Sony VAIO S460 Review (pics, specs)

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by Louie Tran, California USA

Sony VAIO S460 Quick Specs:

  • Intel Centrino 1.7Ghz
  • 512 MB PC 2700 RAM
  • Nvidia GeForce Go 6200 128MB RAM
  • 13.3″ WXGA Xbrite Screen (1280×800)
  • 80GB Hard Drive
  • 10/100 Ethernet Port, 56K Modem, 802.11b/g WiFi
  • DL DVD+-RW Drive
  • Ports and Slots: 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x 1394 (4-pin mini Firewire/iLink), Headphones, Microphone, 1 x MemoryStick Pro port, 1 x 100baseT Ethernet + V.90 modem, 1 x PCMCIA Type II/I
  • Weight: 4.2lbs with battery
  • Measures 12.3″ x 1.39″ x 8.85″ (Width x Height x Depth)

Shortly after the release of the Vaio S360, Sony quickly brought out the next model of the S series, that being the Vaio S460. Like the previous thin and light S series notebooks, the S460 sticks to the tradition of retaining its small size and weight without sacrificing any performance.  This time, the Vaio S is armed with a GeForce Go 6200 graphics processor and a Dual Layer DVD-RW drive which both add more power and functionality to something already great.

(note to readers — the author included pictures featuring his VAIO S460 on his washer and dryer on purpose, feel free to laugh or just wonder what type of weird person this reviewer is)

Design

Sony VAIO S460 and rather large power adapter fresh out of the box, no this laptop is not machine washable.

When you spend $1800 on a laptop, you expect it to come with a whole bunch of accessories, manuals, discs, and paraphernalia for the laptop, right? And of course it’s a Sony, so they’re bound to pack in a lot of cool stuff aren’t they? Well, if you’re familiar with Sony laptops these days, they don’t come with squat. Not even a manual! Recovery CDs? Make it yourself they say! Aside from a beautiful notebook and a bulky power adapter, there’s nothing else worth taking out of the cheap looking cardboard box.

Sony VAIO U70, VAIO S460, Apple iBook.  Maytag washer on the left, Maytag dryer on the right — we’re not sure what processor they’re running on.

Like the previous “S” laptops, there’s really nothing fancy about the S460 at first glance. No special buttons, no LED meters or anything of that matter, and the aesthetics of it are really simple. However, it is a beautiful work of art, which thrives from its simplicity. Think of it as being a beautiful woman that needs no makeup. It’s also very light and the weight is evenly distributed so it can be comfortably carried.

Left side view of the Sony VAIO S460 — we could have cropped out the washer, but that would be less fun.

There are a few design flaws that haven’t been fixed from the previous series releases, which are small stupid problems that could have been easily corrected. The first issue is the placement of the two only USB ports, which are placed on the right side of the keyboard that’s closest to you. If you were to plug in a USB mouse, the cord will irritate the heck out of you and it will be awkward to use unless you get a cordless mouse. I just wish they added more USB ports like another one on the back or one on the left side.

The placement of the DVD-RW drive right at the front instead of the side of the notebook is also a bad idea. You’re going to always have to tilt the notebook upwards to put in a disc and good luck finding the eject button. Oh yeah, speaking of the eject button — forget about it and use FN+E keys to eject the drive. That way you’ll look cool instead of a fool fumbling for the button.

Top view of VAIO S460, notice a few greasy finger marks that tend to be quite visible due to the finish of this laptop!  You cannot use the washing machine to clean this off.

And finally, the one problem that I was hoping they would fix but didn’t is the loose battery. Even if it’s locked in and you slightly touch the battery it will rattle. Don’t worry, it won’t come flying off but it certainly feels like it will. Also, I can easily picture the release switch getting caught on something and force the battery to lose connection and all your work will be gone! You also have to be careful with the casing because it’s very prone to greasy hand and fingermarks.

Right Side of VAIO S460 with two USB 2.0 ports and FireWire port visible, washing machine not quite so visible in this shot, but don’t worry, it’s there.

The first few hours…

The most obvious feature noticeable during initial power up is the BEAUTUFUL 1200×800 Sony XBRITE screen. It has a glossy ultra clear look, a feature found on their popular LCD monitors which makes this small notebook a great device for watching movies and playing games. After quickly going through the registration process and while running the Windows Update, it’s not hard to take notice of how clear all the text and graphics on the screen are, making everything so easy to read on a small 13.3″ screen.

VAIO S460 memory stick slot is located at the front

There’s also a Sony Memory Stick reader built in which will come in handy if you have a Sony digital camera. A multifuncion memory card reader would have been a lot better but is unfortunately not present. The feel of the touchpad and keyboard were adequately responsive. However, I still would prefer an external mouse over the touchpad. The lack of an S-Video out is also rather disappointing. It would be nice to take something this small and connect it to a TV without having to buy a VGA to S-Video converter.

Before running any games I installed and ran 3DMark 2001 and it scored at 8994, which is somewhat of a disappointment because the previous S360 scored at 9989 without having any modifed drivers or any tweaks on it. On FutureMark 2003, the S460 scored 2358 points. This test was done straight out of the box and it didn’t lag on any one of the tests. The score is actually near mid-end desktop performance, so you will know straight off that it can handle any of the latest games. I installed Battlefield 2 and the game actually ran smoothly. Unreal Tournament 2004 and Prince of Persia: Warrior Within looked amazing thanks to the Sony XBRITE screen.  I also loaded up some anime such as Bleach and Tsubasa Chronicles and they also look amazing. The built in speakers were actually decent but with weak bass. Any pair of headphones you use will be better than the built in speakers.

One thing that I did notice while running all of these applications was that the bottom right side of the notebook was uncomfortably hot. In fact, I’ve never had a notebook get as hot as this one before and if you were to use this on your lap for about 30 to 40 minutes, you’ll wonder why your right leg is sweating for no reason. If you use this on a desk more than you do on your lap then it’s not that big of a deal, but let me warn you that it gets hot within 10 minutes of use.

On the Road…

After fully charging the notebook and installing all the software that I normally use, I headed out to a local Starbucks to see how it would perform outside the house. I plugged in a set of headphones, loaded up an MP3 playlist and used DVD Shrink to backup a DVD while I was writing this review and surfing the internet all at the same time, which the notebook seemed to have handled very well. The S460 has an average battery life of 3.5 hours, which is competitive to other notebooks of its size and features. I also loaded up Photoshop 7.0 to resize the photos used in this review (using the Sony DSC F828) and the notebook handled it fine.

After doing my normal daily tasks on the laptop, I took a glance at the software suite that  came pre-installed. Quicken, Microsoft Works, Netscape 7.0, Sonic Stage, AOL and a whole mess of other bloatware.  I pretty much deleted it all because I don’t really use those programs. Then I realized that I didn’t have to anyway because this thing comes with a hefty 80GB hard drive! You can practically carry your entire desktop into this 3.9lbs notebook!

Awesome Performance for a Thin and Light

Sony continues to add newer features to each release of their series of notebooks. With the addition of a newer videocard, and a Dual Layer DVD burner, the S460 still has some flaws that have been ignored by Sony from the previous S notebooks. The placement of the USB ports, lack of more USB ports, and the loose battery are issues that really need to be taken care of. Also, the heat produced by this particular model is enough to cause people to run to the return line after being treated for second degree burns on their legs (ok, it’s not THAT bad). Aside from all of these issues, the Sony Vaio S460 is an excellent performer and the inclusion of the Dual Layer DVD burner makes this thin and light notebook a lot more useful. It runs just about all of the latest games, and the high quality screen and resolution makes this notebook sell itself. My suggestion is to buy it from a retailer with a good return and exchange policy, buy it and try it out to see whether or not the heat issue outweighs your other reasons for keeping the notebook.

Overall Rating: 8/10

Pricing and Availability:

About the Author:

Louie Tran runs the technology blog style website named Blackhaloinc.com:

http://www.blackhaloinc.com/portal/index.php

Other Sony VAIO S Reviews:

One Last Image Featuring the Washer and Dryer:

VAIO S460 on the left, Apple iBook on the right


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