Sony VAIO Z Series (2011) review

Price when reviewed

The VAIO Z Series was born of Sony’s desire to build the ultimate notebook. Feather-light yet immensely powerful, it fused ultraportable dimensions to desktop performance and made precious few compromises along the way. Now, Sony’s all-new VAIO Z has arrived, and it’s ready to rewrite the ultraportable rules once again.

Sony VAIO Z Series - rear

Physically, the VAIO Z bears little resemblance to its former self. Sharp, boxy lines are formed from slices of carbon fibre, to create a chassis which measures a mere 17mm thick. It looks positively delicate, and its 1.15kg weight means it feels just as barely-there in the hand. There certainly isn’t the unflinching tautness of the Apple Macbook Air, and the obvious seams and slight give in the carbon sheets don’t exude the tough, go-anywhere air of Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1.

Sony VAIO Z Series - front edge

Achieving such slenderness has required more than just bold aesthetic changes, however. Sony has also done away with two of the VAIO Z’s most notable features, namely the internal optical drive and dedicated graphics.

This is where the novel Power Media Dock steps in. Resembling a simple external optical drive, it crams in an AMD Radeon HD 6650 graphics chipset, and acts as a docking station too. Look to the rear and there’s one USB 2 port, one USB 3 port, a Gigabit Ethernet socket plus D-SUB and HDMI video outputs. Unhook a flap on the dock’s top edge, and you’ll find another USB 2 port for quick attachment of a USB flash drive or similar.

Sony VAIO Z Series - side view of Power Media Dock

It’s an elegant solution. A power supply feeds the Power Media Dock from the mains, but a single connector provides both a data and a power connection to the laptop itself. Sony’s proprietary implementation of Intel’s Light Peak technology (the very same used in the ThunderBolt ports on Apple’s recent MacBook Pro) then jets all the graphical, USB and network data via the VAIO Z’s single USB 3 port. Plug it in, and the laptop’s screen flickers off and on as the AMD chipset takes over from the integrated GPU.


Warranty2yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions330 x 210 x 17mm (WDH)
Travelling weight1.5kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Core i5-2410M
Motherboard chipsetIntel HM67 Express
RAM capacity4.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free0
SODIMM sockets total2

Screen and video

Screen size13.1in
Resolution screen horizontal1,600
Resolution screen vertical900
Resolution1600 x 900
Graphics chipsetIntel HD Graphics 3000 / AMD Radeon HD 6650M
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
HDMI outputs1
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0


Hard disk usable capacity119GB
Spindle speedN/A
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Optical disc technologyExternal DVD writer
Battery capacity4,000mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0


Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a supportyes
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapteryes
Bluetooth supportyes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchyes
Wireless key-combination switchno
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
USB ports (downstream)1
FireWire ports0
PS/2 mouse portno
9-pin serial ports0
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
3.5mm audio jacks1
SD card readeryes
Memory Stick readeryes
MMC (multimedia card) readerno
Smart Media readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readerno
Pointing device typeTouchpad
Audio chipsetRealtek HD Audio
Speaker locationUnderside
Hardware volume control?no
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Camera megapixel rating1.3mp
Fingerprint readeryes
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use7hr 48min
3D performance (crysis) low settings32fps
3D performance settingLow
Overall Real World Benchmark score0.66
Responsiveness score0.82
Media score0.67
Multitasking score0.50

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows 7 Professional 64-bit
OS familyWindows 7
Recovery methodRecovery partition
Software suppliedN/A

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