Sony VAIO VGN-Z11WN/B notebook review

The fact that Sony hasn't given in to market forces and released its own netbook is proof that it's core focus remains in fully featured, but ultraportable, notebooks. The latest such model is the Sony VAIO VGN-Z11WN/B, which weighs in at a highly portable 1.5kg.

With a body that uses magnesium-alloy, carbon fibre and brushed aluminium, the feel of this machine is great. It's also tough as old boots and can easily stand up to being carried around in a standard carry case. We would suggest investing in a slipcase, though, to prevent possible scratches.

It's the first Sony notebook to use a 13.1-inch Super-TFT screen. While slightly smaller than older panels, this screen supports a native widescreen resolution of 16:9, so you can watch movies without the annoying bars top and bottom. The screen size also minimises the profile of the laptop so it takes up less space in your carry case.

The screen may be smaller but you'll still find plenty of space to open windows side-by-side. It's a backlit LED panel, so colour reproduction is sharp and true to life, and the overall effect is amazing.

Considering this is an ultraslim notebook we were surprised to find a dedicated graphics card built-in. The Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS is an entry-level card but it's fine for most mainstream applications and games. Sony has fitted a switch that allows you to turn this card off when running on battery life, dropping down to using the Intel GMA 4500HD integrated chip instead. This is a neat touch as it helps to preserve battery life.

This all adds up to a battery life that will comfortably see you through a full working day, as in use we found this machine could regularly last for 9 hours before needing to be charged. Incidentally, running the VAIO with the dedicated card switched on, battery life drops to a still rather impressive 5 hours.

The keyboard uses Sony's latest look, so the keys protrude through a fixed base. This makes them more robust to the touch but also offers better spacing. It's a great design and makes typing a pleasure rather than a chore, making it ideal for those who need to write longer documents on the move.

When it comes to performance, you'll find this machine is no slouch. Powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo P8600, this 2.4GHz chip uses Intel's latest Centrino 2 technology, so runs faster but cooler and is ideal for machines of this size. With 4GB of memory and a 250GB hard drive, you can comfortably use this notebook as your sole PC.

Extras include a fingerprint reader and you'll even find an integrated HSDPA module, so you can set up a mobile broadband account. With HDMI and VGA-out port, as well as two USB ports, connectivity is basic but covers the common connections available.

Verdict

The Sony VAIO VGN-Z11WN/B is a stunning notebook for anyone who needs performance and battery life from their portable. Sure, you're paying for these features but there currently isn't another notebook on the market that can touch for the VAIO for portability.