Core Duo notebooks are coming thick and fast, one of the latest being the Vaio VGN-SZ1M/B from Sony. The Vaio SZ series sits neatly between the tiny TX series and the larger FJ series and is ideal for those people who think the TX series laptops are just too small for them.
Weighing in at a respectable 1.9kg – even with its 13.3-inch, 1,280 by 800 pixel resolution, WXGA display – the Vaio VGN-SZ1M/B represents a great balance between portability, performance and battery life, with the added benefit of that large screen.
Sony labels the Vaio VGN-SZ1M/B as the consumer model of the SZ range, but nothing is lacking in the build quality, with a magnesium alloy chassis and lid and a brushed aluminium wrist rest.
Powering the Vaio VGN-SZ1M/B is a T2300 Intel Core Duo rated at 1.66GHz, backed by 512MB of PC2-4200 DDR2 memory, but if you need more memory there is a spare slot which is easy to get at. Even with the standard 512MB it gives a very decent SYSmark04SE score of 175.
As with some other notebooks doing the rounds, the Vaio VGN-SZ1M/B has switchable graphics. A sliding switch located above the keyboard allows you to alternate between the integrated Intel GMA950 graphics with battery conservation in mind and, if you’re in the mind to start playing games, to the Nvidia GeForce GO 7400 chipset.
Unfortunately you can’t do this on the fly; you have to reboot each time, but at least Sony provides a light to let you know which graphics sub-system you are using. The difference between the two can be seen from the 3DMark05 scores; the GMA950 produces a measly 432 while the GO 7400 reaches 1,825: not stunning, but enough to play newer games if you turn all the detail tweaks off.
Battery life is pretty good too; 210 minutes when tested with MobileMark05′s Productivity suite and 170 minutes of life under the DVD Playback test. For storage there is an 80GB hard drive and to help offload data as backups there is a built-in, dual layer DVD burner. You also get a 7-in-1 card reader and single PC and Express card slots for good measure.
To keep the price down there is no Bluetooth, but you do get 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, 10/100Mbps Ethernet and a V.92 modem, so contacting the outside world with the Vaio VGN-SZ1M poses few problems.
The small size of this laptop limits the number of ports available; just two USB 2.0 and a mini FireWire, with no S-Video or DVI ports. If you want more then there is an optional docking station (£135 plus VAT).
As with all Vaio laptops there is a huge bundle of software and utilities included on the Vaio VGN-SZ1M/B, but the warranty is a bit mean at just one year.
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