Skip to navigation

Sony VAIO VGN-Z31VN/X review

Verdict

An ultraportable without compromise: plenty of power, great battery life and superb design.

Review Date: 21 May 2009

Reviewed By: Mike Jennings

Price when reviewed: £1,781 (£2,048 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

The Sony VAIO Z-series is one of the smallest laptops we've ever seen, but it still tries to cram in everything you'd expect on a full-size notebook. Its 1.47kg weight is far less than most notebooks, and it's light enough to barely be noticeable when slung in a bag. The 33mm thickness is another reason why the Z-series is ideal for frequent travellers, as long as you've got a well-padded bag for added protection.

The VAIO's chassis should be able to withstand regular transport, too. The thin screen lid flexed easily but there was no sign of distortion on the Windows desktop when we prodded and twisted it. And the build quality elsewhere is beyond reproach - the wrist-rest didn't flex as much as we've seen in machines twice or three times the size.

Sony's now-familiar Scrabble-tile keyboard layout is excellent, proving just as comfortable as it did in the preceding Z-series, the VAIO Z21MN/B, and more comfortable than the scrabble-tile keys of the MacBook Air. The trackpad is decent, too: large enough to not prove restrictive, and with two responsive buttons.

The 13.3in screen, with its native resolution of 1,600 x 900, offers plenty of desktop space. The audio output is also surprisingly good for such a diminutive notebook, with the pair of small stereo speakers pumping out decent bass and a clear mid-range.

What's most impressive, however, is the sheer grunt this seemingly lightweight machine is able to deliver. It's equipped with a 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo P9600 instead of the low-power CPUs favoured by the MacBook Air, Lenovo X301 and Toshiba Portege R600, and the new part is also a step up from the 2.4GHz P8600 CPU included in the VAIO Z21MN/B. The result, unsurprisingly, is much more capable performance: the Z scored 1.45 in our benchmarks - twice as quick as all of its main rivals, and quicker than the 1.31 scored by the last VAIO.

And, thanks to dual graphics chips, this power doesn't come at the cost of battery life and portability. Using the Speed/ Stamina switch above the keyboard you can quickly swap between the Intel integrated graphics and the more powerful Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS chip; don't expect mind-blowing gaming, though: in our low-quality Crysis benchmark it achieved only 6fps.

In Speed mode the VAIO lasted just over two hours in our heavy use test and 7hrs 4mins in our light use benchmark. Flick over to the Stamina settings however, and you can turn this laptop from mobile powerhouse to indispensible business tool - we saw the VAIO last for a remarkable 9hrs 10mins in our light use test. The Nearest contenders, from Toshiba and Lenovo, last for six and a half hours: good, but not a patch on the Sony's all-day lifespan.

The VAIO's tiny frame manages to pack in plenty of decent components besides the CPU and pair of graphics chips. A 320GB hard disk is far larger than the 128GB SSD drives offered by Apple and Lenovo's rival ultraportables, but it's a trade-off between capacity and an SSD's speed and reliability. If you're not going to use all the space provided by the Sony, then an SSD model may be a better option in a machine that, inevitably, could take a few knocks.

The Sony matches the ThinkPad X301 for connectivity: both machines are kitted out with draft-n wireless, Bluetooth and an HSDPA modem, ensuring that it's possible to stay connected even without a wireless hotspot in sight, and a TPM module will be a welcome addition for business users.

1 2
Subscribe to PC Pro magazine. We'll give you 3 issues for £1 plus a free gift - click here
Be the first to comment this article

You need to Login or Register to comment.

(optional)

Latest Category Reviews
HP Envy 15 x360 review

HP Envy 15 x360

Category: Laptops
Rating: 4 out of 6
Price: £649
Lenovo Miix 2 11in review

Lenovo Miix 2 11in

Category: Tablets
Rating: 4 out of 6
Price: £656
Hands on: Dell Venue 8 7000 series review

Hands on: Dell Venue 8 7000 series

Rating: 4 out of 6
Price: £656
Google Chromebook Pixel review

Google Chromebook Pixel

Category: Laptops
Rating: 4 out of 6
Price: £1,049
Compare reviews: Laptops

advertisement

Most Commented Reviews
Latest News Stories Subscribe to our RSS Feeds
Latest Blog Posts Subscribe to our RSS Feeds
Latest Features
Latest Real World Computing

advertisement

Sponsored Links
 

 
SEARCH
Loading
WEB ID
SIGN UP

Your email:

Your password:

remember me

advertisement


Hitwise Top 10 Website 2010
 
 

PCPro-Computing in the Real World Printed from www.pcpro.co.uk

Register to receive our regular email newsletter at http://www.pcpro.co.uk/registration.

The newsletter contains links to our latest PC news, product reviews, features and how-to guides, plus special offers and competitions.