Sony VAIO Z13 review
One of the finest pieces of laptop engineering on the market, but the price range beggars belief
Review Date: 19 Oct 2010
Reviewed By: Sasha Muller
Price when reviewed: £1,595 (£1,874 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
With Core i5 laptops available for as little as £500, the price at the top of this page is enough to make anyone wince. Sony's VAIO Z Series is unashamedly expensive. At nearly £1,600 exc VAT - and that's for the bottom of the range model - this is a laptop that only a precious, deep-pocketed few will even be able to contemplate buying.
And if you're expecting something designed along MacBook Pro lines, or even HP's Envy range, the Sony just doesn't look like nigh-on two grand of laptop. If you're the kind of person who likes your premium-priced purchases to look exactly that, you're likely to be underwhelmed. Painted top-to-toe in aluminium and grey, the Z13 looks smart but ultimately unremarkable.
It is pleasingly compact, though. The 13.1in display and lithe build make for a slender physique and it's feather-light at just 1.4kg, just a little heavier than your average 10in netbook. That it also feels stiff and sturdy, barring that ever-flexible lid, is impressive for such a portable piece of kit.
Indeed, picking up the Z13 is a disconcerting experience. With many expensive products reassuring as to their value with a weighty feel, the Sony feels barely there. Before you press the on button it's easy to speculate that someone forgot to put anything inside the chassis at all.
Unlike many ultraportables, the Z13 isn't hobbled by a low-voltage, low-power processor. Instead, even this lowliest model of the range is well equipped for such a waif. The 2.53GHz Core i5-460M processor is accompanied by two 64GB SSDs lashed together to form a 128GB RAID0 array, while Nvidia's GeForce GT330M graphics chipset sits alongside. With a result of 1.64 in our benchmarks, the Sony outperforms the majority of far bigger laptops we've tested, and it managed a perfectly good 55fps in our Low quality Crysis test.
Turn your attention to graphics performance and the Sony has a trick up its sleeve. Nvidia's Optimus graphics-switching technology is nowhere to be seen, but Sony's dual-graphics arrangement is arguably more flexible: a three-way rocker switch flicks between the Nvidia chip, Intel's HD graphics and an automatic mode that switches between the two according to whether you're running on mains or battery power. Where Nvidia's Optimus makes all the decisions, Sony's system hands the choice to the user, and for such a high-end yet portable laptop it's a sensible approach.
I have to agree with the sentiments in the final paragraph.
I went for the original Z-series way back when, and was very happy with it despite the ridiculously high price (zeds have always been staggeringly pricey). But in those days there were no alternatives, but this is no longer the case and the latest Sony Zs are more laptop porn than a realistic possibility for the ordinary user. So I’ve a netbook for work on the move and a multi-media laptop for home/office, and all at less than half the price of one of these.
They are lovely pieces of technology though……….
By kevin_j_thorpe on 21 Oct 2010
Crapware Comment Please
If possible when reviewing a computer, please give ahit as to the amount of crapware the supplier stuffs on the machine. Sony have a very bad reputation on this front.
By trevorellis on 25 Nov 2010
I am typing this comment on my now 8 year old Sony Vaio Z1XMP. It still works well, I mean everything works well, it is still a great business laptop, the screen is great, the keyboard is still factory crisp, even the batteries still hold a 5 hour charge. The one time we needed Sony product support (failed wi-fi card) they were brilliant. If this laptop could earn air-miles it could probably go to New York and back on Virgin Upper Class; lightwieght, yes, but tough indeed.
In 2003 this machine was £2.5k with a few toys, a bag and the extended worldwide warranty.
In this same period, my colleagues and peers have all had 3 or more machines each; HP, Tosh, Dell (yuk!), Acer and even IBM/Lenovo have eventually croaked
The only reason the Z1 is going to be pensioned off is purely due to performance; the old Centrino chip and a 1gig max on memory is now quite a handicap.
If the new Z-series is up to the same build and endurance as my old one, I will buy it in a heartbeat. As my father says, once you've had a Merc, if you can afford a Merc you buy a Merc.
One complaint, the Sony bag was crap; I replaced that with a Tumi bag - nice!
By AndyHawkings on 27 Jan 2011
I have been looking for a Z13, but availability seems to have evaporated and there are rumours that the Z Series has been discontinued. Is this true or are Sony about to bring out the next generation?
By Zaphod1666 on 10 May 2011
UK stock completely sold out.
However, I have a feeling the new Z isn't too far away.
And if it's anything like as drastic a redesign as we recently witnessed with the S Series, it's going to be something very special indeed.
By SashaMuller on 11 May 2011
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