Sony VAIO VGN-Z31VN/X review
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)
Features & Design
Value for Money
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.
- iOS 8.0.2: old problems remain, new bugs added
- Technopop: London sci-tech festival is just for kids
- Windows 9: release date, features, free update and cloud version
- Chromebooks get streaming version of Adobe Photoshop
- Retina display iMacs "coming soon"
- Apple patches ShellShock Bash bug
- Should the UK be a sharing economy?
- Want free Wi-Fi? It'll cost your first-born child
- Man jailed over Twitter threats to MP, campaigner
- Will Windows 9 be a free upgrade?
- Michael Dell: Cloud infrastructure is the roads, bridges and highways of the 21st century
- How to check your identity hasn’t been sold to the hackers
- Tim Cook: this is how much TV has changed since the 70s
- Westminster wins the .London battle
- 20 years of PC Pro: from deep pan pizza to virtualisation
- Five reasons why the Apple Watch leaves me cold
- Apple Watch, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus: Tim Cook's Apple back with a bang?
- BT Home Hub 5: how to get maximum speed
- 20 years of PC Pro: one-star reviews (including "the worst tablet we've ever seen")
- 20 years of PC Pro: our best covers
- Smartphone benchmarks 2014: what's the fastest smartphone?
- What is Kindle Unlimited and how does it work?
- BlackBerry Passport release date, UK price and specs
- OS X Yosemite release date, price and key new features
- How to change keyboard in iOS 8: customise the iPhone 6 keyboard
- The 7 best Chromebooks of 2014
- Apple iPhone 6 vs Samsung Galaxy S5: is the new iPhone 6 better than the Galaxy S5?
- How to install iOS 8 without deleting apps and data
- The best smartwatches of 2014: what's the best smartwatch?
- Nexus 6/X release date, specs and rumoured UK price
- How to sell more ebooks on Amazon
- 10 ways to make your business more secure
- Top five VoIP mistakes
- 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