The VAIO S5VP is the latest addition to Sony's S series -- a line of laptops that are thin and light, but not quite as petite as the diminutive T series. This laptop sports similar dimensions to the VAIO S4M, which it replaces. However, it's now finished in matte black instead of silver and uses more modern components including the Intel 915GM chipset and the latest iteration of Centrino. It is therefore ideal for those who want a truly portable laptop that can still deliver strong performance. It's not perfect (it runs hot, it's occasionally noisy and it's pricey), but it's still very worthy of consideration.
The VAIO S5VP makes a positive impression straight out of the box. Sony's familiar VAIO logo, embossed into the lid of the laptop, will definitely receive a few admiring looks from anyone in sight. As with all new VAIO laptops, Sony has chosen not to include a latch on the screen. Instead, it uses a spring-loaded rear hinge that locks the lid in place. This is a welcome design feature, as previous VAIO laptops were prone to broken latches.
The size are weight of a laptop are often huge factors in its suitability for a given user. This offering weighs in at a respectable 2kg and is 313mm wide. That extra width allows it to sit more comfortably on your lap, and its keyboard buttons are more evenly spaced, reducing the chances of making an error while typing quickly.
The mouse touchpad on the S5VP was impressive, providing accurate input throughout. Stroking the bottom or far right-hand edges of the touchpad will let you scroll horizontally or vertically through documents, but Sony doesn't publicise this feature by printing the familiar directional arrows seen on touchpads from rival manufacturers. This is probably because Sony wants to preserve the S5VP's minimalist design, but some users could become confused as to why their documents suddently start scrolling for no apparent reason.
The laptop has a front-facing MagicGate Memory Stick port, but as ever with Sony laptops, we were disappointed by the lack of compatibility for more widely used memory cards. Its USB and FireWire ports are shielded behind rubber flaps, which reduces the chances of them being clogged or damaged by foreign objects. Unfortunately Sony's decision to recess these ports seems misguided. Some USB devices, including the iPod Shuffle, won't fit in one of the ports because the overhanging body of the laptop gets in the way. It's possible to plug bulky devices in one of the ports, but you'll probably end up obscuring the remaining port as they're so tightly spaced.
The S5VP has a hardware switch for the integrated 802.11a/b/g wireless adaptor. This makes it easy to enable or disable the wireless LAN feature, which can serve as an extra measure of security, or a means of slightly extending battery life when you're low on juice.
Sony has included two programmable shortcut keys, but we'd prefer to have seen a few more. Also, the lack of a dedicated volume controller means adjusting the sound levels can be tricky if you're using the laptop in the dark.
The VAIO S5VP is a second-generation Centrino laptop. It uses the Intel 915GM chipset, which in this case is paired with the nippy Pentium M 770 CPU, clocked at a respectable 2.13GHz. This is joined by 1GB of fast DDR-2 533Mhz memory. Rather than rely on the integrated graphics solution of the 915GM chipset, Sony has opted to emply the far more capable services of an Nvidia GeForce Go 6400 graphics chipset. This isn't a common inclusion in laptops, but it's slightly faster than the standard Intel offering. Our only real gripe in this area is that the laptop only features a standard analogue D-Sub port. We'd like to have seen a DVI-I output port for digital connections to an external monitor, and a TV-out port for more flexibility.