Sony VAIO Z Series (2011) review

1 Jul 2011

A bold, uncompromising redesign and stratospheric price makes for a truly unique ultraportable

Price when reviewed: 
2,039(£2038 inc VAT)
5

The VAIO Z Series was born of Sony’s desire to build the ultimate notebook. Feather-light yet immensely powerful, it fused ultraportable dimensions to desktop performance and made precious few compromises along the way. Now, Sony’s all-new VAIO Z has arrived, and it's ready to rewrite the ultraportable rules once again.

Sony VAIO Z Series - rear

Physically, the VAIO Z bears little resemblance to its former self. Sharp, boxy lines are formed from slices of carbon fibre, to create a chassis which measures a mere 17mm thick. It looks positively delicate, and its 1.15kg weight means it feels just as barely-there in the hand. There certainly isn’t the unflinching tautness of the Apple Macbook Air, and the obvious seams and slight give in the carbon sheets don’t exude the tough, go-anywhere air of Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1.

Sony VAIO Z Series - front edge

Achieving such slenderness has required more than just bold aesthetic changes, however. Sony has also done away with two of the VAIO Z's most notable features, namely the internal optical drive and dedicated graphics.

This is where the novel Power Media Dock steps in. Resembling a simple external optical drive, it crams in an AMD Radeon HD 6650 graphics chipset, and acts as a docking station too. Look to the rear and there's one USB 2 port, one USB 3 port, a Gigabit Ethernet socket plus D-SUB and HDMI video outputs. Unhook a flap on the dock's top edge, and you’ll find another USB 2 port for quick attachment of a USB flash drive or similar.

Sony VAIO Z Series - side view of Power Media Dock

It’s an elegant solution. A power supply feeds the Power Media Dock from the mains, but a single connector provides both a data and a power connection to the laptop itself. Sony’s proprietary implementation of Intel’s Light Peak technology (the very same used in the ThunderBolt ports on Apple's recent MacBook Pro) then jets all the graphical, USB and network data via the VAIO Z's single USB 3 port. Plug it in, and the laptop's screen flickers off and on as the AMD chipset takes over from the integrated GPU.

Pages

Details

Price ex VAT £1,699
Price inc VAT £2,039
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 3
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 2yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 330 x 210 x 17mm (WDH)
Weight 1.150kg
Travelling weight 1.5kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-2410M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM67 Express
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 3000 / AMD Radeon HD 6650M
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 128GB
Hard disk usable capacity 119GB
Spindle speed N/A
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Optical disc technology External DVD writer
Battery capacity 4,000mAh
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 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 1
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
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 Underside
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM yes
Fingerprint reader yes
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 7hr 48min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 32fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.66
Responsiveness score 0.82
Media score 0.67
Multitasking score 0.50

Operating system and software

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