VAIO SX14 (2021) – Revision 2021


It doesn’t have the 2019 model’s old-fashioned VGA port, but the latest VAIO SX14 (starts at $ 1,249; $ 1,949 according to testing) has enough connectivity for an ultraportable laptop. It also packs plenty of performance and versatility in a 2.54-pound package, making it worth it for anyone looking for a 14-inch slimline in the market. The VAIO SX14 is a bit pricey, however, and is far from our favorites like our perennial Editors’ Choice award winner, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9.

A Classis VAIO chassis

Its days as a Sony brand are long gone, but VAIO (a backronym for “Visual Audio Intelligent Organizer”) is still a player in the laptop space with three models: the ultra-light VAIO Z, made at from carbon fiber, and the 12.5 inch and 14 inch SX Systems. The SX14 starts at $ 1,249 with an Intel Core i5 processor and a Full HD non-touch screen (1920 x 1080 pixels).

Photo: Molly Flores

For $ 1,949 (VAIO listed it for $ 1,699 in my testing), our test unit upgraded to a 2.9GHz quad-core Core i7-1195G7 chip (5.0GHz turbo) and to an IPS touchscreen with the same 1080p resolution, as well as with 16 GB of memory and a 512 GB SSD. It is available in Fine White or Urban Bronze, as well as in black brushed aluminum from our system with fiber cover of carbon. A flagship model “kachi-iro” (royal blue with gold border) at $ 2,499 has 32GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD.

No 4K or other high-resolution displays are available (only VAIO Z). Windows 11 Pro, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth are standard. The laptop has passed MIL-STD 810H torture tests for shock and vibration, but there’s a bewildering amount of flex if you grab the corners of the screen or tap the keyboard.

Rear view of the VAIO SX14 (2021)

The SX14 measures 0.7 x 12.6 x 8.8 inches, just a tad bigger than the Dell Latitude 7420 (0.68 x 12.7 x 8.2 inches). At 2.54 pounds, the VAIO weighs roughly the same as the HP EliteBook 840 Aero G8 or the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and a fraction less than the Latitude. However, it’s not the lightest 14-inch laptop; the Asus ExpertBook B9450CEA weighs just 2.2 pounds.

Some ultraportables (looking at you, Dell XPS 13) only give you USB-C / Thunderbolt 4 ports, requiring a DisplayPort dongle if you want to plug in an external monitor. The VAIO has two Thunderbolt 4 ports on its right edge but also an HDMI video output, plus an Ethernet port and two USB 3.1 Type-A ports (one on each side).

VAIO SX14 (2021) ports left

There is also an audio jack and a security lock slot, both on the left. We could quibble that the wireless network is Wi-Fi 6 rather than Wi-Fi 6E, but otherwise the connectivity of the SX14 is good, although several competitors supplement it with an SD or microSD card slot, or LTE mobile broadband for use away from Wi-Fi.

VAIO SX14 Right Ports (2021)

Pleasant, but not extraordinary, features

While it cannot compete with its competitors’ 4K resolution offerings, the VAIO’s 1080p touchscreen is attractive, with adequate brightness and good contrast. White backgrounds are crisp white, aided by the ability to tilt the screen back as much as you want, down to flat, even, where pressing Fn + 2 returns the image to upside down so that it can be seen by someone on the other side of your desk. Viewing angles are wide and colors are well saturated, although they don’t appear vividly. (More information on formal screen tests below.)

The bezels on either side of the screen are thin, although the top and bottom bezels are quite chunky. the ErgoLift hinge works on some Asus ZenBook laptops. The bezel is deepened by two tiny spikes or feet, which are visible when you have the system in your lap.

Front view of the VAIO SX14 (2021)

The backlit keyboard has a shallow, plastic typing feel. The top row keys (including Escape and Delete) and cursor arrows are tiny, and you should associate these with the Fn key in the absence of dedicated Home, End, Previous Page, and Next Page keys. The touchpad glides and types smoothly but does not click. Instead, there are two narrow mouse buttons, which click silently with just the right amount of pressure.

The webcam has a sliding privacy shutter and records 1080p video instead of the usual minimum resolution of 720p on competing laptops. His images are reasonably well lit and colorful but prone to noise or static electricity. The camera has facial recognition technology for Windows Hello logins, and the supplied VAIO Control Center software allows you to use it as a proximity sensor. The camera can lock the system if you move away and wake it up when you return.

VAIO Keyboard SX14 (2021)

There is another Windows Hello option in the form of a fingerprint reader built into the power button, but the power button is so small that it was difficult to train it to recognize my fingerprint. VAIO Control Center also provides microphone and speaker noise cancellation and allows you to set quiet, normal, or performance operating modes for the processor and cooling fan. I noticed a frequent, loud hissing sound in the performance mode I used for our benchmark tests.

The speaker slots on the front edge produce one of the worst sounds I’ve heard from a laptop, hollow and hard with a flat echo effect. Our test unit also comes with an AAAA battery-powered stylus, which VAIO sells separately for an exorbitant price of $ 119. This is sufficient for basic doodles, although digital artists may find it insufficient.

VAIO SX14 review: Core i7-1195G7 takes the lead

For our benchmark graphics, I compared the VAIO SX14 to four other 14-inch laptops with 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processors: the Acer Swift 3X and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9, Dell Latitude 7420, and HP EliteBook 840 Aero mentioned above. G8. All of them rely on Intel’s Iris Xe integrated graphics card, with the exception of the Acer, which has the chipmaker’s rarely seen Iris Xe Max discrete GPU. You can see their basic specs in the table below.

Productivity tests

UL’s leading benchmark of PCMark 10 simulates a variety of real-world productivity and content creation workflows to measure the overall performance of office tasks such as word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing and video conferencing . We also run the PCMark 10 Full System Drive test to assess a laptop’s load time and storage throughput.

Three other benchmarks focus on the processor, using all available cores and threads, to assess a PC’s suitability for CPU-intensive workloads. Maxon’s Cinebench R23 uses that company’s Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular applications ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open source HandBrake 1.4 video transcoder to convert a 12 minute video clip from 4K resolution to 1080p resolution (lower times are better).

Our latest productivity test is PugetBench for Photoshop from workstation maker Puget Systems, which uses version 22 of Creative Cloud from Adobe’s popular image editor to assess a PC’s performance for content creation and content creation. multimedia applications. This is an automated extension that performs a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks, from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradients. and filters.

All five laptops provide more than enough performance for Microsoft Office or Google Workspace sessions (we consider a score of 4000 points in PCMark 10 to indicate sufficient productivity). The SX14 also shone in our CPU tests, with its Core i7 showing more influence than its siblings, and its PCI Express Gen 4 SSD also led the way in the PCMark storage benchmark.

Graphics tests

We test the graphics of Windows PCs with two 3DMark DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL, Night Raid (more modest, suitable for laptops with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming platforms with GPUs) discrete).

We’re also running two tests from the GFXBench 5 cross-platform GPU benchmark, which emphasizes both low-level routines such as texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering. The 1440p tests Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase, rendered offscreen to accommodate different display resolutions, exercise graphics, and compute shaders using the OpenGL programming interface and hardware tessellation, respectively. The more frames per second (fps) the better.

The VAIO Core i7-1195G7 also set the tone in these tests, although the results are slightly misleading – the integrated graphics primarily favor casual gaming over fast-twitch titles playable on gaming laptops with discrete GPUs. (the Iris Xe Max doesn’t really matter). Neither the SX14 nor any of its peers will ever be taken for a serious gamer.

Battery and display tests

We test the battery life of laptops by playing a locally stored 720p video file (the open source Blender movie Tears of steelTears of Steel) with 50% screen brightness and 100% audio volume. We make sure the battery is fully charged before testing, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlight turned off.

We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its Windows software to measure the color saturation of a laptop screen – what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color ranges or palettes the screen can display – and its 50% and its peak brightness in nits (candelas per square meter).

The VAIO’s battery life is satisfactory – it’ll get you through a full day of work or school – but it has less battery life than other laptops here, finishing seven hours short of the leader in the. Lenovo category. Likewise, its display’s brightness and color fidelity are acceptable but nothing out of the ordinary, with the HP Aero’s display leading the pack.

VAIO SX14 (2021) right angle

Not bad, but you can do better

The SX14 plays in an incredibly competitive league – lightweight 14-inch laptops are the backbone of business computing and also attract power consumers – and it has several good points, but not enough to stand out. The lower price offered during our review is a good sign, but we would still lean towards one of the VAIO rivals from Lenovo, HP, or Dell, specifically the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9.


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