Sony VAIO Z review (2011)
Sony's premium VAIO Z laptop is expensive as always, but this time it comes with compromises that include a loud fan and flaky touchpad.
- Impossibly lightweight Fast and powerfulBrilliant, high-resolution display
- Very expensive Fans often get loudTrackpad can be frustrating to use
We see countless laptops come and go through the seasons, but a rare few have built up something of a following. Make no mistake: the Sony VAIO Z, a skinny ultraportable brimming with cutting-edge technology and powerful innards, is that kind of gem. So when it disappeared from Sony's online store earlier this year, more than a few techies took note. After all, the Z is part of a small fraternity of notebooks that combine an impossibly lightweight design with performance worthy of a larger system. People who missed out on the last-gen Z wondered when they'd next get the chance to buy, while some lucky folks out there with thousands to burn started itching for something thinner, something lighter, something... better.Well, it's here. The 2011 VAIO Z is, indeed, thinner, lighter, and more powerful. It also might not be the Z you were expecting. Whereas the last generation combined it all, cramming in an optical drive and switchable graphics, this year's model leaves much of that at the door -- or, at least, in an external dock that ships with the laptop. This time around, the Z has no optical drive, and packs just an integrated Intel graphics card on board. (Don't worry, it does squeeze in lots of other goodies, including standard-voltage Sandy Bridge processors and expanded solid-state storage.) If you want that Blu-ray burner or the stock AMD Radeon HD 6650M graphics card, you'll have to plug into the Power Media Dock, an external peripheral that uses Intel's Light Peak technology.That's quite the gamble Sony is taking -- after all, the company is essentially betting that you won't need to do anything too intensive while you're on the go. On the one hand, this inventive design is sure to intrigue the Z's usual early adopter fanbase. But will it satisfy those who always liked the Z because of its no-compromise design? And then there's the issue of that $1,969 starting price, a likely stumbling block for people trying to decide between this and an equally thin, less expensive ultraportable. What's a well-heeled geek to do? Let's find out.