On the right and above the keyboard (even going beyond it a little) there is a group of multimedia buttons that includes (from right to left):
- Two buttons to switch between TV channels
- REC button to record TV programs
- Play/Pause button
- Button to stop playing a multimedia file or recording a TV program (to continue, press this button once again)
- Previous Track
- Next Track
- Button to start up the AV Mode Launcher (this button can be reprogrammed using the AV Mode Button Settings utility)
A few more multimedia buttons are located on the left of the keyboard along with the first group of system indicators. These are:
- Num Lock indicator
- Caps Lock indicator
- Scroll Lock indicator
- S1/S2 buttons (by default, the S1 button launches the VAIO Help and Support Center and the S2 button enables/disables the audio filtering feature in the SonicStage Mastering Studio; these buttons can be assigned other functions in the VAIO Control Center)
- Volume Up/Down buttons
- Disc eject button (if this button doesn’t work, you can use the eject button on the drive itself)
- Mute button with an integrated indicator
These multimedia buttons are only useful when you’re sitting close to the notebook, though. But the VAIO VGN-AR11SR is based on Intel’s Viiv platform, which includes all the components of the Napa platform plus Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition and a remote control. It means you can use the latter to control the notebook’s multimedia functions remotely.
The VAIO VGN-AR11SR has an 86-key black keyboard. The movement keys are on the same level with the keyboard’s baseline, so there’s a higher risk of your pressing them accidentally. Moreover, Shift and End buttons are placed right above the arrow keys. The Fn button is located in the bottom left corner, conveniently for people who are used to shortcuts like Ctrl+C or Ctrl+V because Fn is unlikely to be pressed unintentionally instead of Ctrl. Numeric buttons and two special Windows keys are available: the Context Menu key is in the bottom row on the right of the spacebar; the Windows key is in the same row, but on the left of the spacebar. The functional keys are smaller than others; Home, PgUp, PgDn and End make up a vertical column on the right. Num Lock, Print Screen, Insert and Delete are placed in the same line with the functional keys (press them in combination with Fn to access their additional functions). The keyboard is overall a pleasure to use, but Sony’s engineers might have made it a little larger.
Halfway between the notebook’s right edge and the Home button, all alone, there is a round button you should press to turn the computer on.
A second group of system indicators is located on the right of the notebook’s front panel. It remains visible irrespective of the position of the lid and includes (from right to left):
- Power indicator (alight when the notebook is turned on; blinking in Standby mode; off when the notebook is in Sleep mode or turned off)
- Battery indicator (alight when the notebook works on its battery; blinking when the battery charge is low; blinking in series of two flashes when the battery is being recharged)
- HDD indicator (shows that the hard drive is being accessed)
- Memory Stick Pro/Duo indicator (alight when the Memory Stick card is being accessed for reading or writing)
The notebook’s touchpad is designed in a rather unusual way; it doesn’t have a bezel. The touch-sensitive panel is rather small and sunken a little below the keyboard level. It blends into the surrounding surface with its color. The two touchpad buttons are placed on the chrome-plated molding, not quite conveniently because there’s a rather big distance between them and the sensitive area. It seems that the manufacturer supposed that the user would rather work with an external mouse than with the touchpad. There is no scrolling zone or scrolling joystick here.
The Sony VAIO VGN-AR11SR is positioned as a multimedia station, so it offers an abundance of ports and connectors. They are all placed properly around the case so that you could use them with maximum comfort.
On the right side of the notebook’s front panel there is a group of card-readers, switches and indicators (from left to right):
- Lid lock
- IR-receiver (to control the notebook and navigate in multimedia applications remotely)
- Single-channel integrated microphone
- SD memory card indicator (alight when the SD card is being accessed for reading or writing)
- Memory Stick Pro/Duo slot
- Secure Digital and MultiMediaCard slot
- Wireless switch
- WLAN indicator (alight when the wireless connection is active)
- Bluetooth indicator (alight when the Wireless switch is On and the Bluetooth interface is active)