The commodification of notebooks is pushing vendors to find ways to give them a design x-factor. Here, Sony has given its Vaio Z series a ‘Gothic’ makeover by etching an Arabesque pattern into the lid.
The etchings provide a classy and novel look, though Vaio portables, including the non-etched Z series models released in mid-2008, always look chic anyway. This arty ‘Gothic’ revamp is unlikely to be the deciding factor for business users tossing up whether to buy.
However, the performance/portability balance, along with the display, battery life and connectivity options are likely to sell them on this model. However, at $4699 this Vaio Z’s price is as premium as its features. The laptop’s high-end pitch is also reflected in the fact it’s only available at Sony Style stores here.
Although not as thin and light as some competitors, such as the MacBook Air, this 13.3 inch is still truly portable at just under one and a half kilos with the battery in, and with dimensions of 310 x 210mm and 33mm at its thickest point.
Sony has packed a lot into the carbon-fibre body, which is designed for durability on the road.
It runs on a full dual core processor (Intel’s 2.66GHz Centrino P9600), rather than the lower-powered chips found in many ultra-portables.
Adding to the performance punch are dual graphics processors – nVidia’s GeForce 9300M for use in Speed mode (netting more graphics grunt), and Intel’s 4500MHD media accelerator for use in Stamina mode (to conserve battery power). These are controlled via a convenient switch on the hinge.
Running Vista Business with service pack one, the Gothic Vaio Z offers 4GB of DDR3 RAM in two slots and a 320GB hard drive.
The LCD display is bright and clear with strong colour and contrast, and the resolution of up to 1600 x 900 with 16:9 aspect ratio makes it great for watching high-def movies. (There’s an HDMI port for connection to HD televisions.) The other resolution option is 1366 x 768.
The optional Blu-Ray drive (available on the VGNZ37GD configuration) can play and record in full HD. Our review unit was the VGN-Z36GD, which offers a standard +/-RW/+/-R drive.
The keyboard borrows heavily on the MacBook feel, with the well-spaced keys pitched higher than on many notebooks. The keys sit on brushed aluminium, which is darker than that of the Air. Typing on this unit is comfortable and quiet. The thin lid has considerable flex.
Road warriors won’t be let down by the array of ports and jacks. Internet connection is possible via modem, wi-fi (with 802.11a/b/g and n all supported) and Ethernet. Bluetooth enables connection to peripherals or a cellphone.
In addition, there are two USB ports, a VGA port, stereo headphone and microphone jack, a docking station connector and a card slot supporting SD and Memory Stick formats.
The built-in 640 x 480 resolution webcam is accompanied by the proprietary Webcam Companion software.
Other software includes Vaio multimedia applications, Vaio Recovery Centre, Presentation Support and Data Restore Tool, along with Adobe Premiere Elements, trial versions of Microsoft Office and McAfee SecurityCentre and Picture Motion Browser.
For security, there’s a fingerprint reader and trusted platform module.
The supplied Lithium-ion battery is rated for up to five hours use and was more than adequate for playing a DVD without mains power.
Overall, this is a powerful and classy portable. Though the slightly bulkier form factor and high price are the the trade-offs.