Frames Per Second (FPS), very nice! I was as surprised as heck, but the second the resolution was bumped up, the FPS dropped to about 20-24 with 512MB of ram. After I upgraded ram to 1.5GB, the game was playable at highest resolution, 2x AA, some medium settings with dynamic shadows and dynamic lighting turned off (averaging 25-30 fps). Finally, with the new 7200 rpm Hitachi HDD installed, the game was playable at same setting with 35-40 fps.

CPU

At 1.6 GHz, my cpu is actually slower than the stock S360’s CPU, but for me, it is fast enough, because I use dynamic switching and it’s underclocked most of the time anyways. With Super Pi, I calculated 2 million digits in 2 minutes flat, which isn’t dissapointing.

 Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Sony VAIO S270 (1.60 GHz Dothan Pentium M) 2m 00s
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 53s
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M)
1m 45s
Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 48s
Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 52s
Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M) 2m 10s
Sony VAIO S360 (1.7 GHz Dothan Pentium M) 1m 57s
Sony VAIO S170P (1.5 GHz Dothan Pentium M) 2m 07s
Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m

Final thoughts

I LOVE THIS COMPUTER! The only major flaw I can think of is the heat and I think of that as a challenge to overcome by changing settings anyway. Tweaking the CPU, underclocking the graphics card, and doing all the other great stuff really helped me learn a lot. Anyways, enough about my computer, lets go onto the guides.

Upgrade Guide

But we’re not done yet!  In order to get your Sony VAIO S series notebook running at top speed and being most efficient you can do things such as upgrading the hard drive, using a coolant for the CPU or simply upgrade your DVD/CD to something more desirable than what you currently have.  Read my Sony VAIO S Upgrade Guide to learn how to do all these.

Pricing and Availability


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