Vaio is back! After a few years in which the former PC company of Sony operated almost exclusively on the Japanese market, the well-known PC brand returns to the Western markets. The new Vaio SX14 tries to impress business and office users with its light design, virtually borderless display and lots of ports.
Vaio was originally the brand name that Sony used for its laptops. In 2014, Sony stopped making laptops and the name was sold to Japan Industrial Partners. That company manages the brand name and issues licenses to manufacturers for the use of the name. In recent years, Vaio laptops were sold in Asia but were not available in Europe.
The Vaio SX14 is lighter, just 1.01 kilo, with new 14″ 1080p or 4k thin bezel displays, a slight bump up in power with Whiskey Lake-U Core i5 8265U and Core i7 8565U CPUs.
It also has up to 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of PCIe SSD storage. For ports, you get 3 x USB 3.0 ports, USB type-C 3.1, RJ45, SD slot, VGA and HDMI out.
A carbon fibre composite material is used as housing material, which makes the notebook stable and at the same time extremely light: the SX14 weighs just over 1 kilogram. The display and housing are evenly balanced, so the notebook can be easily opened with one hand. The display lid protrudes beyond the case at the rear, and when opened it serves as a support that lifts the keyboard slightly for a more comfortable hand gesture when typing – Vaio calls this the “Keyboard Lift”. Asus uses a similar method called Ergolift in the Zenbook 14. And like Asus, Vaio also focuses on the narrow display frame and the associated high screen-to-body ratio. Including the lid, edge measures the side frame only 4.9 mm.
With the CPU mode “True Performance” Vaio wants to get more out of the built-in Intel processor Core i7-8565U (Whiskey Lake U) than the competition. Above all, it should be avoided that the CPU can no longer run at a high clock rate if the notebook heats up during a longer load phase. This can be found again and again, especially in very flat laptops. The corresponding performance mode is set in the Vaio Control Center as standard for operation on the power supply.
Despite the flat housing with a height between 14.8 (front) and 18 millimetres rear, the Vaio does not stint with connections. In the mentioned card reader fit SD cards in a standard size. An HDMI output is available and even VGA is found. There are also three USB 3.0 ports (Type-A) and a Type-C port that transmits signals to USB 3.1 Gen 2 and DisplayPort 1.2. On Thunderbolt 3 waived Vaio – unusual, since most competitors in the business environment use this interface for the connection of docking stations.
The Full HD screen shines with a high colour space coverage (99% sRGB, 79% Adobe RGB), but not with a reflective surface: The display is the Vaio dull, as befits a business notebook. The brightness is just under 300 cd / m²: This is absolutely sufficient for most environments, but in sunlight, you have to sit in the shade, despite the anti-glare screen, in order to recognize the screen contents well.
The Vaio SX14 has a wide range of connectivity options. Apart from a Wi-Fi card made by Qualcomm and the Realtek Ethernet module (which includes a full-size RJ45 port), the Vaio Laptop also contains an LTE card in all models. In everyday use, the 2×2 AC WLAN card plays a bigger role, of course. The Wi-Fi card delivered a solid performance.
Keyboard and touchpad
Aside from the layout, this is a comparably good keyboard. The chassis beneath the keyboard provides the necessary stability, the keys provide enough travel and the pressure-point is also good. The keyboard is backlit as well, though there is no way to turn it on or off manually. It is just enabled when the user presses a key and it becomes disabled after 15 seconds of inactivity.
The trackpad of the Vaio SX14 is pretty small with a touch-sensitive surface that just measures 8 x 4.5 cm (~3.15 x 1.77 in). This does represent a constraint in everyday use, especially when using gestures. Touchpads do not have to be enormous, but we wish that this laptop would have had a bigger one – especially since there is a lot of unused space around the touchpad.
There are two 14-inch screen options for the SX14: A FHD (1,920×1,080) LCD panel and a 4K UHD panel (3,820×2,160), which is supposed to reach a brightness value of 450 cd/m². Both screens are matte and based on IPS technology.
Despite the fact that the panel is based on IPS technology, the viewing angle stability is not perfect. Colours do not invert like they do with TN screens, but the screen exhibits the IPS glow effect. This is a little bit annoying, even though it does not represent a real problem in everyday usage.
The choice of hardware options for the Vaio SX14 is not comprehensive: In terms of the CPU, you can either choose the Intel Core i5-8265U or the Core i7-8565U. If the Vaio is bought with the i5, it has 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. When it is bought with the i7, it contains 16 GB soldered LPDDR3-2133 memory as well as a 512 GB SSD. Every configuration has the Intel UHD Graphics 620 as its sole graphics processor.
The Intel Core i5-8265U is a low voltage quad-core processor with a TDP of 15 W. It has a clock rate range from 1.6 to 4.1 GHz, though the highest clock rate is basically just for single core load. Comparisons with other processors are possible with our CPU comparison table.
Samsung’s PM981 with a capacity of 256 GB serves as the storage of the Vaio SX14. This is an extremely fast PCIe NVMe SSD in the M.2 2280 format, which showed no sign of weakness in our review.
The speakers are located on the bottom and are not particularly significant. Annoying is the permanently active and clearly audible fan. Whether in idle mode on the desktop or surfing the Internet, it constantly whistles from the fan slot on the left side. This circumstance can be reduced only in the “silent mode”, which, however, is associated with a noticeable reduction in performance.
The internal Lithium-ion battery is simply very small with a design capacity of just 35 Wh.
We would really like to recommend the Vaio SX14. The compact, lightweight design is very attractive. The newest BIOS update, however, does enhance the battery life, but not enough to make this get through the day.