macworld 2008
Sony VAIO TZ

MacBook Air, Sony VAIO TZ150 feature comparison

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So while getting set to unveil the new MacBook Air, Steve-o made a rough comparison to the Sony VAIO TZ series of notebook computers. Let’s take a look at the cheapest model, the VGN-TZ150N/B and see how it and the new MacBook Air really stack up.

Thinness: MacBook Air

It’s true, the MacBook Air has the Sony VAIO beat handily. At it’s thickest, the Air is 0.76-inches. The Sony is 1.17-inches thick.

Weight: Sony VAIO

The VAIO weighs in at 2.7-pounds versus the MacBook Air’s 3-pound weight. In the portability game, every ounce counts. It’ll be interesting to see if the MacBook Air “feels” lighter since it’s so thin.

Processor: MacBook Air

Both have Intel Core 2 Duo processors. The MacBook Air’s runs at 1.6GHz with 4MB of L2 cache and an 800MHz frontside bus, standard, while the Sony’s runs at 1.06GHz with 2MB of L2 cache and a 533MHz frontside bus.

Price: MacBook Air

Sony’s site has the VAIO listed at $2099 but you can currently get it at Best Buy for $1849. The MacBook Air is $1799.

RAM: MacBook Air

Apple’s comes with 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM. Sony’s comes with 1GB of 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM.

Hard Drive: Sony VAIO

Sony’s got 100GB standard as opposed to the MacBook Air’s 80GB drive. Both are 4200-rpm PATA drives.

Screen: MacBook Air, unless you’re really into total pixel count

As far as inches are concerned, the MacBook wins here. It’s got a 13.3-inch screen versus the VAIO’s 11.1-inch screen. The VAIO has a slightly higher total resolution, though, if that’s what you’re into. It’s 1366×768 versus Apple’s 1280×800. Both screens are LED-backlit.

Graphics: Toss up, too early to tell

Sony’s got the older Intel GMA 950 but it’s running 224MB of total shareable memory. Apple’s got the newer Intel GMA X3100 but it’s running only 144MB of total shareable memory. This would really come down to the specific programs you’re running. The Mac’s got more total system RAM and a faster overall processor but the Sony’s got more video RAM allocated to less system RAM. My inclination is to say that the MacBook would perform better but it’s hard to tell yet.

Connectivity: Sony VAIO

The MacBook Air has wireless and Bluetooth. The VAIO has wireless, Bluetooth, Sprint EVDO, Gigabit Ethernet, and even a modem if you still remember how those work.

Battery, Battery Life: Sony VAIO

Sony goes from 4.5 to 7 hours and there’s an extended-life battery that you can buy. Both are user-replaceable. The MacBook tops out at 5 hours and isn’t user-replaceable. Ouch.

Keyboard and Mouse: Probably MacBook Air

Without trying the MacBook Air’s keyboard, I can tell you that if it’s anything close to full size, as Jobsy says it is, it’s got the Sony beat. The keyboard on the VAIO is tiny. The raised keys help a little but, hey, Apple’s got that too and its keys are bigger. Plus, add in the multi-touch gesture thing from the MacBook’s trackpad, and we have a winner. I used to have an older MacBook and the thing I miss most is the multi-touch.

Extras and Intangibles: You decide

Sony’s notebook comes with a built-in DVD writer. The MacBook has no internal optical drive but it does have that cool iffy, new Remote Drive feature. The Sony comes with Windows Vista Business (I’m running it on a Sony VAIO SZ series notebook and it’s been finicky at best) and the MacBook Air comes with OS X. The Sony comes with an integrated fingerprint reader (which I’ve found way more useful than I thought I would), while the MacBook comes with both DVI and VGA connection options (the Sony only does VGA).

Conclusion

The VAIO, as an ultraportable machine with long battery life, is impressive. Plus the connection options, especially the built-in Sprint connection, are great. The integrated DVD drive is a plus, too. Also, if you’ve ever seen the Sony in person (or if you own one), you know how tiny it is. That can be a good or bad thing depending on what you’re looking for. If you’ve got huge fingers, it’s not so good.

The MacBook Air, on the other hand, will be an impressively portable, basically-full-size computer. It won’t feel small and tiny like the VAIO but it likely won’t weigh you down much either. Plus, most of the stuff I’ve read from the VAIO’s users has been that the VAIO TZ series is slow and underpowered. The MacBook has it pretty well beaten in the speed department.

Of course, the ultimate decision is up to you and none of us have actually used the MacBook yet so we can reserve final judgment for a later day. But if you took notice during the recent keynote when Jobs compared the two and wondered what a more thorough comparison might look like, hopefully this has helped a bit.

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