It's not hard to be impressed with Sony's notebook style, as the machines are as innovative as they are good looking. Except for the budget notebooks, which have tended to be a little too basic for our liking.
However, the Sony VAIO VGN-NR11S has certainly changed this perspective, as it's a great all-round notebook for anyone looking for a mix of style and performance.
The first thing you'll notice about this machine is the style and the use of materials. As with all budget notebooks, it's a plastic case but Sony has given it a ribbed effect that makes it far more appealing.
The design is understated and simple but it still packs a style of its own. The corners have been rounded off, so it slips into your backpack easier. It also makes it less prone to damage should you drop it.
Open the lid and you'll find what has to be Sony's best entry-level keyboard ever. Well-spaced, the keys sit squarely in the centre of the chassis and offer plenty of space for even the biggest of fingers.
Above the keyboard is a button with AV Mode written on it, which when pressed launches a Linux kernel for watching DVDs, so you don't need to boot in to Windows to use the notebook for multimedia tasks.
With an overall weight of 2.9kg, you won't want to carry this machine around all day as it's simply too bulky. However, the option is there as we found we could regularly get 4 hours from the standard battery pack.
What makes this impressive is the use of Windows Vista Home Premium, which isn't exactly designed with mobile use in mind, as well as a fairly powerful specification.
Powered by the Intel Core 2 Duo T5250, this 1.5GHz chip is an adequate entry-level chip and backed with 2048MB of memory, is more than quick enough for running every day tasks. However, at this price we would have expected something a little faster. The 200GB hard drive is impressive, as it means you can hold large amounts of media files without having to resort to copying them to disc using the built-in DVD rewriter.
Where this machine excels is in the main features. So, while the 15.4-inch Super-TFT panel is nothing special, the quality of the panel certainly is. Brighter than most screens of this size, we found it ideal for movies, as there was a fair degree of contrast as well as sharp colours.
It would have been nice to be able to play games on this machine as the screen and keyboard offer great quality. Sadly, the graphics are the integrated Intel GMA X3100, which is fine for movies and spreadsheets but not for anything too advanced.
In every day use, we found the Sony VAIO VGN-NR11S to be a highly pleasing machine to use.
The screen is excellent, as is the keyboard and if you can live with the less than cutting-edge processor and graphics this is a great notebook for the home.