First look: Sony VAIO Z-Series

Sony VAIO Z-Series

First look: Sony VAIO Z-Series

The Z-Series sits near the top of Sony’s VAIO range, aiming to attract executives who want to cut a dash in the boardroom.

And it certainly does make for a fine figure of a laptop. Weighing just under 1.5kg – thanks in part to a carbon fibre chassis – it measures a mere 33mm tall.

The screen is more interesting than most too. As with other slimline VAIOs, it uses an LED display, but Sony makes full use of the 13.1in display to squeeze in a full 1,600 x 900 resolution.

Another nice touch is that Sony reduces the amount of reflection by adding an extra coating. Certainly in the hall where I was grappling with the laptop, reflections were noticeably reduced.

Close-up of Sony Z-Series keyboard and Stamina button

Below the display you’ll find a small button: shift it left and the Z11 heads into Stamina mode; shift it right and it goes into Speed mode. This isn’t a new feature – we’ve seen it before in the SZ series – but it is useful if you need to eke out extra minutes.

The Sony representative I spoke to reckoned you can get an extra 45 minutes of life by switching to Stamina – which lowers general power requirements and also switches from the Nvidia graphics chip to an Intel option – but we’ll put those claims to the test when we get the laptop for full testing.

Most UK models will also include an embedded 3G modem, with support for HSDPA naturally. You get a 30-day trial of T-Mobile’s Web’n’Walk in the box, and can either choose to continue with this after the trial or slip in your own choice of SIM.

As with most of the new VAIO models, the Z-Series also uses the “isolation” keyboard, referring to the fact the keys have a large amount of space around them. We prefer to think of this style as a Scrabble keyboard, for obvious reasons.

To me, a slightly haphazard touch typist, it’s a mixed success. It didn’t slow me down, and the keys felt nice to the touch, but I breathed a sigh of relief when I returned to my ThinkPad’s keyboard.

That said, I can see the argument that those with longer fingernails will get on much better with an isolated keyboard than a conventional choice.

Impressively for such a small laptop, the Z-Series packs in a powerful dual-core processor: the bottom of the range (Z11MN/B) uses a 2.26GHz Intel P8400, the top of the range (Z11VN/B) a 2.53GHz P9500. Add 4GB of RAM as standard and you’ve got something of a powerhouse.

vaio-docking-station-150x150As such, the Z11 should easily cope with even demanding applications, and Sony offers a fully featured docking station so you just need to drop the VAIO into place when at work.

As the price reveals, this is a laptop for top executives rather than for mass roll-out: the VGN-Z11VN/B will cost £1,489, the Z11WN/B £1,404 and the Z11MN/B £1,234 (all exc VAT).

But it looks to be an excellent laptop that may well justify its asking price. We’ll get one in to the PC Pro Labs for proper testing soon.

The specs:

Sony VAIO VGN-Z11VN/B: £1,489 exc VAT

  • 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 P9500
  • 4GB RAM
  • 320GB hard disk
  • 13.1in 1,600 x 900 TFT
  • Dual Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS/Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics
  • Dual-layer DVD writer
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 802.11abg+draft n WLAN
  • Embedded 3G WAN
  • 314 x 210 x 33mm (WDH)
  • 1.499kg
  • 3yr C&R warranty
  • Windows Vista Business

Sony VAIO VGN-Z11WN/B: £1,404 exc VAT

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 P8600
  • 4GB RAM
  • 250GB hard disk
  • 13.1in 1,600 x 900 TFT
  • Dual Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS/Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics
  • Dual-layer DVD writer
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 802.11abg+draft n WLAN
  • Embedded 3G WAN
  • 314 x 210 x 33mm (WDH)
  • 1.499kg
  • 3yr C&R warranty
  • Windows Vista Business

Sony VAIO VGN-Z11MN/B: £1,234 exc VAT

  • 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 P8400
  • 4GB RAM
  • 200GB hard disk
  • 13.1in 1,600 x 900 TFT
  • Dual Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS/Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics
  • Dual-layer DVD writer
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 802.11abg+draft n WLAN
  • 314 x 210 x 33mm (WDH)
  • 1.499kg
  • 3yr C&R warranty
  • Windows Vista Business

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