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Sony Vaio Z (13.1" laptop) impressions

Posted On: Thu, 11/12/2008 - 06:21 by Alex

First of all - It's generally somewhat overpriced. It's arguable that this is not so true in the US, because of the rebate running until the end of December and especially if you spec out the system more moderately, but the "high-end" options are expensive.

So, anyhow - the laptop has the following specifications (annotated - performance comments later on based on "my" config):
13.1" LED, half-glossy. 100% NTSC gamut screen.
1366*768 or 1600*900 (my) resolution
up to 4 GB DDR3 (my)
up to 320GB 7200rpm HDD (my) alternatively SSD: Sony ships dual Samsung 64GB SLC drives in raid or Samsung 128GB MLC drive, the intel X25-m is an option if you buy from certain authorised resellers
blu ray burner (my) or DVD burner
HDMI port
VGA port
FW 400 (no power) port
Switchable graphics - 4500 or 9300 GS 128/256MB (follows screen res)
alps trackpad
no trackpoint
no dedicated home/end/pageup, down (accessed via fn)
"carbon fibre" body (solid plastic, IMO), aluminium keyboard surface
gigabit ethernet
memory stick reader
sd reader
wireless on/off switch
fingerprint reader
640*480 video
built-in mic (apparently there's a "woosh" sound occasionally, audiable to other party in a skype call)
bundled with adobe elements
dock support
1.5KG with 3-4 hour battery (doesn't stick out).


So - in the 12/13" non-glossy, dock supporting laptop space, there are two classes of laptops. Slow (generally - less than 2Ghz C2D's) and fast (faster than 2GHz C2D's, 2.5" hard disk supported).

In the fast category, there are only: lenovo X200, dell e4300, Sony Z.

I bought the Z because it wasn't (my subjective opinion) butt-ugly (x200) and didn't have awful user reviews (dell e4300 - see notebookreview.com). The e4300 also wasn't selected because it was heavier (1.8kg), with a stick-out (ugly) battery, not a very contrasty display, lousy (supposedly) keyboard feel.

Having said that, the Z has its share of compliants:
1. blu ray drive doesn't burn DL DVD (true)
2. fan is always on (true - i find it irrelevant because even in the quietest environments it doesn't disturb me. Having said that, I use it for office stuff. Not gaming).
3. squeaky keys/double type (hasn't happened to mine)
4. screen resolution too high (pfft. I loves it)
5. expensive (true)

So - because I really hardly do anything taxing on a day to day basis (the most is photoshop elements, which handily comes with it) my general impression is that the machine is extremely fast.

In particular, it's extremely responsive in day to day use, and seems (subjectively) to be as fast as my XP desktop (C2D oc'ed to 2.4GHz, 4GB, 8400GS, 500GB 7200), although the boot time (approx 100 seconds to usable desktop, including finger swipe type) is not that fantastic. Compared to my previous laptop (tx1000, X2 1.9GHz, 4GB, 160GB 5400) it's almost blazing.

The laptop feels solid, except that the screen bends when opening closing. However, this bending is not visible in the display (i.e. opening it and looking at the screen there are no ripples) although if i push in the middle I can make ripples. The palmrests don't creak although it is possible to push them down. The (alps) trackpad works well, with vertical/horizontal scroll zones and a nifty top left edge gesture thing (top left to center closes a window, etc.) The screen is amazing. The pixel density is a little high (higher than all desktop lcds) but.. still. Colours appear very saturated, although this may be fake (not calibrated). The half-glossy display is sufficiently un-glossy that I have no qualms working in a sunlit room (I've got a huge floor-length window behind me at work - where I use the machine). It switches on/off almost instantly (LED tech). The keyboard is a joy to use - while it's an "isolated" design, it's got significant key travel and I had no problems adjusting.

I should add that the laptop runs quite cool. The only part whch gets warm (even after 5-6 hours use where the indoor ambient is 28 deg C) is the vent (air is pushed out rather efficiently) - don't block it. It will warm up whatever is just outside. It's very comfortable sitting the laptop on your lap.

Aesthetically, the Z is pleasing - handsome but not all that flashy. I (subjective) think it's alot more attractive with the premium carbon lid ($50 option). The Macbooks are more attractive in stores - the multitude of stickers really does the Z no favours. Better when removed.

The main thing I would have liked is a backlit keyboard ;) Other "missing" things are accidental warranty (although available in the US) and international warranty (almost completely unavailable - perhaps available for the first year, but not as a 3 year warranty).

Large photos listed below.

Let me know if there is anything you'd like to know. ([email protected]).

Proper reviews of the Vaio Z:

Laptop Magazine - plus video
Trusted Reviews
Notebookreview Forums - Vaio Z Owners thread

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