At one time, it seemed that if you wanted a Sony laptop, you had to pay a premium price. Increasingly, the company is offering machines at lower price points, with the Sony VAIO VGN-NR11S (£599 inc. VAT) being the latest mid-range offering.
The stylish design is impressive if a little understated. The chassis is made from plastic, with sufficient strength that it won't buckle or bend when being carried. Sony has given the casing a ribbed effect that feels nice to the touch and certainly stands out.
Weighing 2.9kg, this is a semi-portable machine. With rounded corners, it isn't as bulky as similarly sized laptops, and will easily slip into a carry case. While not the most portable of weights, the VAIO delivered excellent battery life. At 232 minutes when running on High Performance settings, you'll find this will last even longer in Power Saver mode.
Open the lid and you'll find a 15.4-inch Super-TFT panel, which Sony refers to as X-black. This is a great screen and proved very bright on test, with an even tone across the width of the panel. Graphics are provided by an integrated solution. In this case the Intel GMA X3100, which proved slightly more reliable than the ATi chips found in HP and Toshiba machines.
When it came to everyday use, this machine wasn't very powerful, but we were still satisfied with the performance it delivered for this price. Better suited to standard tasks, such as internet use and writing documents, rather than high-level tasks, the Intel Core 2 Duo T5250 is a dual-core chip suitable for home users.
Sat squarely in the middle of the main body is the well-spaced keyboard. The keys have been squared off with a raised centre point, so you're unlikely to mis-strike keys as you type. The typing action is smooth and we found it an incredibly comfortable keyboard to use. The touchpad is also of a good size and mirrors the widescreen aspect of the display. Less impressive are the mouse buttons, which are rather small and awkward to use, but still proved highly responsive.
Above the keyboard are two access buttons labelled S1 and AV Mode. The former can be set up to start any of your favourite applications. The AV Mode button is used when you want to watch a DVD. Press this and a utility loads instead of Windows.
The Sony VAIO VGN-NR11S is a good all-round laptop. While it lacks the power of some of its rivals, this is more than compensated for with a longer than average battery life.