The Sony VAIO VGN-CS11S/Q is the first of Sony's latest range of VAIO laptops, the Sony VAIO CS series.
From Sony's expanding range of VAIO laptops we have the new CS series, replacing the CR series as a range of fashionable and colour coordinated consumer notebooks. Like the previous range, they are based on the same 14.1in screen design, with softly contoured bodies in a high-gloss coloured finish.
Bringing the design up to date is new processor technology, in the case of the model we tested, an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400, which promises good performance and better battery life. Also onboard is an uprated graphics chip, moving from an ATI Radeon X2300 to an ATI GeForce 9300M part.
Build quality is relatively solid, if a little plasticky overall, and not helped in our experience by the unusual Scrabble-piece keyboard style - now copied by Apple - with its large spaces between keys. These flat-top keys have limited travel and don't quite imbue the VAIO with a feeling of high quality as you type. The trackpad works well, and left/right mouse click buttons are well positioned for relaxed use, even if they require a little force to operate.
A good complement of ports are offered, with three USB and Sony's version of FireWire, iLink, which makes connecting digital camcorders easy. More disappointing then was the rather old-fashioned video out connector, an analogue VGA port, which will be even more out of place on the higher-spce model with Blu-ray Disc drive. This dearer model, offered in a Spicy Red finish, has the same specification as the Liquorice Black version here, excepting the BD drive which adds £100 to the price.
One styling touch we couldn't quite fathom: a light appears on the underside, below the trackpad area, which glows in a number of colours depending on user action. Pointless, but maybe a conversation piece?
In our MobileMark battery tests, the Sony VAIO VGN-CS11S/Q was able to run for 3 hours 26 minutes on battery power, which is a reasonable figure by the standards of today's laptops, especially given its good processor speed. It scored an impressive 92 points in WorldBench 6, nudging it ahead of the MacBook despite that model's slightly faster-clocked processor. Its graphics performance was reasonable among its peers, giving 17 frames per second playback on the Maximum detail settings of FEAR, rising to a useful 37fps when graphics detail was reduced to High.
The Sony VAIO VGN-CS11S/Q offers a good balance of virtues, with very good processor performance, reasonable graphics and usable battery life, all packed into a style-conscious form. With a range of accessories to match, such as cases, mice and mousemat, this should appeal to a younger audience that doesn’t want to sacrifice utility in the name of fashion.