Sony VAIO Z13 review

19 Oct 2010

One of the finest pieces of laptop engineering on the market, but the price range beggars belief

Price when reviewed: 
1,874(£1874 inc VAT)
5

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.

Sony VAIO Z13

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,595
Price inc VAT £1,874
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 4
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 2yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 314 x 210 x 24mm (WDH)
Weight 1.400kg
Travelling weight 1.8kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-460M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM57
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 Intel HD graphics / Nvidia GeForce G330M
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 THNSC064GMMJ
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
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 6hr 10min
Battery life, heavy use 1hr 12min
Overall application benchmark score 1.64
Office application benchmark score 1.33
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.76
Encoding application benchmark score 1.53
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.94
3D performance (crysis) low settings 55fps
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition