Sony VAIO Z11 review

9 Feb 2010

Cramming a Core i7 processor into an ultraportable results in a staggeringly fast yet lightweight laptop

Price when reviewed: 
2,257inc VAT
5

Improving on excellence is never a simple task, but that was the lofty goal facing Sony's engineers. The previous version of the VAIO Z Series combined classy, understated looks, supreme power and fine ergonomics with class-leading stamina, and it had the measure of every other ultraportable on the market

Rather than try to eke out a little more battery life, or trim a little weight, Sony has taken a radical approach to its baby and rebuilt it from the ground up. Gone is the stamina-focussed ultraportable of old; in its place comes a thin and light laptop that packs in an unprecedented level of raw power.

Design to die for

The VPCZ11Z9E/B is attractive, but it doesn't go overboard to draw attention to itself. It cuts a professional, monochromatic dash: matte black contrasts with dark gunmetal grey and the brushed aluminium keyboard surround, while a handful of status lights glimmer along the front edge. It's so understated for such a stratospherically expensive laptop we wondered how it could justify the expense. That, however, became clear very quickly.

Sony VAIO VPCZ11Z9E/B

The keyboard was already superb, and it's even better here. The keys aren’t just backlit, with an ambient light sensor to fade them in and out, but they also have a slightly crisper action. This, along with the spacious, uncluttered layout, puts it right up with the best keyboards we've used. Other subtle improvements see the trackpad pushed a few millimetres further from the spacebar to prevent stray thumbs from jogging the cursor unintentionally; a minor but occasionally aggravating issue with the original.

Build quality has taken a giant leap forward too. Its predecessor was sturdy for a 1.49kg laptop, but it wasn't perfect: the lid flexed noticeably under pressure, and the chassis wasn't as rock-solid as Apple's best efforts. This new Z Series is a different story entirely. Despite a weight drop to 1.41kg (1.83kg with charger), twisting the chassis with all our might revealed only the tiniest bit of give, and it took some vicious prodding on the lid to cause any showthrough on the display.

That 13.1in display finally gets a Full HD, 1,920 x 1,080 native resolution, and it offers eye-popping brightness and glorious colours. The only drawback is that you’ll need to take full advantage of Windows 7’s text-scaling abilities to avoid squinting at tiny fonts.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,921
Price inc VAT £2,257
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 4
Performance 6

Physical specifications

Dimensions 314 x 210 x 33mm (WDH)
Weight 1.410kg
Travelling weight 1.8kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i7-620M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM57
RAM capacity 6.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 13.1in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset Nvidia GeForce GT 330M
Graphics card RAM 1.00GB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 256GB
Hard disk usable capacity 238GB
Spindle speed N/A
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk 4x Samsung MMCRE28GQDXP-MVB
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical drive Matshita DVD-RAM UJ892AS
Battery capacity 5,200mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter yes
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch yes
Wireless key-combination switch no
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 1
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 3
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Above keyboard
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.3mp
TPM yes
Fingerprint reader yes
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 26min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 8min
Overall application benchmark score 1.80
Office application benchmark score 1.48
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.95
Encoding application benchmark score 1.71
Multitasking application benchmark score 2.09
3D performance (crysis) low settings 69fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition, burn own recovery discs