Sony Vaio Z review: Sony Vaio Z

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Typical Price: $3,999.00
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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

1.5 stars 6 user reviews

The Good Stylish design. Thin and light. Power Dock adds genuine utility. Great performance.

The Bad Alarming sticker on the base is truly alarming. Speakers are exceptionally poor. It's a touch on the costly side.

The Bottom Line Sony's thrown everything it's got at the Vaio Z, with the notable exception of good speakers. The result is an excellent laptop for both mobile and desktop use, but it'll certainly cost you a pretty penny.

8.5 Overall

Design

Sony's Z line is at top of the line and luxurious end of the Vaio notebook range. When you consider that Sony generally pitches its laptops as being premium machines anyway, it means the Vaio Z should be something special.

The model of the Vaio Z submitted to us for testing certainly was. It was the deluxe gold finish model, which is currently only available in Sony Centre stores and online from Sony's website. It's a damn fine-looking notebook if seriously blinged out is your thing, and a gaudy eyesore if it's not. We like it, but you may not, and in any case the gold finish (it's not real gold) doesn't cost any extra over the regular colour scheme.

The dimensions of the Vaio Z is where things get really clever. Plenty of notebooks we've tested can lay claim to being really thin — recent examples include the MacBook Air and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 — but the Vaio Z isn't just thin; it's thin all over. There's no "minimum" thickness to the Vaio Z, which measures 16.65mm at the front and the back. It's uniformly thin, in other words, and this makes it appear slender rather than bulgy. It's also extremely light. For those who live for MacBook Air comparisons (whether on the pro or anti side), the Vaio Z tips the scales slightly lighter than the Air at 1.165kg, making it very easy to carry around in its portable configuration mode.

The Vaio Z comes with what Sony calls the "Power Media Dock", something that on first glance you might just mistake for an external Blu-ray drive. To be fair, it is indeed an external Blu-ray drive, but that's not all it can do. Connecting up via Light Peak, it also houses an external GPU for additional graphics grunt when connected. The basic idea is that you'll use the simple portable mode of the Vaio Z, along with its smaller charger when you're on the road, and then dock at your desk with the Power Media Dock and its larger charger instead.

One design note we can't let pass — and it might be unique to our review sample, but in this lawyer-happy world, we suspect not — is the warning label on the base of the Vaio Z. Flip this laptop over, and you'll find a yellow warning sticker that reads "Do not leave your computer in contact with your body for an extended period of time. The temperature of the base of the computer and air vent may increase and could result in discomfort or burns."

Call us naive, but isn't the point of a laptop to put the device on your lap without risking flesh burns?

Features

It could be that the warning is there because this is, in specification terms, a pretty hot little number. It all runs from an Intel Core i7 2620M 2.7GHz processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage. The 13.1-inch display screen has a matte finish, meaning no glare, but more critically it's got a top resolution of 1920x1080, making it truly Full HD compatible. On the one hand, Full HD on a 13-inch screen is overkill, and it does mean the default Windows icons are on the small side. Then again, if you're going to go all out on a notebook, why not really go all out?

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