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Sony's New VAIO VGN-S150 and S170 Wi-Fi Notebooks Reviewed
Posted: 04-Sep-2004 [Source: Mobile Tech News]

[Sony's new VGN-S150 and S170 notebooks were released over the summer and Mobile Tech News had a chance to hook up a S170 up to our W-LAN and check it out. ]

By Jean Panke, Mobile Tech News -- Sony's new VGN-S150 and S170 notebooks were released over the summer and Mobile Tech News had a chance to hook up a S170 up to our W-LAN and check it out. The only difference between the models is the S170 is a configurable version of the S150.

Mobile Tech News admits up front we have been VAIO fans for a long time. Last year we reported on the TR series and the PCG-TR1A continues to be a work horse machine for us. However, the criticisms we have of the TR series have been resolved with the introduction of the S series.

First, what makes the VAIO notebooks so great is the power and speed they pack into a small form factor. The S170 is 12.3"W x 1.16"-1.39"H x 8.85"D. It weighs 4.2 pounds with its standard Lithium-ion battery which has an estimated battery life of two to five hours. It offers a rechargeable large capacity Lithium-ion battery offering up to 10 hours of battery life for an additional $100.00. The S170 has a 13.3" WXGA TFT XBRITE LCD display with an ATI Mobility RADEON 9700 Graphics Chipset. The XBRITE screen display is one of the VAIO's greatest features. This screen can be viewed in sunlight and makes it useable as a GPS moving map display in your car, boat or airplane or many other types of applications where sunlight is a determining factor in readability. I admit in bright sunlight, the screen gets a little more difficult to read, but if you find even minimal shade, you're back in business. The S170 offers an 18.05 mm key pitch compared to the 17 mm pitch of the TR series. This is another great improvement for those of you with larger hands that couldn't quite fit the key pitch of the smaller VAIO models.

The high-end S170 configuration comes equipped with Microsoft Windows XP professional edition OS, an Intel Pentium M processor 755 (2 GHZ, 2MB L2 Cache, 400 MHz FSB), a front side bus speed of 400MHz, video RAM, Centrino wireless lan 802.11a/b/g configurable with Bluetooth Technology, an 80 GB hard drive, 1GB DDR SDRAM memory, integrated modem and Ethernet, one PCMCIA card slot, built-in stereo speakers, a monoaural mini microphone jack, stereo mini headphone jack, and VGA graphics interface. It comes equipped with either a DVD-RW drive, or a CD-RW/DVD drive. Options include an external DVD+/-RW drive. All the standard VAIO software for creating music, photos, videos etc. is included. The S170 does not come equipped with the Motion Eye camera (a clip on camera is available as an add-on) or the easy access volume control available on some other VAIO models. It offers Sony's standard 1 year warranty (upgradeable to 3 years) on hardware and labor excluding battery pack.

The basic S150 is priced at $1499.99 direct from Sony, but by the time you start choosing options you just can't live without, the price jumps to anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 depending on how many bells and whistles you opt for.

Likes:

* The high resolution (1280 x 800) screen in a small form factor. The XBRITE screen is brilliant, the contrast is exceptional, and it is viewable in outdoor sunlight.

*Two programmable buttons to quickly toggle between such function as sound mute off/on, screen brightness, etc.

*The S series offers a larger 18 mm key pitch for larger hands.

*Weight is 4.2 pounds which is very manageable, especially for those of you who find yourself carrying your notebook around a great deal.

*The battery life is exceptional, particularly with the extended battery option. Even using the brightest screen setting and continued wireless use, we have been seeing 5-7 hours on the extended battery. This computer can handle marathon meetings without tiring out.

*Port availability includes FireWire, 2 USB ports, a single PCMCIA card slot, as well as built-modem and Ethernet.

*The S series has a sturdy magnesium alloy casing in a sleek and professional looking two-tone gray and black color scheme.

*We appreciated Sony's dual partition hard-disk configuration. The S170 comes with Windows installed on one partition, and a second empty partition is ready for you to do with as you see fit. That made it easy to install Linux on the second partition to create a dual-boot Windows-Linux machine (see below for a tip on how to take advantage of the full 1280x800 screen resolution under Linux).

Dislikes:

After a month of daily use in various settings, hooked up to several different LAN configurations, we haven't come up with any. Judging by user reviews on other sites, no one else has either.

Linux Setup:

If you are installing Linux on the S150/170, you might need to know the setup parameters for the Vaio's 1280x800 LCD display in case your distribution doesn't automatically recognize it.

in the xorg.conf file, add in these entries:

Section "Monitor"
Identifier "Monitor0"
VendorName "Monitor Vendor"
ModelName "Monitor Model"
HorizSync 31.5- 64
VertRefresh 59-76
Option "IgnoreEDID" "1"
Modeline "1280x800@60" 83.91 1280 1312 1624 1656 800 816 824 841
EndSection 

Section "Screen"

Modes "1280x800@60"


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