Sony’s Vaio Z series is not for the faint hearted. Even the least expensive notebook in the range will set you back £1,399 inc. VAT and if you want the top notch specifications you are able to spend well over £2,000. Which is an awful lot of money for a laptop, whatever it happens to be capable of.
But put the money out of your mind and the Z series Vaio is a very desirable notebook. I was sent the Z11WN/B variant which runs an Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 and has 4GB of RAM. Wi-Fi supports a, b, g and Draft N, Bluetooth and Ethernet are here and there is support for HSDPA data communications. A 30-day trial of T-Mobile’s service is included.
There is a webcam built in so you can make those all important video calls easily, and a 250GB hard drive is on board. There’s room in the small chassis for a DVD +/- RW drive. The notebook runs Windows Vista Business with an install CD for XP Professional should you prefer that.
None of this is what really grabs you about this notebook, though. The crucial factors are its size, the keyboard and the screen.
This is a small notebook at just 210mm x 314mm x 33mm and it weighs 1.5kg. It is no problem to carry around at all. The carbon fibre in the chassis makes it strong while helping to keep it light.
The keyboard is what Sony calls an ‘isolation keyboard’. In Mac style, individual keys are raised through the aluminium backplate and are well separated from each other. This looks distinctive and there’s no negative effect on key action. But the keys are a little further apart than usual, so the design won’t be to everyone’s taste and some people may never get the hang of typing at speed.
Where this notebook really wins out, though, is the screen. It measures 13.1 inches on the diagonal and offers 1600 x 900 pixels, giving a 16:9 aspect ration that lets you easily open two or even at a pinch three documents at once, and view movies in the right aspect ratio too.
The finish is semi-reflective making it clear and sharp without being too much of a mirror when there is a light source behind it. The screen dimensions and quality are what is going to make you want this notebook.
Graphics are handled by an Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS chipset with 256MB of dedicated video memory. You can switch this off if you like using a button above the keyboard area. Doing so reverts to Intel’s integrated graphics chipset and conserves battery power.
It is unfortunate that there are only 2 USB ports, but other than that the range of ports and connectors is reasonable. There is a hardware switch for the wireless LAN along with two stacked flash card readers; one for Memory Stick formats and the other for SD and compatible formats. There are also microphone and headphones jacks, a Firewire ExpressCard slot, HDMI port and VGA out port.
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