Pros Nice display, fast, easy to carry, comfortable keyboard, not too hot
Cons Vista has some issues, battery life, too much junk software pre-loaded.
Summary I'm an IT support manager with more than a decade of experience using, troubleshooting, and repairing computers. I've spent a lot of time using laptops made by Dell, Fujitsu, Toshiba, IBM/Lenovo, and Apple. I used all of these machines through work. Now that I'm switching jobs, it's time to buy a laptop of my own for the first time in many years. Of all of these I'd say Fujitsu has impressed me the most, and I'm a big fan of their ultraportable P-series. As much as I love the ultraportables, I wanted something with a bit larger display and a lot more power for Photoshop (I'm a serious amateur photographer who sometimes travels with a laptop). So I started shopping for a machine that would be lightweight, smaller than average (but with a 13" display), decent size hard drive, 2GB RAM, excellent performance, decent battery life, etc. The Sony SZ series seemed to offer the best balance of what I wanted.
I seriously considered the Apple Macbook Pro. I could have gotten similar specs to this Sony for about the same price with my Education discount (worked at a University). In fact, I compared this very Sony with a Macbook we have at the office, as well as with our Dell Latitudes.
One decision I had to make was Apple vs. PC. I use both, and I've become quite a big fan of OS-X. I figured I'd dual boot between Windows and OS-X and get the best of both worlds using a Macbook. After some research I decided to go with a Vista laptop for the reason that I didn't want to make a small laptop drive smaller by partitioning. Also, I work in a Windows world for a living... it's how I make my money, so it is what I use 90% of the time. Much as a I love what Apple has done with OS-X, Vista will be my bread & butter in the years to come.
Now to the good stuff: This Sony VAIO VGN-SZ430N is an excellent laptop in terms of hardware. I would have preferred to buy direct from Sony or online, but I needed one quickly and got this at the local Best Buy. Compared with Dell, Fujitsu, and other computers not sold at big-box stores, this Sony came with a LOT of junk software installed. All kinds of trial-software ranging from online services and antivirus to an Office 2007 trial. Even the Napster music service was pre-installed... which became the first thing I removed. It has taken a long time to remove unwanted software. I'm sure there is still more to find that is taking up hard disk space. By the way, all this junk meant something like 20GB of storage space was already used. I know you get some of this with any manufacturer, but this seemed excessive.
Vista also has some issues since it is such a new operating system. Not everyone has optimized drivers for Vista, and I've read about problems with the fingerprint scanner and wireless broadband on these Sonys, but also on other laptops that use Vista as well. Some software apps you use on XP may not be totally ready for Vista either, but most should work just fine.
There are interface issues to be worked out in Vista as well. It just doesn't feel as polished as OS-X or even Windows XP SP2. There are things I really like about it: Integrating the search function into the start menu lets you launch an application quickly by clicking Start and typing the first few letters. I like the sidebar as well, but it isn't as cool as OS-X widgets. Flip3d and other Aero features are also nice, but not quite as cool as Mac's Expose in my opinion. Vista's enhanced security makes it's presence known quite often. You are nagged for an administrator password when you want to access or modify some system settings. OS-X does this as well, but they somehow make it less intrusive. I will say that I expect Microsoft to iron out some of the little bumps in Vista as the months go by. When Apple first released OS-X it was an even bigger mess in my opinion. It took another major release to smooth out the bumps, and today OS-X is the simply the more mature operating system. There are things I like and don't like about both OS-X and Vista, but that's another story. I can be happy in either environment.
There is one area where the Sony feels less speedy than the Macbook I sometimes use at work: It's the boot time. The Macbook takes 25 seconds to the login prompt, and another 20 seconds or so to completely load the desktop. This Sony takes about a minute to the login prompt, and sometimes another two full minutes to finish loading the desktop, sidebar, and other components installed by default. Limiting the number of startup applications will speed things up, but I'm sure it will still take this laptop at least two minutes to load from a cold boot. I wish the hybrid hard drive technology (that loads the OS from flash memory) was here in time for this laptop.
The amount of time it takes to resume from sleep/standby is much faster... practically instantaneous with no significant wait at all. Even resuming from hibernation to disk is much faster than a cold boot.
Once everything loads, any perceived sluggishness disappears and this laptop is all about performance. It's faster than the Core Duo Macbook and Dell Latitude I've used. Applications launch faster, and I really see the difference in Photoshop. I can open large graphics files instantly, and apply filters and adjustments with little to no waiting. This is wonderful news to me as a Photoshop user. Thin and light used to mean slow performance in the laptop world. With this machine I don't feel like I'm giving up anything performance-wise. The display is also extremely nice. A good display is a must for photographers, and Sony is known for quality displays (at least on their nicer machines like this one). I was happy to find that I can see more detail in the shadows, and more subtle variations in color, compared to some other LCDs I've used. I haven't calibrated the display yet, but out of the box it appears to be quite neutral with no strong color cast.
I love the keyboard... it feels better than many laptop keyboards I've used. The touchpad is fine, but I'd prefer larger touchpad buttons instead of the fingerprint scanner taking up room in between the buttons. I'm already used to it though. The buttons are also a bit loud. I like how quiet everything is on the Macbook. Only an issue in a quiet setting though.
I haven't used this laptop long enough to get a good feel for battery life. My initial impression is that it could be better, and maybe it will be after tweaking some settings to save power. With the default power profile I turned the display down to about 40% and got a couple of hours out of it. I'm sure I could get 3 hours or more by optimizing things further. I wouldn't call it disappointing performance considering how light and fast this machine is. Somethings gotta give.
The wireless WAN antenna is kind of annoying. It folds against the keyboard well enough, but it's kind of cheesy to have this flimsy piece of plastic hanging out there all the time. I have no plans to use Cingular's service, so I disabled the WWAN adapter and just use WLAN and bluetooth. The Sony's Intel 802.11abg adapter maintains a stronger and more reliable signal than the Dell's internal Wifi or the Apple's Airport do... at least on the two networks I use.
The AC adapter power brick is average. I've used smaller, but also larger.
I have not used Sony's support, so I don't know how that is. Their website seems like it has the appropriate driver info, and they bundle utilities to help you keep things up to date. I don't like the fact that you don't get a Windows installation CD. You can make one, but it simply restores the factory image... I assume with all the junk included. I'd prefer to do my own clean install with only the necessary drivers and software.
In a nutshell: If you want/need to run Windows Vista and you want a lightweight laptop that is fast and easy to read, I highly recommend this Sony. Just keep in mind that you might have to put up with a few inconveniences and annoyances from the new operating system. This will be true with any brand of Windows computer for a few more months. If you have the freedom to use any operating system you want, and you want a smoother experience, give the Macbook a try. It’s a bit heavier though.
Personally I like this Sony. It's light, fast, and so far it is stable as well.
Pros small and lightweight
Cons windows vista
Summary I bought this laptop expecting a great laptop just like my old vaio however, I am greatly dissapointed. It's a great laptop to travel with, being small but still have a good sized screen. However the new windows vista sucks. My computer blacks out for a couple seconds every so often and has already froze up. I also can't upload photos from my camera even though I was able to a few days ago (nothing has changed otherwise). It isn't as fast as I was hoping it would be, especially for the price. It is about as fast as my old computer is now, which is about 3 years old. I recommend sticking with a computer that uses windows xp, or waiting until they sort out the kinks in their new program
Pros lightweight and sleek
Cons defective aircard
Summary This laptop came with all the bells and whistles. Unfortunately, none of them work! The integrated Cingular Air Card is defective. It disconnects itself from Cingular every 10 minutes. Sony says that this is a "known problem" and there is no solution. The biometric fingerprint reader uninstalls itself every other boot-up. And Windows Vista Business is a disater. Several of my mainstream programs will not work with Vista Business (Act! 6.0, Adobe Acrobat 5.0). Every time I boot up this computer it is an adventure. I never know what, but something will be broken every time. I can not believe that Sony would bring such a defective computer to market. I am very disappointed.
Pros full size keyboard
Cons Hot, super loud no matter the settings. Software support is extremely poor. This laptop combined with Windows Vista will drive you to buy Mac in no time.
Summary don't buy it.
Pros the proccesor is quit fast, it doesn't make any noise at all
Cons the battery does not stand more than 1 and half hour