Sony VAIO Z12 review

29 Jul 2010

Extravagantly expensive, but Sony’s VAIO Z12 is a premium cut above your average ultraportable

Price when reviewed 
1,683
5

That price at the top of the page is enough to make anyone wince. There’s just no way around it, Sony’s VAIO Z Series is devilishly expensive. That’s not to say it’s bad value for money, though: this is one laptop that manages to blend power, practicality and portability like no other.

Perhaps understandably given the ground-up redesign at the beginning of the year, Sony’s latest refresh, the VAIO Z12, is virtually identical to its predecessor. In fact, the only difference we could find was that the Samsung SSD chips of the previous model have made way for Toshiba-branded units. Not an Earth-shattering alteration.

A quick look at its vital statistics, however, shows this is one laptop in little need of any tweaks. Pull the Z12 out of its packaging and, at just 1.38kg, it’s disconcertingly light. So light, in fact, that it feels more like a hollow prop from an Ikea showroom than a regular laptop.

Sony VAIO Z12

More surprising is that this doesn’t make it frighteningly insubstantial. The aluminium and carbon fibre base shrugs off twisting motions with ease, and only the yoga-like flexibility of the millimetres-thick lid reminds that this is an ultraportable. The slight rattle of the battery in its moorings can’t cheapen the otherwise premium feel.

Stern, businesslike curves and understated stylish design are all well and good, but Sony has partnered good looks with impressive usability. The Scrabble-tile keys look peculiar, but don’t be deceived: the light, crisp feel and wide channels between each key make for one of the comfiest keyboards on any laptop, at any price.

Beaming down upon that superb keyboard is an equally fine 13.1in LED-backlit display. While not quite the match of the Full HD panel found on pricier models, it’s still very good, and the resolution of 1,600 x 900 pixels is ample. The combination of a matte finish and impressive brightness makes it legible in even bright sunlight, while well balanced colour reproduction makes for images that pop off the screen with stunning vibrancy. Vertical viewing angles are perhaps a little narrow, but it’s no deal-breaker.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,432
Price inc VAT £1,683
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 4
Performance 6

Warranty

Warranty 2yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 314 x 210 x 33mm (WDH)
Weight 1.380kg
Travelling weight 1.8kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-520M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM55
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 13.1in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,600
Resolution screen vertical 900
Resolution 1600 x 900
Graphics chipset Nvidia GeForce GT330M / Intel HD graphics
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 64GB
Hard disk usable capacity 61GB
Spindle speed N/A
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Toshiba THNS064GG2BNAA
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive N/A
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
FireWire ports 0
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
Hardware volume control? no
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 9hr 2min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 19min
Overall application benchmark score 1.57
Office application benchmark score 1.29
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.71
Encoding application benchmark score 1.49
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.80
3D performance (crysis) low settings 70fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition
Software supplied N/A