VAIO Z Series (VPCZ114GX/S)
- Thin and light design
- Beautiful matte display
- Core i5 power, dual SSDs
- Lots of preloaded software
- No manual controls for keyboard backlight
Look and feel
Keyboard, touchpad and screen
While cheap laptop screens are riddled with poor viewing angles and a glossiness that make them more useful as a mirror than a display, the plus $1,800 VAIO Z's matte 13.1-inch, 1600x900 resolution LED screen is something to rave about. Horizontal and vertical angles were not an issue, and colors were incredibly bright and vivid when we watched an episode of Lost. Little to no adjustments were required to the angle of the scratch-proof screen when lying in bed to watch -- not something we can say for most laptop LCDs. The Z's speakers are decent for such a small system, and Sony has been kind enough to include a set of nice sounding earbuds in the box.
Performance, graphics and battery life
While the integrated Intel GMA HD graphics were fine for basic everyday tasks, the 1GB NVIDIA GT330M was better suited for handling high-def video and 3D games. Batman: Arkham Asylum rocked 21fps at the native resolution, and a 1080p Transformers trailer on YouTube played smoothly, not to mention looked stunning on the screen -- have we mentioned we love this screen? Sony's Dynamic Hybrid Graphics System isn't as automatic as the ASUS UL80Vf's with NVIDIA Optimus, but is a decent hardware based solution. The Auto mode option defaults to using the discrete graphics, but pull the AC adapter and it will automatically switch to the IGP to save battery life. If you prefer to do it all manually, there's a three way toggle above the keyboard.
With all that Sony has managed to fit into the Z we were expecting extremely warm temperatures from the bottom of the chassis and the palmrest, but the system actually ran quite cool. There was some fan noise when we fired up graphics intensive applications, but it wasn't too bothersome. Similarly, the optical drive was no louder than usual when watching a DVD.
|Sony VAIO Z (2.53GHz Core i5, NVIDIA GT 330M)||9949
|Toshiba Satellite E205 (2.2GHz Core i5, GMA HD)||5187
|Acer Aspire 5738PG (2.55GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI Radeon 4570)||4049
|Lenovo ThinkPad Edge (1.3GHz Core 2 Duo, GMA)||2955||905||5:12|
So for the million dollar question: how do these high-performance parts affect battery life? With the discrete graphics turned off, the 57Wh battery lasted for 4 hours and 25 minutes on our video rundown battery test with brightness to 65 percent. That translated to about six hours of usage when we used the laptop to surf the web and write this review in Microsoft Word 2007. That isn't as long as ULV laptops like the ASUS UL80Vt, but in truth we were actually expecting the Z to do much worse considering the Core i5 Toshiba Satellite E205 only lasts 3.5 hours. The battery life isn't stellar, but if you are headed from New York to Cali the Z should get you through the flight.
In typical Sony form the Z Series is loaded up with a number of applications including its own proprietary Media Gallery and Evernote for VAIO, and an assortment of not-very-useful free trials -- though if you configure the Z online you can opt to get a "fresh start" that removes all of these applications. We do have to say that the preinstalled Google Chrome browser is a nice touch, and saved us Internet Explorer haters the step of having to download it when we first powered on the box.
- Key specs
- Type Ultraportable
- Screen size 13.1 inches
- Screen resolution 1920 x 1080
- Processor speed 2.8 GHz
- System RAM 8 GB
- Maximum battery life Up to 7 hours
- Dimensions 1.3 x 12.4 x 8.3 in
- Weight 3.04 lb