Well-designed but slightly expensive.
That's the most common précis of a Sony laptop. And that fits the bill here again; but it's not the whole story.
The Sony Vaio VGN-SR29XN/S is clearly designed to be desirable, for the business person who wants to stand out from the crowd.
Machine for on the move
It's clearly designed for work first and entertainment second – the inclusion of Windows Vista Business is revealing – but the inclusion of a very crisp, clear and shiny X-black screen means it isn't all work and no play.
There's no Blu-ray drive though; we're starting to see them more commonly on machines of this price point. However, this Vaio is also clearly designed for portability. It's reasonably light at just shy of 2KG, while size-wise the 13.3-inch screen is just about perfect for on-the-move working.
12-inch screens tend to mean you need to be very frugal with the way you work, but the extra inch really does make a big difference. You might, however, find it a little small for watching DVDs or video-on-demand such as BBC iPlayer.
Once again, design plays its part. The keyboard apes the latest generation of MacBooks, while the metallic finish and lid are both sturdy and enviable. However, the underside is still standard boring black, and the design-quality of the underside components leaves a little to be desired.
However, it's a minor grumble, but we wish Sony would be the manufacturer to match Apple in giving the same amount of attention under the chassis as it does on top. While we're at it, another moan is the amount of software included when you start up.
As well as the Sony Mode Switch menu, the desktop is littered with apps and the system tray full. Manufacturers get much-needed cash for including all this stuff, but the resulting user experience is derisory.
Battery life, too, was a slight disappointment. Sony quotes 220 minutes, but we got just over two hours when we fully loaded the system and made the processor work hard, and that was without the DVD drive spinning.
On a better note, performance of the system will give you no problems, with a speedy 2.26GHz variant of Intel's Core 2 Duo, 250GB hard drive and a rather special 4GB of memory, but you would expect that for this money – though there's no specialist graphics poke, but it's not the Sony's biggest problem.
At a time when many laptops fit the sub-£500 bracket, laptops at this price point have to offer something special. Does the Sony? Well, we think not.
The Sony Vaio VGN-SR29XN/S is a good-looking and performing laptop, but it doesn't offer a whole lot more than many £600 or £700 laptops. Yes, it's a Sony, but if you can entertain buying something else, it'll almost certainly be worth it. Clichés exist for a reason, after all.