Sony VAIO VGN-NR11Z/S review
A well-built budget notebook that's fast and relatively stylish, but there are some signs of compromise.
Review Date: 16 Jan 2008
Reviewed By: Sasha Muller
Price when reviewed: (£594 inc VAT)
Sony's website proudly proclaims that the new NR series is "simple, casual and smart" and, for a budget laptop, we're pleased to say that it isn't far off the mark. The NR11Z is a good-looking machine; considering the price, extraordinarily so.
Squint a bit, or just step back a metre, and the silver dimpled lid looks rather like machined aluminium, with the smoothly contoured edges making for a sleek first impression. As you might expect from a sub-£600 laptop, though, it's actually just patterned silver plastic. Should silver be far too everyday a colour for your tastes, Sony also provides a VGN-NR11Z/T model in a bronze-ish shade dubbed "Wenge".
Lay hands on the NR11Z's silvery frame for a few minutes and any initial worries about build quality soon fade. The somewhat creaky lid doesn't immediately inspire confidence, but it needs substantial pressure applied before it makes contact with the display itself. It's a similar story with the main chassis - it may feel plastic, but it doesn't flex unduly under pressure. However, the omission of any catches to keep the lid closed could put the screen at risk - a stray coin or a paperclip in a bag could leave the display with some serious cosmetic damage.
Building a budget laptop is all about compromise, but there's little to criticise where the VGN-NR11Z's specification is concerned. The three-strong range starts with the VGN-NR11M/S at a street price of £460 exc VAT. That makes do with a budget Pentium Dual-Core processor running at a modest 1.46GHz and 1GB of RAM, while our top-of-the-range VGN-NR11Z/S boasts an Intel Core 2 Duo T7250 replete with a generous 2GB of RAM to keep Vista Home Premium happy.
The resulting performance is better than we'd expect, given the price. The highest-scoring machine in our recent roundup of budget laptops, the otherwise excellent Advent 8212 (web ID: 128726), managed a score of only 0.88 to the Sony's 0.93. With some models in that test struggling around the 0.65 mark, the Sony's performance is highly impressive for the price.
Sitting down in front of the NR11Z and tapping out a few long emails, as well as navigating through our usual roster of day-to-day jobs, revealed some less positive traits. While the Scrabble-tile-look of the keys is pleasing to the eye, they're less impressive once you start typing. Each key has plenty of travel, but the indistinct action often leaves you pausing to wonder whether you've successfully hit a key or not.
The sponginess is compounded by the typing position - place the Sony on a desk and the keyboard is just too flat for comfortable typing, so you'll need a laptop stand, or perhaps a couple of issues of PC Pro wedged at the rear, to help matters. It's some consolation that the wide aspect trackpad is far more usable and accurate.
The quality of Sony's 15.4in display is similarly variable. With the adequate if not exceptional resolution of 1,280 x 800 pixels, there's a big enough Windows desktop area to work comfortably with a couple of applications at once, and it's bright, too. But, vertical viewing angles are poor - tilt the screen just a little too far back and colours take on a negative hue; too far forward and everything looks washed out. There's a sweet spot, but it's small and we soon became tired of levering the display to and fro and trying to hold our head in the "perfect" position. It's a shame, as the glossy display is superb when it comes to vibrancy and colour reproduction.
The big display is partially responsible for the VAIO's 2.8kg weight, which is enough to make most people think twice before throwing it in a bag. However, if you do take it on your travels, you can expect reasonable battery life - it lasted four hours in our light-use test.
- Apple slashes £100 off updated MacBook Pros with Retina
- Windows Phone gets first wearables app from Fitbit
- Motorola working on a Nexus 6 phablet
- Police hijack banner ads to warn pirates
- Microsoft Sharks Cove: a Raspberry Pi-style board with Windows 8.1
- Why the iPhone 6 won't have NFC
- City of London slams BT for "unacceptable" broadband
- Shopping gets personal: Amazon 3D printing lets you customise your order
- Next Windows Phone 8.1 update: smart covers, sensors and 7in displays
- 5G to arrive in London by 2020
- How Google Glass ruined my lunch hour
- Smartphone battery packs: can a USB power pack beat the festival battery blues?
- Windows Easy Transfer – not so "easy" in Windows 8.1
- Formula 1: what a difference virtualisation makes
- Office of the future: comfy chairs and tablets everywhere
- I went to Glastonbury and the only thing that got high was my smartphone
- Meet the robots helping teach children
- PaperLater: would you pay to print the internet?
- Amazon vs Kobo: how much to make the ebook switch?
- Phishing emails: how I nearly got caught out
- 13 computers that changed the world
- How to download YouTube videos to a PC or laptop: is it legal to download YouTube videos?
- Dropbox vs OneDrive vs Google Drive: what's the best cloud storage service of 2014?
- Hacking the Internet of Things: from smart cars to toilets
- BlackBerry Passport release date, specs, features, and rumours: when is the new BlackBerry coming out?
- What's changing in the computing curriculum
- Teaching kids to code
- Best free translation apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone
- Five worst SMB security threats... and how to solve them
- Apple iOS vs Android vs Windows 8 – what's the best compact tablet OS?
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office
- How to write your company's IT security policy
- Raspberry Pi and Wolfram: a must-have for every child
- Could you get by with Office Web Apps?