Reviews  

Sony VAIO Z

Jayesh Shinde 2010-04-27
92 Superior
Price: Rs 1,09,000

Full Review

Thin, light, well-built, the new Sony VAIO Z isn't just any ultraportable laptop. It is the ultraportable laptop of our dreams, something that's thin and light without any performance caps. The new 13-inch Sony VAIO Z (VPCZ116GG/B) laptop combines ultraportability and power like no other laptop -- combining a Core i5 processor with GeForce GT 330M graphics -- it is simply the best ultraportable laptop we've reviewed.

Design
Similar to the Dell Adamo XPS and Apple MacBook Air, the Sony VAIO Z is exquisitely designed. Its screen lid has a smooth matte finish, dark in color (not exactly black), that looks and feels elegantly premium, with a characteristic 'VAIO' emblazoned at its center. The screen cover is made of carbon fiber, similar to the 11-inch Sony VAIO X. The rest of the laptop's body is aesthetically streamlined, too, with a tubular hinge design. The Sony VAIO Z's keyboard panel is made out of a single sheet of aluminum, with a brushed finish on the elevated palmrest and beveled near the keys. The VAIO Z is very well built, despite being relatively thin and light, and it weighs just 1.39-kg -- in between the Adamo XPS (1.45-kg) and MacBook Air (1.35-kg). But the VAIO Z has a full gamut of connectivity ports in and around its chassis, unlike the Adamo XPS and MacBook Air, with an integrated DVD drive squeezed in as well.

The Sony VAIO Z may not be as thin as the Dell Adamo XPS, Apple Macbook Air, or the VAIO X, but its design is by far the most functional.


The Sony VAIO Z may not be as thin as the Dell Adamo XPS, Apple Macbook Air, or the VAIO X, but its design is by far the most functional.

Hardware Features
The VAIO Z (VPCZ116GG/B) has simply the best hardware building blocks seen on any consumer ultraportable laptop today. Prepare to be amazed: The Sony VAIO Z has an Intel Core i5-540M 2.53-GHz processor equipped with Intel Turbo Boost (dynamic overclocking up to 3.06-GHz), 6GB of DDR3 RAM clocked at 1066-MHz, 128GB SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce GT 330M with 1GB DDR3 RAM. Even some of our best mainstream laptops don't boast of specs found on the VAIO Z, let alone any ultraportable we've reviewed till date. This helps the Sony VAIO Z deliver uncomparable performance.

The Sony VAIO Z comes with a 13.1-inch widescreen LED-backlit display that supports 1600x900 pixel resolution (more on the screen detailed under 'Performance') and it has a built-in light sensor. Besides the essentials, the VAIO Z incorporates Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.1 fast wireless connectivity. It also has a full set of connectivity ports splashed all over its chassis' edge: three USB ports, VGA-out, HDMI, ExpressCard slot, headphone, mic, DVD Writer, an SD Card reader, and Sony's proprietary MagicGate slot. The VAIO Z even comes with a fingerprint reader nestled between its two mouse buttons, and a TPM chip to encrypt and secure your data at the hardware level. A 1.3MP webcam is recessed on the VAIO Z's top screen bezel. The laptop comes with 64-bit Windows 7 Professional operating system.

Hybrid GPU and Useful Extras
Along with the Nvidia GeForce GT 330M discrete graphics, the Sony VAIO Z (VPCZ116GG/B) also has integrated onboard Intel GMA HD graphics. Above its keyboard, near the top left, sits a three-way button that's part of the VAIO Z's hybrid GPU system. It has three modes: Speed, Stamina, Auto. Flick the button towards Speed to switch to the GeForce GT 300M graphics, flick it to Stamina to revert to the onboard Intel GMA HD graphics, whether you want the best performance or prolonged battery life. Keep the button in Auto mode, and the VAIO Z manages the modes intelligently: you remain on Speed while the ultraportable laptop's plugged into A/C mains, and automatically switches to Stamina when you unplug the adapter. And the feature works pretty smoothly, no problems whatsoever.

Similar to the 15-inch Sony VAIO E Series we recently reviewed, the VAIO Z also bundles in a bunch of built-in software, out of which VAIO Gate is the most mention-worthy. VAIO Gate resides as an application dock along the top edge of the desktop; it houses all the frequently used programs and applications, including multimedia tools, for quick and easy access, and it's extensively customizable. Media Gallery's a good way to organize and view your photos and other media files, and there's plenty more useful proprietary software on the Sony VAIO Z. It isn't all mindless bloatware for sure. There are three buttons near the top right: Assist - to launch VAIO Care; VAIO - for launching the Media Gallery, and an eject button for the optical drive.

Performance
The Sony VAIO Z's (VPCZ116GG/B) performance knocks out every other ultraportable we've tested and reviewed till date. A WorldBench 6 score over 100 is a testimony of a very good machine, especially on the mobile computing platform. With a PC Mark Vantage, PC Mark 05, and 3D Mark 06 score of 10896, 9939, and 6222, respectively, the Sony VAIO Z has reached dizzying heights, almost encroaching on the Alienware's territory. In real-world usage, multiple processor-intensive and memory-intensive programs run smoothly on the VAIO Z. Thanks to the onboard SSD, applications and programs open pretty fast on the VAIO Z. Both 720p and 1080p videos played without a hitch. Although Sony doesn't tout the VAIO Z as a gaming machine, its under-the-hood GeForce GT 330M is more than capable of gaming.

The VAIO Z's battery life is its only shortcoming, on an otherwise excellent overall package. In our synthetic benchmarks, on Speed mode, the battery lasted for exactly an hour - which isn't too great. But on Stamina mode, we managed three hours of browsing the Web over Wi-Fi, while tuning into some music. This is still pretty good, but not very great.

In terms of usability, the Sony VAIO Z's screen, keyboard, and touchpad is one of the best we've encountered. The screen is very thin, and sufficiently bright, with good contrast levels. Colors popped out well while watching a DVD flick, and reading text for a couple of hours went well on the VAIO Z. Unlike most 13-inch laptops, the VAIO Z supports a larger screen resolution, therefore greater desktop space. The screen's horizontal viewing angles are one of the best we've seen for a while. The Sony VAIO Z's keyboard sports characteristic chiclet-styled, isolated keys that are a treat to type on. What's more the keyboard's backlit, and the keys lit up automatically when the ambient light is too low. Touchpad is finely textured and provides optimum feedback, no complaints whatsoever. The VAIO Z's onboard sound isn't very loud, but its crisp and clear - we would recommend headphones.

Conclusion
The Sony VAIO Z, for Rs. 1,09,000, is cheaper than the Dell Adamo XPS and Apple MacBook Air, and provides much better performance. It is elegantly designed, has a premium look that's functional, and great to use. Whether you're a businessperson or high-end user, if you've been searching for the perfect ultraportable, one that's light to carry, great to use with uncompromised performance, the new Sony VAIO Z is your perfect match.

Bottom Line

It is the ultraportable laptop of our dreams, something that's thin and light without any performance caps. The new 13-inch Sony VAIO Z (VPCZ116GG/B) laptop combines ultraportability and power like no other laptop.

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