So I'm looking for a laptop for school. Mostly will be used for programing, some games here and there, and watching HD movies (screen just needs to look clear with HD movies). Can't be heavy because I will be carrying it around all day and i would like decent battery life (at least 4 hours just surfing the internet). Prices are almost identical so I wanted some outside opinions before I spend almost $900 on a laptop.
Part number: 209384U
3rd generation Intel Core i7-3610QM Processor( 2.30GHz 6MB)
14.0" HD Glare with integrated camera 1366x768
NVIDIA GeForce GT640M LE 2GB
1000GB 5400 rpm
8.0GB PC3-12800 DDR3 SDRAM 1600 MHz
weight: Just under 5lbs
3rd gen Intel® Core™ i5-3210M processor (2.50GHz / 3.10GHz with Turbo Boost)
15.5" LED backlit Full HD display (1920 x 1080)
NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 640M LE (1GB) hybrid graphics with Intel® Wireless Display technology
500GB (7200rpm) hard drive
4GB (4GB fixed onboard + 1 open slot) DDR3-1333Mhz
weight: 4.42 lbs
In terms of overall performance the Lenovo Y480 is more powerful because of the quad core CPU. The vast majority of games only use dual core though so they will actually run a little faster on the Sony because the i5-3210m is clocked a little higher.
The Lenovo has faster RAM, however, Intel CPUs do not benefit from faster than standard RAM so it does not provide any performance boost at all. But it does come with 8GB of RAM while the Sony only comes with 4GB of RAM (but w/ a free slot and RAM isn't expensive).
You get 250GB more storage with the Lenovo.
While both laptops have the same graphics card, the Lenovo has 1GB or VRAM. However, having more than 1GB of VRAM makes no difference unless you play games at above 1920x1200 resolution and the nVidia GT 640M LE is too weak to do that. The graphics card is about as powerful as the nVidia GT 550M in my Lenovo Y470.
The one technical spec that the Sony laptop does have over the Lenovo is the 1920x1080 resolution screen. As an owner of a Lenovo Y470 which also has a 1366x768 resolution I can say that it is fine for playing games and watching movies. Watching 1920x1080 movies will result in a small decrease in video quality since the resolution has to be resized to fit a smaller resolution screen. But you will likely not be able to notice unless you are comparing the same movie on a 1920x1080 resolution screen. The one thing that's bad about a 1366x768 screen is the desktop space is small and that can make switching between windows rather annoying from a productivity perspective; like writing a paper and surfing the web to find info to write that paper and switching back and forth between the two.
The Sony's 1920x1080 resolution screen means the desktop is large enough so that you can have a word processor window (like MS Word) and a web browser open at the same time side by side which can make doing research a bit easier. It's also better for programming because you can see more lines of code on the screen. Watching a HD movie means you will be watching at native resolution so there will not even be a small loss in video quality. However, 1920x1080 resolution is a bit too high for a GT 640M LE so you need to lower the resolution to 1366x768 for graphic intensive games, but if you play a non graphic demanding game like the Sims 3, then you can play at full resolution. Diablo 3 isn't that graphically intensive so maybe it's possible to play at 1600x900 resolution. Playing at lower resolution will lower image quality a little bit, but it will be slight.
I will likely buy a new laptop next year after Intel releases their Haswell CPUs because I find that the 1366x768 resolution screen on my Y470 is a bit too restrictive for everyday use. I will get a laptop with either 1600x900 or 1920x1080 resolution. I don't mind lowering the resolution to 1366x768 to play games if I choose to play games.
Thanks for the input jaguarskx, I really appreciate the details. Just one other question. Does the i7 vs i5 really make that much of a difference in anything? I feel like the other hardware would become the limiting factor before the i5 cpu.
Also does anyone have any opinion on the build quality of sony vs lenovo. I definitely want something that will last if taken care of.
Of these two, though, I have to give the recommendation the the Vaio S.
2 reasons: 1920x1080 screen and i5 vs. i7.
I know it seems odd to say that an i5 is an advantage, but to me, a dual core i5 is more than 75% of people need these days. My laptop is a 4 year old Lenovo T400s that's still humming along very nicely on a Core 2 Duo. You're absolutely right in saying that the other hardware limits the i5. The only thing an i7 does for your usage case is decrease the battery life because that quad core is a 35W part vs. 25W for the i5 dual core.
As far as build quality: my brother has had a 15.6" Vaio FW for 3 years now and has had no issues with it. He's been very happy with his purchase. As long as you take care of it, it will treat you well.
Yeah I've mostly owned lenovo laptops and am a bit hesitant to get something else but on paper it just seems like such a nice sony laptop. I'm just a bit worried because it seems a bit flimsy when i looked at it in a store. I guess that's to be expected given the weight. Lets hope it holds up. Thanks for your help guys. It's much appreciated.