The Vaio Z series reviewed here (VPCZ11Z9E/B) has impressive performance but poor battery life, making it unsuitable for working while on the move. The high price tag also means that this model is unlikely to appeal to most buyers looking for a workhorse laptop, while enthusiasts will probably expect to see a Blu-ray drive at this price.
High performance; impressive screen; light and relatively compact.
Expensive; short battery life; no Blu-ray drive.
2.66GHz Core i7-620M processor, 6GB RAM (8GB max), four 64GB Flash SSDs configured as 256GB Raid 0 array, 13.1in display, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M graphics, DVD-R/W drive, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, 3G mobile broadband, Windows 7 Professional (64bit)
Sony's Vaio Z series is designed to challenge the notion that you can have performance or portability, but not both together. The ultraportable laptop includes Nvidia graphics, a large memory capacity and optional Flash solid state storage instead of a hard drive, yet weighs in at just 1.45kg.
Announced in January and available now, the Z series includes a number of configurations with either Core 2 Duo or the newer Core i5 and i7 processors, and either a standard hard drive or several solid state drives (SSDs) arranged as a Raid array.
We looked at the high-end VPCZ11Z9E/B model, which is based on a 2.66GHz Core i7-620M processor with 6GB memory and four Flash SSDs making for a total 256GB of storage.
This configuration makes for a powerful yet lightweight system that might appeal to content creators who need to work with multimedia files, or possibly to mobile workers that want a system capable of handling high-definition content for presentations and after hours entertainment.
However, this level of hardware also comes at a cost. The model we reviewed has an eye-watering price tag of £2,399.98 and a very short battery life, making it impractical to use the system for any length of time away from mains power. Sony Vaio Z Series pricing starts at £1,348.99.
Another consideration is that the Raid 0 configuration of the Flash SSD array offers no redundancy. All data is 'striped' across the four drives to create a single large volume, which boosts read performance but means that the failure of any single drive will trash the entire volume. Buyers would be advised to take extra care to back up important data.
Other specifications include 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Vaio Everywair 3G mobile broadband modem supporting download speeds up to 7.2Mbit/s. The operating system is the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 Professional.
In design, the Vaio Z series is quite stylish, with a matt black finish to its carbon-fibre casing, contrasting with a silver Vaio logo and illuminated power button on the right end of the screen hinge.
The system is quite slim. It's about 25mm thick when closed, and has a footprint just slightly larger than an A4 sheet of paper.
The Vaio's lid, which is quite thin and bends easily under pressure, opens to reveal the 13.1in display with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio and a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.
We found the screen delivered an excellent bright image and vibrant colour thanks to its LED backlight, but text appears somewhat small at such a high resolution. As with many other laptops, a VGA resolution webcam is fixed above the display.
One puzzling aspect of this Vaio is that Sony trumpets the high-definition quality of the screen, yet has fitted the system with a DVD rather than a Blu-ray drive, so buyers cannot play high-definition movie discs.
The keyboard has large well-spaced keys with flat keytops. This so-called 'chiclet' design is increasingly seen on laptops, and does at least make for comfortable typing. In front of this is a standard sized touchpad with a fingerprint swipe sensor between the left and right mouse buttons.