Sony – VAIO BZ-11MN review

corporate Centrino 2 laptop
Photo of Sony – VAIO BZ-11MN
£561 + VAT

Sony is well known for producing a whole host of stylish VAIO notebooks for home users, but maybe not so well known is its range of business notebooks, the BZ-11MN being the latest. Whereas the consumer VAIOs are generally stylish, the BZ-11MN’s only relief from its austere charcoal grey finish is the reflective silver VAIO logo on the lid.

Looks apart, the BZ-11MN feels solid and well built and its magnesium alloy chassis will help it survive life on the road, but it’s no lightweight at a smidgen under 3kg.

The BZ-11MN is a full-blown Centrino 2 model. Powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 CPU (2.26GHz), it uses Intel’s GM45 / ICH9-M chipset combination and has the cheaper of the two WiFi options, the WiLink 5100. Backing up the processor is 2GB of PC2-6400, 800MHz DDR2 memory which is just about right to keep the installed Vista Business operating system and any standard business application happy, as confirmed by its overall PCMark05 score of 4,245.

All you need to know about the graphics is that they are powered by Intel’s latest GMA X4500HD integrated core, so any thoughts of occasional serious games play should be quietly forgotten. But for its intended business use it’s more than adequate.

The 15.4-inch screen has a 1,280 by 800-pixel native resolution which gives enough desktop real-estate to show two document windows side-by-side, but it’s a shame Sony didn’t go for the 1,440 by 900 resolution found on some 15.4-inch panels. The screen has a matt finish to it which makes it ideal for office or outdoor situations as it doesn’t suffer from too much reflection of ambient light.

The keyboard is well built and the keys feel comfortable in use, while the large trackpad and mouse buttons have the same quality feel about them. The trackpad is precise without being too sensitive and features both horizontal and vertical scrolling functions.

Above the keyboard you’ll find a couple of speakers which are up to the usual tinny standard of notebook speakers, plus a switch to turn the wireless and Bluetooth functions off and on (a good feature that helps extend battery life), a mute button for the speakers and a programmable short-cut button.

At a time when notebook security – or the lack thereof – keeps making the news, the BZ-11MN comes with a couple of security features that should help calm nerves, namely a fingerprint reader and a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) 1.2 unit on the motherboard.

Apart from the 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi networking, there’s also Gigabit Ethernet and a 56kbps modem. To talk to other similarly-equipped devices there is Bluetooth 2.0, while Sony’s VAIO Smart Network software provides a little window to let you know which one of these options is available or connected.

Battery life from the 4,800mAh battery is pretty good. When tested with MobileMark it gave just over two and a half hours of life during the DVD playback test and a shade over three hours for the Productivity test.

Company: Sony

Contact: 020 7365 1585

A no-nonsense, well-built business notebook with a good blend of performance and features, although it would be good if the screen had a higher resolution and the 160GB hard drive wasn't so full of pre-installed software; that may be fine on a home notebook but it's a bit of a waste on a business one.