Home > Samsung > VAIO SX14 (2021) Review

VAIO SX14 (2021) Review

It doesn't have the old-school VGA port of the 2019 model, but the latest VAIO SX14 (starts at $1,249; $1,949 as tested) has ample connectivity for an ultraportable laptop. It also crams plenty of performance and versatility into a 2.54-pound package, making it worth a look from anyone in the market for a 14-inch slimline. The VAIO SX14 is nevertheless a bit pricey and falls shy of 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 premium-priced ultralight VAIO Z, crafted 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 full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) non-touch display.

Photo: Molly Flores

For $1,949 (VAIO put it on sale for $1,699 during my testing), our test unit stepped up to a quad-core, 2.9GHz (5.0GHz turbo) Core i7-1195G7 chip and an IPS touch screen with the same 1080p resolution, along with 16GB of memory and a 512GB solid-state drive. It's available in Fine White or Urban Bronze, as well as our system's black brushed aluminum with carbon fiber lid. A $2,499 "kachi-iro" (royal blue with gold trim) flagship model has 32GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD.

Our Experts Have Tested 132 Products in the Laptops Category in the Past YearSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (See how we test.)

No 4K or other high-res display is available (that's reserved for the VAIO Z). Windows 11 Pro, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth are standard. The notebook has passed MIL-STD 810H torture tests for shock and vibration, but there's an unnerving amount of flex if you grasp the screen corners or press the keyboard deck.

Similar Products


Dell XPS 13 OLED (9310)

$1,587.59See Itat DellRead Our Dell XPS 13 OLED (9310) Review 4.5Outstanding

Apple MacBook Air (M1, Late 2020)

$949.00See It at AmazonRead Our Apple MacBook Air (M1, Late 2020) Review 4.5Outstanding

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021)

$1,987.99See Itat AmazonRead Our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) Review 4.5Outstanding

Razer Book 13

$1,380.00See Itat AmazonRead Our Razer Book 13 Review 4.0Excellent

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

$1,487.40See Itat LenovoRead Our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Review4.0Excellent

LG Gram 17 (2021)

$1,598.00See Itat Amazon Read Our LG Gram 17 (2021) Review 4.0Excellent

MSI Modern 14

$427.44See Itat AmazonRead Our MSI Modern 14 Review 4.0Excellent

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon

$999.99See Itat AmazonRead Our Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon Review 4.0Excellent

Asus Chromebook CX9

$749.99See Itat AsusRead Our Asus Chromebook CX9 Review4.0Excellent

Asus ZenBook 13 (UM325)

$899.99See Itat AsusRead Our Asus ZenBook 13 (UM325) Review 4.0Excellent

Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 2

$816.99See Itat AmazonRead Our Lenovo ThinkBook 13s Gen 2 Review 4.0Excellent

Lenovo Yoga 6 (13-Inch)

$949.99See Itat Best BuyRead Our Lenovo Yoga 6 (13-Inch) Review 4.0Excellent

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

$689.00See It at AmazonRead Our Microsoft Surface Laptop Go Review(Photo: Molly Flores)

The SX14 measures 0.7 by 12.6 by 8.8 inches, just a hair bigger than the Dell Latitude 7420 (0.68 by 12.7 by 8.2 inches). At 2.54 pounds, the VAIO weighs about the same as the HP EliteBook 840 Aero G8 or ThinkPad X1 Carbon and a fraction less than the Latitude. It's not the lightest 14-inch laptop, however; the Asus ExpertBook B9450CEA is only 2.2 pounds.

VAIO SX14 (2021) Review

Some ultraportables (looking at you, Dell XPS 13) give you only USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, necessitating 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).

(Photo: Molly Flores)

There's also an audio jack and a security lock slot, both on the left. We might quibble that the wireless networking is Wi-Fi 6 rather than Wi-Fi 6E, but otherwise the SX14's connectivity is fine, though several competitors top it with an SD or microSD card slot, or LTE mobile broadband for use away from Wi-Fi.

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Nice, But Not Extraordinary, Features

While it can't match its rivals' offerings of 4K resolution, the VAIO's 1080p touch screen is attractive, with adequate brightness and good contrast. White backgrounds are crisp white, helped by the ability to tilt the screen back as far as you like—all the way to flat, even, where pressing Fn+2 flips the image upside down for viewing by someone on the far side of your desk. Viewing angles are wide, and colors are well saturated, though they don't pop vividly. (More on the formal screen testing below.)

The bezels on either side of the screen are thin, though the top and bottom bezels are quite fat—in fact, the bottom bezel and back of the display lid protrude down when opened to prop the keyboard at a comfortable typing angle, similar to how the ErgoLift hinge works on some Asus ZenBook laptops. The bezel is deepened by two tiny nubbins or feet, which are noticeable when you have the system in your lap.

(Photo: Molly Flores)

The backlit keyboard has a shallow, plasticky typing feel. The top-row keys (including Escape and Delete) and the cursor arrows are tiny, and you must pair the latter with the Fn key in the absence of dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys. The touchpad glides and taps smoothly but doesn't click—instead, there are two narrow mouse buttons, which make a quiet click with just the right amount of pressure.

The webcam has a sliding privacy shutter and shoots 1080p video instead of the usual, minimal 720p resolution on competing laptops. Its images are reasonably well-lit and colorful but plagued by noise or static. The camera has face recognition technology for Windows Hello logins, and supplied VAIO Control Center software lets you use it as a proximity sensor. The cam can lock the system if you walk away and wake it on your return.

(Photo: Molly Flores)

There's another Windows Hello option in the form of a fingerprint reader integrated with the power button, but the latter is so small it was difficult to train it to recognize my fingerprint. VAIO Control Center also provides microphone and speaker noise cancellation and lets you set silent, normal, or performance operating modes for the CPU and cooling fan. I noted a frequent, noisy hiss in the performance mode I used for our benchmark tests.

Speaker slits on the front edge produce some of the worst sound I've heard from a laptop, hollow and harsh with a flat, echoing effect. Our test unit also comes with an AAAA-battery-powered stylus pen, which VAIO sells separately for an exorbitant $119. It's adequate for basic doodles, though digital artists might find it lacking.

Testing the VAIO SX14: The Core i7-1195G7 Takes the Lead

For our benchmark charts, I compared the VAIO SX14 to four other 14-inch laptops with Intel 11th Generation Core i7 CPUs: the Acer Swift 3X and the above-mentioned Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9, Dell Latitude 7420, and HP EliteBook 840 Aero G8. All rely on Intel's Iris Xe integrated graphics except 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

The main benchmark of UL's PCMark 10 simulates a variety of real-world productivity and content-creation workflows to measure overall performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, web browsing, and videoconferencing. We also run PCMark 10's Full System Drive test to assess the load time and throughput of a laptop's storage.

Three further benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to rate a PC's suitability for processor-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 apps ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p resolution (lower times are better).

Our final productivity test is workstation maker Puget Systems' PugetBench for Photoshop, which uses the Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe's famous image editor to rate a PC's performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It's an automated extension that executes a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks ranging from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.

All five laptops offer more than enough performance for Microsoft Office or Google Workspace sessions (we consider a 4,000-point score in PCMark 10 to indicate ample productivity). The SX14 also shone in our CPU tests, its Core i7 showing more clout than its siblings, and its PCI Express Gen 4 SSD led the way in the PCMark storage benchmark as well.

Graphics Tests

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

We also run two tests from the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which stresses both low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering. The 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase tests, 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's Core i7-1195G7 set the pace in these tests, too, though the results are slightly misleading—integrated graphics basically favor casual gaming rather than the fast-twitch titles playable on gaming laptops with discrete GPUs (the Iris Xe Max doesn't really count). Neither the SX14 nor any of its peers will ever be mistaken for a serious gamer.

Battery and Display Tests

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

We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its Windows software to measure a laptop screen's color saturation—what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes the display can show—and its 50% and 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 in reserve than the other laptops here, finishing seven hours short of the class-leading Lenovo. Similarly, its screen's brightness and color fidelity is acceptable but nothing to brag about, with the HP Aero's display at the head of the pack.

(Photo: Molly Flores)

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 attract power-user consumers as well—and it has several good points, but not enough to stand out. The price cut offered during our review is a good sign, but we'd still lean toward one of the VAIO's rivals from Lenovo, HP, or Dell—especially the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9.

VAIO SX14 (2021)

3.0See It$1,249.00 at VAIOStarts at $1,249.00


View More


View More

The Bottom Line

The VAIO SX14 is a bit overpriced and under-equipped to rival the finest 14-inch thin and light laptops.

Like What You're Reading?

Sign up forLab Report to get the latest reviews and top product advice delivered right to your inbox.


This newsletter may contain advertising, deals, or affiliate links. Subscribing to a newsletter indicates your consent to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe from the newsletters at any time.

Thanks for signing up!

Your subscription has been confirmed. Keep an eye on your inbox!

Prev: Global Rugged Notebook Market Demand, Sales Volume, Patents & Production Supply : Getac, Panasonic, Lenovo, EVOC, API Technologies, Trimble, Durabook, Amrel, Kontron, Toshiba

Next: Top 5 Best Chinese Smartphones for Under $300 – October 2021