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Laptops

Photos: Hands-on with the Sony Vaio Z Series (VGN-Z11VN/B)

We've got hands on Sony's latest and greatest Vaio laptop -- the insanely gorgeous new Vaio Z Series. Here are all the details, pictures and first impressions galore

Out here in Berlin, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty fugly, Sony has been treating us to a plethora of pleasures. It unveiled to Europe its four latest lines of Vaio laptops -- two aimed at business users, one aimed at families and one aimed at business users with families (no, really).

The most exciting was the Vaio Z Series, led by the top-end VGN-Z11VN/B. This powerful little Intel Centrino 2-powered midget of a laptop comes with a 2.53GHz CPU, 4GB of DDR2 RAM, 320GB hard disk, Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS graphics, Bluetooth, 802.11 a/b/g and Draft-N Wi-Fi, plus an embedded SIM slot for truly mobile broadband, supporting HSDPA up to 7.2Mbps.

At 1.5kg, it's not Sony's lightest laptop, but its specs are incredible for its size. It rocks a true 16:9 resolution, 13.1-inch X-Black LCD screen with incredible colour, up to its native resolution of 1,600x900 pixels. We saw various videos and demos playing on the Z Series and compared to the TZ Series before it, the TZ looked washed out, faded and unrealistic.

There's no Blu-ray drive, though, and although we were told by Sony that it "might be possible" in the future, there's currently no solid-state drive option.

We spent a good half hour playing with this laptop and it really stole the show in our opinion. It's so much fun to use with its amazing specs and a design and build quality we honestly want to describe as 'succulent': so good you want to suck its carbon fibre chassis right off.

We undoubtedly will when it's released later this year, with prices starting at £1,449 for the VGN-Z11MN/B, £1,649 for the VGN-Z11WN/B and maxing out at £1,749 for the VGN-Z11VN/B.

Until we get more UK availability details, click through for close-ups and hands-on snaps galore as we document our one-night stand with the hottest thing to hit Germany since Yvonne Catterfeld. -Nate Lanxon

Just look at that screen. True, it's hard to get a grasp of how splendid its colour reproduction is, but you might be able to tell it's a little wider than most laptops. That's because it is, being of true 16:9 resolution.

A redesigned keyboard isolates each key into its own little key-shaped space (photos over the page shortly). It makes typing unusual for the first minute or so -- each key feels a little further apart, although in reality they aren't, and mistyping should be reduced as a result.

An integrated webcam should help with all the video conferencing you'll be needing to do as a business person -- when you're not thinking outside the box, shifting some paradigms and maximising quarterly earnings, that is.

There's your Ethernet and FireWire ports, residing peacefully on the left-hand side of the chassis.

And on the right-hand side, HDMI-out, VGA-out, another USB socket and a DVD-RAM drive.

On the front of the system sit memory card slots and a physical control for activating and deactivating the wireless LAN.

On top is a large track pad and its companion buttons. For security, there's also an integrated fingerprint reader for making sure those Excel spreadsheets and encrypted yearly reports don't reach unapproved eyes.

Seriously, we joke about the business-centric vision behind the Z Series, but it's an extremely desirable laptop for anyone who works on the move or even less-poor students. And you can never be too careful with securing private data.

Depending on what you're working on at the time, the Z Series can be easily switched to better conserve power or better exhaust it for a bump in performance. This switch handles that task.

Closed, the Vaio logo stares us seductively in the face, its carbon fibre chassis just begging to be stroked, caressed and fondled.

Finally, something for those of you keen to see more of the Z Series' internals: on the right is the motherboard for the TZ Series of Vaio laptops. On the left, the significantly shrunked mobo used in the Z Series. Despite its small stature, the Z Series' motherboard binds together a machine that outstrips the entire TZ line by miles.

If ever we wanted to sell body parts to afford a gadget, it's now. We'd even consider selling our own body parts this time, too.