Sony VAIO VGN-TT11WN/B review

28 Oct 2008

It's gorgeous, but it can't match Sony's own Z-series for sheer ultraportable excellence

Price when reviewed 
1,702
3

Sony's TZ-range of ultraportable laptops has long been a favourite in PC Pro's offices, but its reign on our A-list was finally brought to an end by Lenovo's stunning ThinkPad X300. Now, however, we've laid our hands on Sony's latest update to the TZ range, the all-new TT.

Scan through the TT's vital statistics, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that not a great deal has changed. For one, the svelte 279 x 200 x 31mm dimensions mean that the VGN-TT11WN/B is as gloriously petite as ever. It's lost a little weight, though, dropping a few hundred grams from the VGN-TZ31MN's 1.48kg to end up at an impressive 1.32kg. Pop the charger in with it and it still only weighs in at 1.68kg.

It's an altogether better looking portable too. Our model was clad head to toe in matte black, with chrome highlights stretching along the edges, around the lid's hinges and ending up on the trackpad's buttons. It's more attractive than the TZ-series it replaces and the subtle addition of curves around the lid's edges and around the chassis' corners make it look smaller and less boxy than its predecessors. Sony also provides the TT in eye-catching "Fatal Red" or, for that Barbara Cartland look, the extravagant "Gold Fever" finish.

Small but strong

Whatever colour you choose, however, build quality has taken a massive turn for the better. The TZ may have been enviably light and portable but if we were to be brutally honest it did feel a touch creaky and insubstantial. Compared with some of the competition - Toshiba's delicate Portégé R500, for example - it was comparatively rugged but there was certainly room for improvement. And improve it has. Sony has gone back to the drawing board and, thanks to a Carbon-fibre skeleton, the TT-series feels noticeably stiffer and more resilient than the models it replaces.

The chassis itself is outstandingly stout: we really had to put in some effort to get it to flex. And, while the impossibly thin display is definitely still rather flexible, it marks a noticeable improvement on the TZ. Considering that the VGN-TT11WN/B is lighter than the laptops it replaces, this is a highly impressive achievement.

Then there's that familiar 11.1in display, along with its native resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels. Its LED backlighting imparts tremendous brightness, and image quality is absolutely top-notch. Colours are perhaps just a touch over-saturated, but when it gives both still and moving images with such astounding vivacity, such minor foibles are easily forgiven.

But, for all the improvements, the price has risen dramatically too. Sony's previous mid-range TZs were available for around £1,200 exc VAT with 3G-enabled models rising to around £1,400, but our review came in at just over £1,700. Barring the three year of collect and return warranty - the original TZ-series had just one year of return to base cover - there's little to warrant such an increase.

Power and longevity

The specification doesn't mark a significant improvement on previous generations. An Intel Core 2 Duo SU9300 processor has been chosen for its modest power requirements, and with 4GB of memory it managed a reasonable 0.68 in our benchmarks. That puts it level with Lenovo's ThinkPad X300. Battery life isn't quite up to the Herculean standards of the TZ-series, but 6hrs 15mins of light usage and a huge 3hrs 17mins of heavy usage is still mightily impressive.