Sony SA Series Vs. Macbook Pro 13″

This post is part of program called “Charged and Ready” by Sony Electronics and Microsoft, where a group of college bloggers have been given a Sony VAIO-S series laptop to test and review.

As you may well be aware, I’ve been testing out the Sony SA Series laptop that Sony sent me a few weeks ago. In my last post, I compared the Sony’s battery life with that of my Macbook Pro. Now, let’s take a look at some other comparison factors of these two laptops.

Speakers

I’m pleased to say the speakers are great on both models, though the Macbook Pro puts out slightly better bass. Both can get pretty loud, and both have great clarity (as far as laptop speakers go, anyway).

Screen

The Sony has a better resolution, but the Mac has a better screen. The colors seem a bit more crisp and the viewing angles are better.

Touchpad

Hands down Mac. The glass feels much better, though the Sony smartly avoids the glossy surface many HP models use. The tracking is also much smoother, though the Macbook’s tracking is better than the tracking on EVERY Windows-based laptop, so this isn’t a surprise. Sony was smart and made the trackpad quite large, so you shouldn’t have a problem using it. Still, I had to jack the sensitivity all the way up to get it to the point where I could go from one end of the screen to the other with one gesture. Note: if you get the Sony, or any other Windows-based laptop, I’d recommend that you install the free Synaptics driver, which enables two-finger scrolling that’s almost as good as the Mac’s.

Mouse buttons

The Sony’s mouse buttons are pretty good. They’re not the best ones I’ve ever seen on a laptop, but they’re easy to press down and give a satisfying click. The Mac, on the other hand, doesn’t have mouse buttons – the trackpad itself clicks. When it comes to right clicking, it’s a matter of opinion. On the Mac, if you want to right-click, you either have to Command Click, or you have to touch the pad with one finger and click with the other. I use the second method, and I’ve become so used to it that using an actual right-click button feels awkward. However, the Mac method of right-clicking will be just as awkward to someone who is used to using that right-click button.

Build quality

The Sony is a quality laptop when judged against other Windows-based laptops. While still made of plastic, the body feels solid and sturdy, and the keyboard is chiclet-style like the Mac, which makes for a really nice typing experiences. However, it can’t compare with the Macbook Pro’s aluminum Unibody construction – no Windows-based laptop I’ve come across can (except maybe high-end ThinkPads). Additionally, the lid feels a bit flimsy, and it doesn’t stay in place as well as the Mac’s (or many other laptops, for that matter). It certainly won’t fall down by itself, but you can move it with a light push of the finger. The same push wouldn’t move the Macbook’s lid.

Connections

The Sony wins here. HDMI and USB 3.0 support make this a versatile machine that you can use with TVs and a lot of other peripherals. The Mac lacks HDMI, which kinda sucks. I ended up buying a VGA adapter for mine so I could hook it up to projectors. Apple can say what they want, but Mini DisplayPort is the LAST connection I’d choose for a laptop.

Graphics

Sony all the way here. The low-end SB model comes with a Radeon HD 6470, while the beefed-up SA model comes with a Radeon HD 6630. Both of these cards make mince meat of the Intel HD 3000 integrated GPU that’s included with the Macbook Pro. With my SA, I got to playing Dirt 2 up to 30 frames per second after turning off bloom.

OS support

This really comes down to preference – do you want Windows 7 or OS X? Both have their advantages and disadvantages. However, there are a few things to note here: Macs can easily be set up to dual-boot OS X and Windows 7 by using the included Boot Camp program. Depending on your major, you may be able to buy Windows 7 for a super-low price from your campus bookstore (at ISU, business and engineering majors get it for $10). Check with your bookstore to find out.

Cost

Since most of you reading this are college students, I’ll break down the REAL cost of each of these laptops for you. First, the Sony: You basically have two choices with the Sony models.

  1. The SB model. This is the lower-end model that you can get for $899 at the Sony website. If you order by September 17th, you can get optional sheet battery for free, which is pretty nice.
  2. The SA model. This is the model I have, and it retails for $1,199 on Newegg.

With the Macbook Pro, you get $100 off as a student, the the price comes to $1,099. Additionally, you get $100 to spend at the Mac app store, so if there are apps you’d like to get there, you can factor this promotion into the cost.

At the end of the day, I think the choice between these two laptops comes down to preference. If you’re not looking for stellar graphics performance, the Sony SB might be a good budget choice, especially since you can get the sheet battery for free. If I had to pick, I’d still go with the Macbook Pro, but the Sony comes close.

Thomas Frank is the geek behind College Info Geek. After paying off $14K in student loans before graduating, landing jobs and internships, starting a successful business, and travelling the globe, he's now on a mission to help you build a remarkable college experience as well. Get the Newsletter | Twitter | Instagram

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