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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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Bye! (for now - and thanks for all the clicks!)

Posted On: Sat, 28/07/2007 - 16:34 by Alex

Symplification obviously hasn't been updated for some time, and the way things are going it's likely that they're not going to be.

It's not just the "new" job (and sometimes World of Warcraft, hehehe) - it's also that since that new job started I've been using a blackberry (with an unlimited data plan), and that single device provides basically all of the functionality I need.

For example, I have an N80 - but as it's music playing capabilities were rendered useless by an ipod shuffle (which is about the same size as the adaptor it needed for me to plug proper headphones in - and has much better sound quality through my super.fi 5 pros), the only thing I use it for nowadays is to actually make phone calls. Yeah - not even SMS.

Indeed, assuming you have Gmail App (for email) and the newest version of velvetpuffin (for instant messaging - disclosure, I've acted for the owner of velvetpuffin before) I don't think there's actually any reason to have a smartphone - anything which has data (preferably 3G) and supports those applications will do! So - buying a phone will become something which is almost -completely- about how you feel about the device.

And this is from the perspective of someone who actually uses a smartphone as a smartphone... (which is a whole other reason to think that "smartphones" are a waste).

It is, of course, possible to argue that I've just lost the faith, and it's also perfectly accurate to point out that phones are branching out even more than ever before (GPS, for example) - but unfortunately I suspect that it's all about usability, and the swiss-army knife device is likely to be inferior to the "real deal" (e.g. look how the prices of standalone GPS devices have fallen, and think about how much easier it is to have a nice big screen when being directed; or consider something how the creative zen stone plus manages to have a screen and 2GB in a device basically same size as the shuffle).

So - bye for the moment, and thanks for all your clicks! I'm likely to create some other website soon, because that's kinda fun. Don't know what it'll be about though... hmm. I did recently buy a new camera...

[sorry about that - I was getting too many spam comments - send me email if you have something to say, and I'll update accordingly ^.^]

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iPhone on 11th June - enough time for a Nokia response!

Posted On: Fri, 30/03/2007 - 12:28 by Alex

According to news.com.com (*koff koff horrible url*) the iPhone is going to be announced on the first day of WWDC.


This means that Nokia (and the other usual suspects - Moto, SE, Samsung, etc.) still have more than 2 months left. For Nokia, by their usual standards, this means that if they are going to have a direct iPhone competitor (touchscreen etc.) it has to be announced within the next couple of days.

We don't think the announced yesterday Nokia 5700 (pictured above) is it, although we do admit to liking some of the new styling cues.

Quick! Touchscreen device with symbian, multi-touch (like this!) tech, blackberry connect, 3.5mm plug and the music quality of at least an ipod shuffle, and I'm sold (if I were planning on getting an iPhone, and the multi-touch actually works such that our concerns about painful interfaces are misplaced).

[via Engadget]

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Phat loot from Futuremark/Alienware: and ruminations on copyright and personal information

Posted On: Tue, 12/12/2006 - 06:30 by Alex

Futuremark very kindly let us know that they're currently running a comic strip competition, in conjunction with Alienware.

The prize is a pretty sweet notebook - with a 17" screen and powered by an Intel Core 2 processor (specific processor is not stated) together with an AMD Mobility Radeon X1800. Intel and AMD are working together! (*I keeeeeddd.*) I would love to have one to play WoW on. :D

Anyhow, the contest itself is pretty fun - you basically draw a mini comic strip (on anything) and if it's judged to be the "best/funniest" - then you win! [Strangely - only one entry per person, and not so strangely - you must be in the US/Canada/EU.] Unfortunately, like most contests of this sort, all rights in the contest entries accrue to Futuremark - and a little more unusually, even moral rights (e.g. the right to be identified as the author of the comic) are possibly assigned to Futuremark.

I don't quite know if I agree with this. While the practice is certainly widespread (check it out the terms and conditions the next time you enter any contest which involves you creating copyrightable work), and indeed might make the entire exercise commercially feasible (e.g. free sources of photos!), perhaps taking such a harsh approach isn't the best way. Taken to an extreme, the transfer of your rights means that you can't even display the comic you drew for the contest, because you no longer own the copyright. It's possible to argue that the copyrights were procured for a fee, and indeed if the person was actually compensated (i.e. was a contest winner) perhaps this would be true, but in this case ALL copyrights are assigned once the entry is submitted. Oh well. Just so long as the people drawing the comics are aware of this ;)

The other thing, which is not really as unusual, is that you provide personal information and "opt-in" to receive marketing. My friend, Wil Harris, wrote a little while back that Web 2.0 = loss of privacy. It's probably true, and the question is how much that really is worth. Having to reveal your information in a competition is probably less insidious - and Futuremark at least has a decent privacy policy. Just something else to take note of, generally...

[and I didn't post the previous story!~ must have left some setting changed accidentally. I'll leave it on though, just for fun..]

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Nokia v InterDigital (round 3 - knockout)

Posted On: Fri, 28/04/2006 - 07:08 by Alex

... and Interdigital wins.

Nokia's press release on the issue is rather gung-ho, and quotes a Nokia Vice-President saying that "This case demonstrates that legal disputes are sometimes necessary in order to lower unrealistic demands," but we're not so sure why this is the case.

It might be that InterDigital was asking for much more previously, but the payment of USD 253 million (due today) is almost exactly what two separate tribunals awarded to Interdigital. As previously stated, this is not altogether surprising, as even at that stage two independent third parties had decided in favour of InterDigital.

What's worrying is the bland assertion in Interdigital's press release that "Nokia's sales of 3G products after April 26, 2006 will be unlicensed."

To what extent, and of what nature these licences are is not known (at least to me), but given that 3G is apparently the future, if critical patents are involved this simply bodes well for InterDigital investors.

Nokia's share price seems unaffected; on the NYSE the stock is up 0.31%.

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Nokia v InterDigital (Round 2)

Posted On: Wed, 04/01/2006 - 04:05 by Alex

Three days after christmas, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York decided that InterDigital was due a ~ US $250 million for patent licences.

The most comprehensive coverage seems to be the press release issued by InterDigital - sources such as CNN and The Register have the news, but are light on content. The essentials (apparently undisputed, according to this judgment (PDF) by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on a related matter)... (more)

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Microsoft thinks that Windows Mobile needs to ship in $300 handsets

Posted On: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 16:31 by Alex

DigiTimes reports that Microsoft wants to see Windows Mobile smart-phones on the market for under $300, to boost the company's share of the mobile-device operating system market. ODM handset makers are not optimistic about accomplishing this anytime soon.

The Register also suspects that this will be hard: "The difficulty is the inherent cost of feature-rich phones, and the need to get the sales volumes that will allow the economies of scale necessary to get the price down without sacrificing too many features. Nokia can do it, but it's questionable whether the much smaller Taiwanese firms, with far weaker brand recognition, can do so."

We're not quite sure why Microsoft really cares about the specific figures of their market share. Sure - Nokia has the lead - but the fact that Palm recently chose Windows Mobile rather than Symbian should have helped Microsoft focus a little - upon making Windows Mobile the only choice for all high-end smartphones; trying to increase volumes instead makes it seem as though they want more revenue from the product, (we wonder how much of that $300 dollars is taken up by the windows mobile operating system itself) or that they have self-esteem issues.

Maybe the revenue reason is the correct one, what with the losses from each Xbox 360 sold. They're probably regretting not selling the Xboxes on eBay - or maybe they are, which is why retail shops seem to be dry.

[via All About Symbian]

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del.icio.us joins yahoo - and why tagging is good.

Posted On: Mon, 12/12/2005 - 09:36 by Alex

So - del.icio.us has been bought by Yahoo, (yahoo blog / del.icio.us blog), and everyone has an opinion on tagging.

We'll just reference Stephen Green (who is nice and concise) - Let's say we have a system where people manually assign keywords to documents (tagging) and let's also say that people can run queries against this index of keywords. You can think of such a query as an attempt by the searcher to assign keywords to a document that he or she would like to get in response to the query. The problem is that the person who originally assigned a tag to the document and the searcher who "assigned a tag" to the document are going to be inconsistent, so the searcher won't pick quite the same tag.

This is true. However, it also misses the point. No one ever said that tagging was the answer for search engines (it's clearly not), or that it was superior to keyword searching within documents. However - pictures (what flickr uses tags for) are not documents, and neither are links (what del.icio.us uses tags for).

When considering links and pictures, tagging, and being able to search those tags, is alot more useful than having no tagging. Links and pictures include some metadata, but usually not nearly enough to find a particular one in a pile.

Even if people are internally inconsistent, having the ability to search for a particular photo by inputting something (dimly remembered text) is better than being forced to search by scrolling by date. That's why we think all photo albums should support tags.

Indeed, we think that in the future, certain tags should be added automatically. For pictures, having EXIF data include things like geographical location (by GPS or from cell networks) would be nice.

[Image Credit: Om Malik]

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