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Sony VAIO Z11 review

Verdict

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

Review Date: 9 Feb 2010

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £1,921 (£2,257 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
6 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended


The trade-off

All this power comes at a chronic cost to battery life, too. Where the VGN-Z51WG/B managed just over ten hours of light use, the VPCZ11Z9E/B only just tops half that, at five and a half hours. Switch Windows 7 Professional 64-bit to High Performance mode, allow the Nvidia graphics to take the helm and push the display to full brightness and you'll get barely more than an hour.

Neatly, though, we found that dropping the display’s refresh rate to 40hz extended battery life to a more usable 6hrs 48mins – still not up with the best, but acceptable enough for most.

There’s precious little to moan about when it comes to connectivity. There's 802.11n wireless networking, and the Centrino 6200N chipset supports simultaneous 2.4GHz and 5GHz channel bonding for blindingly fast wireless speeds. WWAN support stretches up to 7.2Mbits/sec HSDPA speeds, so you can slot in a SIM and access the network of your choice, and there's a Gigabit Ethernet port as well. The mini-FireWire port has been replaced by a third USB port, and an ExpressCard/34 slot nestles alongside.

Sony VAIO VPCZ11Z9E/B

We welcome the plentiful features, staggering performance and supreme ergonomics, but the chronic impact of all that power on this ultraportable's stamina is disappointing, if hardly surprising. There’s a Core i5 version for around £280 less that may have slightly better battery life, but probably not by much.

If that doesn't put you off, however – and bear in mind five and half hours of light use is far better than we've seen from similarly specified workstations and desktop replacements – the VAIO VPCZ11Z9E/B is a stunning, and genuinely portable, workstation laptop. It has its minor flaws, but if portable power is what you're after, you won't find anything better.

Author: Sasha Muller

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User comments

My Jaw just dropped :D

By nicomo on 9 Feb 2010

Blu ray?

Why just the dvd drive?? It's over two thousand quid and made by Sony

By TimoGunt on 9 Feb 2010

Ready to Buy ... but ...

Ready to Buy ... but ... will wait for USB 3.0.

By zippee on 9 Feb 2010

"The result is something truly special"

Yes, the price!

By Lacrobat on 9 Feb 2010

4 x SSD on raid0!! o_0
You can bin your 15k SAS drives if you have any...

By Lomskij on 9 Feb 2010

heat

@Sasha: I read in a test, that the i7-620M CPU consumes significantly more power, than e.g. an i5-540M (especially under heavy load).
Did you notice any heat issues or staggering while using the laptop (during normal use or heavy load)?
Thanks in advance!

By ererer on 9 Feb 2010

Ouch

I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to see the beauty of this machine, as my eyes would be watering so much because of the price.

By Steve_Adey on 10 Feb 2010

Re: Heat

The underside of the Z certainly got warm after running our benchmarks for a few hours, but my impression was that the copper heatsink and accompanying fan were doing a pretty good job of dissipating the heat.

I certainly didn't notice any throttling at all.

I would run some more extensive stress tests, but unfortunately the Z had to go back fairly sharpish! :)

By SashaMuller on 11 Feb 2010

GOOD, PRICY,LACKING

Blue Ray RW is a must in today's technology?

By krishen32 on 11 Feb 2010

Re: Heat

Thank you for the answer!

Probably many people are waiting eagerly to review the new Z :)

But I hope, that there will be really no heat issues with the i7.

By ererer on 11 Feb 2010

Is it me, or...

does that keyboard look like it's been taken from a ZX Spectrum?

By mspritch on 11 Feb 2010

BluShit

Who needs a bluray drive, it's not pro kit as only ps3 users use the format. Thankfully sensible people have seen through the sham that is bluray, little increase in quality massive increase in price, bloosers.

By dodge1963 on 12 Feb 2010

£2,257
Rip off Brittain.
Looks like we are expected to pay well over the odds again. If you want an i7 laptop get one for under £1000, unless you are an idiot.

By skgiven on 12 Feb 2010

SSD Performance Degredation

How sure are you about the RAID controller not supporting the TRIM command (or any other way of dealing with the problem)? Is it something that could be fixed later with a firmware update?

I also think the specs they have chosen for the two new models are a bit odd... the VPCZ11X9E only has a total of 128gb of storage, which is surely nowhere near enough these days... and the VCPX11Z9E has a 1920x1080 screen, but no Blu-Ray drive, so what's the point? I'd actually rather have the lower resolution screen (which is still pretty high res anyway), other than possibly for watching Blu-Rays.

I currently have a Z11WN, which I had to buy to replace my SZ61WN which broke (struck down by the NVIDIA graphics chip issue, 1 month out of warranty). I really like it, but I'm still a little disappointed with the graphics peformance... it would perform better than my old SZ, except that it has the higher resolution 1600x900 screen, so what little extra graphics power it has is more than taken up by that when running 3D games. So I'd really like to get one of these new ones (with proper graphics at last), but 128gb storage isn't gonna be enough, and the higher model is extremely expensive and has an even bigger screen, so I could end up paying well over £2000 for nothing but a small improvement in graphics performance, and harder to read text.

(Oh and what's with the weird, long and confusing model numbers on all the new VAIOs? It's only one character in the middle of it that changes between the two new Z series models, so couldn't they have kept it a bit simpler?)

By EddyM on 14 Feb 2010

Re: SSD Performance Degredation

I'd also like to know how the SSDs will perform with time. The only way to find out is to buy the laptop or to wait for some user reviews/feedbacks.

The preconfigured models are indeed odd. I wanted to buy a preconfigured one, but one of them has "too low" specs and the other has 1920x1280 screen, which I don't want.
But in the UK, SonyStyle will surely offer CTO options.

By ererer on 14 Feb 2010

SSD issues

It's not the RAID controller which needs to support TRIM, it's the drives themselves.

But, even if the drives do support TRIM, the issue with SSDs in RAID is that the OS can't see the drives 'through' the RAID controller, so TRIM can't be activated in the first place.

All SSDs without TRIM support will find their performance dwindling over time. The severity of such degradation will depend entirely on how much you thrash the drive.

As many have stated, however, it won't take long to completely wipe the SSDs, rebuild the array and restore Windows...

By SashaMuller on 15 Feb 2010

Well, wiping the drives and restoring everything isn't something I fancy having to do on a regular basis... and from what I've read about it, it sounds like the problem would start as soon as all of the drive has been written to, which would be as soon as an amount of data equal to the size of the drive has been written to it (even if the drive was never anywhere near being full, as the drive wouldn't know which bits have been deleted without the TRIM command). So I'd imagine that would happen pretty quickly, unless you very rarely copy any data onto the laptop or install any large programs.

Also, the other thing I don't really like about the idea of SSDs as the main storage in my main laptop is the limited number of times they can be written to... I know the number is probably big enough for it to never become an issue, but it sounds like the reason for this performance degredation is actually because once they reach that stage, each write to the drive actually results in two writes due to data being moved around, so that would only make them last an even shorter time.

And from what I've seen of Sony's previous CTO offerings in the UK, they are ridiculously expensive (on top of the usual prices)... I seem to remember that with the previous Z series, it worked out cheaper to buy the top one with lots of extras than to configure the lower spec one with just a couple of the same extra bits.

By EddyM on 15 Feb 2010

mmm feel the quality

wowsers, thats a lot of cash. I've got a z51, love it to bits for its power and longevity on battery. Its got enough grunt to run what I need and while a bit more graphics performance for 3d games would be good, this is my work laptop and I don't see that this new one justifies the price - would like a backlit keyboard though...

By JoveP on 15 Feb 2010

Virtualisation

I'm wondering if this Sony is still hobbled by the lack of virtualisation support. I want to buy one and use it to run VM's as I feel an SSD raid would run that wonderfully!

By screColin on 19 Feb 2010

NO Support

Its not the laptop, its getting hold of the accessories that are the problem, no available docking stations, privacy filters etc, if you dont need them, no problem, if you do, better go to another manufacturer

By fis792 on 8 Mar 2010

Docking station

I know this is designed as an ultraportable but everyone spends some time at a desk. I currently have a TZ32 which has been great but in the office I dock it and can instantly use a 22" monitor, k/b, mouse, giga network, power and all my peripherals. I was positively drooling as I specced up this new beast at SonyStyle. I added £2,400 result to my basket then I was stunned. No docking station available! Sorry Sony but I'm not shelling out that much then having to plug in a min of 4 connections every time I get back to mys desk.

By John_Batty on 19 Apr 2010

Docking station IS available

To correct my comment, and that of the previous contributor, a docking station is available. It is not on the SonyStyle site but if you call the hotline number the salesperson can add one for £179. The code is VGPPRZ10. Order placed!

By John_Batty on 19 Apr 2010

SSD issues

Hi all, a little tangential, but I could do with some advice re: SSDs. The RAID configuration of this puts me off. The thought of paying that much money for something I am likely to have to wipe and do a full reinstall seems somewhat crazy. So, I went to look elsewhere. Lenovo T410 with an i7, discrete graphics and a SSD comes in at a similar price to this Sony. The Dell Adamo also has a SSD but similarly does not say if is RAID. I want to go for the Lenovo with SSD but not if it cannot support TRIM.
Thanks

By philhutchinson on 27 Apr 2010

Ask me again in 5 days

I hope to receive my own one of these 'configurable' VPCZ11X5E this week so will have the oportunity to answer some of the questions raised, like battery life, SSDs and not being able to use the TRIM support in Windows 7. My spec includes the ReWritable Blu-Ray Writer simply because there was no point going for the 1920x1080 screen without the ability to at least view Blu-Ray Videos. (I have a LG Blu-Ray Writer but being able to write to Blu-Ray whilst on holiday was too tempting).

This all started last year when I bought a Sony CamCorder with HD recording onto an integral 120 Gb HDD. My HD Videos need a top class laptop to create and edit video using CyberLink Power Director 8 Ultra which utilises the Core i7 and NVIDIA hardware to make editing faster. Watch this space for a review in a week or so.

By Bevcoffee on 4 May 2010

Too flimsy for 2K?

The main thing that's stopping me getting one is that it seems so flimsy. I need a laptop that can take some punishment -- I would be scared about taking this one anywhere. Has anyone had any experience with this or the Z51 and could reassure me?

By joefaith on 5 May 2010

RE: Bevcoffee

After 5 days what's about SSDs TRIM issues? General impression?

By dimartin on 26 May 2010

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