Review: Sony Vaio Z-Series

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Short Version:
The Sony Vaio Z-Series is a thin and light with a mission: to prove that a tiny – but expensive – laptop can run Windows 7 and almost anything you throw at it like a champ.


Features:

  • Intel Core i5 Processor
  • 13-inch screen
  • 3 lbs with battery
  • Chiclet keyboard
  • MSRP: About $1,899 ($2,299 as reviewed)

Pros:

  • Amazingly light
  • Long battery life
  • Optical drive

Cons:

  • Scratch prone lid
  • Smallish keyboard
  • 3 hour DVD playback battery life

When I opened the Sony Z-Series’ plain brown box, my heart fell. “Another ultra-portable,” I thought, “another sad-making thin-and-light without power or verve.” But I fired it up, used it for a solid week, and came out on the other end convinced that Sony still has what it takes to make a nice laptop.

The Good

Generally, this ran everything asked of it. Gaming may be a little iffy but you can edit photos and multi-task with a vengeance. I was able to run all of my workaday tools – Paint.net, multiple editors, Twitter and Yammer, all without slowdown.

The Core i5 processor, at about 2.4GHz, ran surprisingly fast and the NVidia GeForce GT 330M graphics can be turned on and off with a physical switch, namely an odd, three-way Speed/Stamina/Auto switchbut seemed to take all of the guess work out of power control. The system would inform you when it was spinning down hardware and services to save battery, another nice perk.

The Geekbench score of 4370 was quite good especially considering a the average score of laptops with this configuration range in the 3000s to 4000s. Given that the Vaio F Series I reviewed hit 2424, this is nothing to sneeze at.

The laptop includes a backlit keyboard, a webcam, and fingerprint sensor. The keyboard, incidentally, is great and the keys have just a touch of rubberized material on them to make them feel more substantial. I usually flub the first few keystrokes on a new computer but this one, surprisingly, was well designed and allowed for immediate return to the home keys. The touchpad is a mite small but usable.

I was also pleased that the laptop did not overheat even after a full day of use. It’s a testament to the channeling and materials that the Z Series stayed cool even after a full day of work.

The Bad
This thing is pretty expensive. At $1,899 in its base configuration and $2,400 in this configuration, you’re looking at a major investment. However, it’s only 3 pounds and features an optical drive and a nice, bright screen.

We got about 5 hours of battery life in our basic tests but Sony is claiming more like 6-6.5 under some conditions.

I’m a big fan of USB ports and this laptop has three – not ideal, but not horrible, either. A big HDMI port hangs off the left side like an invitation but I’m not sure many out there will ever use it.

This is a premium product at a premium price. If you’re looking for a $999 bargain basement model, you’re out of luck. Sony is aiming at a different consumer and here’s hoping they find them.

Bottom Line
I’m not afraid to say it: This is a really great laptop. It’s light, it’s attractive, and it’s powerful. As a MacTard, I would totally switch to this if need the need arose and, by all reports, the i7 model is even faster. My experience with it as my primary laptop over the past week has been excellent and I’m please to heap encomiums on this laptop without reservation. Finally, a Sony product that makes me happy.

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