From Apple with love
Well, here it is, the keyboard straight out of Cupertino. Not much to say about it really, it's great to work with, the layout and quality are top notch, although we would have preferred a bigger Enter key.
The only trouble with it is that it's quite tricky to clean, so if you're a clean freak, you can look forward to hours of fun.
Here you can see the MacBook Air keyboard. Sony's keyboard isn't backlit like Apple's, but as you can see the basic idea is the same. We like the Apple layout better.
The touchpad is very nice. Responsive, spacious, and the keys feel great. The texture is just about the only thing to nag about, but it's no big deal.
Overall both the keyboard and touchpad leave a good impression. They feel robust, and everything is in the right place. You'll have no trouble getting used to the Vaio and the typing position is quite pleasant.
Ergonomics, everyday use, build quality
At some point Sony's engineers must have sat down and said: "We've done a good job up till now, we can afford to mess a few things up, can't we?" As I said, the keyboard and touchpad are great, but there's a couple of annoying issues when it comes to everyday use. A 16.4-inch machine will spend most of its time sitting on a desk and obviously, in such a scenario, you'd like to use a mouse, connect some devices or external speakers. Well, good luck with that, as it will be anything but pleasant.
As you can see, all three USBs are placed on the right hand side. What's worse, they're at the edge of the chassis, so connecting a mouse, USB drive or some sort of dongle will take up a lot of desk space, as you'll need much more room for your mouse. If you're left handed, this isn't much of a problem, but the fact that all 3 USBs are on the right side is.
Secondly, the audio connectors are placed, well, awfully. Once you connect the speakers you'll have to drag the cable around the right side, around the USBs, or you can go left, in which case you'll end up typing with a couple of cables dangling under your arms.
If this were an ultra-portable machine, or a netbook we wouldn't moan about this. However, on a big, unwieldy machine which is meant to be used as a desktop, it makes no sense whatsoever.
The memory card reader and wireless on/off button are also placed at the front, on the left edge. This isn't an issue, as you won't use them that often and these aren't connectors with cables sticking out of them.
On the right hand side you'll find the optical drive, and those three unfortunately placed USBs. The power button is well hidden, and although it glows in a pleasant shade of green, like a veteran Soviet submariner, the light is a bit too strong and distracting when working in the dark. On standby, it's orange.
Most connectors are placed on the left side. You can see the Firewire, LAN, HDMI and power connectors, as well as a heatpipe with a bunch of fins. The cooling system is effective and relatively quiet, almost silent when not under load. Even after running several benchmarks and placing it on a soft, fluffy surface to cut the airflow, it managed to do its job. When it heats up, the heat is distributed evenly along the chassis. The whole thing heats up to body temperature, or slightly higher, but no hot spots appear, so it's still pleasant to use, especially on a chilly November day in Sarajevo.
The battery latch is quite good, once you secure the battery it can't budge. The 4400mAh unit surprised us by managing to power it for 2:18 hours in our Apocalypse Now Redux DVD test. You can squeeze out even more in regular use, and considering the screen size and quite powerful components, this is a good score. Although you still can't see Brando die, the Vaio is great for watching movies. The display quality is excellent, and the 16:9 aspect ratio helps. If it's still not enough, you can use HDMI and connect it to something bigger.