Hands on with the Sony Vaio TT ultraportable

Sony's newly revamped ultraportable laptop, the Vaio TT, is a well-needed reminder that not every tiny laptop needs to be a low-cost, low-power netbook-style system.

Sony's $4,300 Vaio TT is about as far from the standard $500 Netbook as possible. CNET

Sony's newly revamped ultraportable laptop , the Vaio TT, is a well-needed reminder that not every tiny laptop needs to be a low-cost, low-power Netbook-style system .

In fact, the Vaio TT is about as far from the standard $500 Netbook as possible, given the relative physical similarities. The TT's highest-end configuration (named the TT190UBX), includes not only an Intel ULV (ultra-low voltage) processor, but a whopping 4GB of RAM, and even an internal Blu-ray recordable optical drive. The real star power, however, comes from an unprecedented 256GB solid state hard drive, which jacks the price up to an equally imposing $4,300. Naturally, less expensive versions are available, ditching the Blu-ray and giant SSD drive.

The Vaio's 11-inch screen follows the 16:9 aspect ratio trend we've seen in new 16- and 18-inch laptops (including, naturally, Sony's new multimedia laptops). The 1,366x768 resolution isn't too far removed from the 1,024x600 found on most Netbooks, but the extra RAM and Intel Core 2 Duo processor makes a difference, allowing it to run Windows Vista smoothly, instead of XP.

Not too long ago, high-end ultraportable laptops were considered desirable status symbols, and many consumers were willing to part with more than $2,000 for a small, easy-to-carry system. With the advent of Netbooks, which covered a lot of the same basic ground (Web surfing, sending e-mail, etc.), everyone's expectations were lowered, and a much more workmanlike industrial design took over.

The Vaio TT eschews the cheap plastic look (and for $4,000, it had better), instead presenting a slick carbon fiber chassis, incredibly thin backlit LED display, metal accents, and soft, rounded curves. It's an evolution of the previous Vaio TZ model, which was one of our favorite ultraportables.

Yes, there's a Blu-ray optical drive crammed in there. CNET

A handful of other companies are still putting some effort into the high-end ultraportable market--notably Lenovo with its attractive IdeaPad U110 and Toshiba with its Portege R500, which makes up for a somewhat bland design with some impressive engineering to save space and weight.

The Vaio TT's MacBook-like keyboard has flat letter keys, widely spaced, making for a surprisingly comfortable typing experience, considering the actual keys are no larger than those found on something like Dell's 9-inch Inspiron Mini 9 Netbook. Volume, optical drive eject, and assignable shortcut buttons sit along the bottom edge of the wrist rest, and Sony has managed to fit in both VGA and HDMI outputs, and a mini-FireWire jack, in addition to the usual USB and SD card slots.

While the high price may keep the Vaio TT out of the hands of all but the most well-heeled buyers, it's still gratifying to know that not every PC maker is in a race to the bottom end of the market, and there's still room for a few high-end experiments in conspicuous consumption.

About the author

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of laptops, desktops, and Windows tablets, while also writing about games, gadgets, and other topics. A former radio DJ and member of Mensa, he's written about music and technology for more than 15 years, appearing in publications including Spin, Blender, and Men's Journal.

 

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