Sony VAIO TR review: Sony VAIO TR

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MSRP: $2,300.00

The Good Lightweight; long battery life; built-in DVD/CD-RW drive; integrated video camera; dedicated flash media slot.

The Bad Tiny touchpad and mouse buttons; internal bay isn't swappable.

The Bottom Line Road warriors will be hard-pressed to find another ultralight with lower weight, longer battery life, and more features than the Sony VAIO TR2A.

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8.2 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 9
  • Support 7

Review summary

The computing arsenal of road warriors should include three items: ultralight weight, long battery life, and easy connectivity. The new Sony VAIO TR2A laptop fulfills each requirement, and then some. It offers the same extralight, 3.1-pound case as its predecessor, the TR1A, with souped-up specs such as a 1GHz Pentium M processor and a 40GB hard drive. The Sony VAIO TR2A earned a phenomenal 258-minute score in CNET Labs' battery-drain test. In addition, it sports three ways to get on the Web: 56Kbps dial-up, Ethernet, and 802.11b wireless networking. Other pluses include an integrated digital camera, and a dedicated flash media slot. All told, the Sony VAIO TR2A remains one of the smartest laptop choices available for highly mobile professionals.

See also:  Sony VAIO TR3AP2; Sony VAIO TR3AP3; Sony VAIO TR3AP1; Sony VAIO TR3A

The Sony VAIO TR2A's cool, ultralight case offers just about everything a journalist, a surveyor, or another mobile professional needs to get the job done. It's small and light enough to tote almost anywhere, measuring 10.6 by 1.4 by 7.4 inches and weighing 3.1 pounds, standard for an ultraportable.

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The touchpad and two mouse buttons are munchkin-size.
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A small camera sits atop the display.

Despite the laptop's small size, it includes a hearty selection of features for those who do both written and visual work. The keyboard isn't the widest in the world, but it's broad enough to dash off quick articles or reports without causing finger cramps. The integrated, rotating video camera on top of the 10.6-inch screen allows you to take stills and full-motion video to accompany your reports.

You can zap your work back to the office via the Sony VAIO TR2A's 56Kbps modem, Ethernet, or 802.11b wireless connections. A handy wireless on/off switch on the system's front edge helps to conserve battery life when you're not using wireless. You can also use the laptop's dedicated slot to download your music files or pictures from a Memory Stick flash media card or burn your work to disc using the integrated DVD/CD-RW drive. A healthy selection of ports--including FireWire, VGA, and USB 2.0--let you plug peripherals such as monitors, keyboards, and printers into the Sony VAIO TR2A.

Amid all these perks, some drawbacks exist. The Sony VAIO TR2A's touchpad and two mouse buttons are munchkin-size. The screen's high 1,280x768 native resolution makes for very detailed graphics--but minuscule text. (You can, of course, adjust the resolution.) And we wish you could swap out the fixed disk drive for other modules, such as a second battery, or at least choose a cutting-edge DVD+RW drive when you buy.

See also:  Sony VAIO TR3AP2; Sony VAIO TR3AP3; Sony VAIO TR3AP1; Sony VAIO TR3A

Most ultralight manufacturers run a tight ship when it comes to the specs you can choose at purchase time, but Sony takes the idea to the extreme with the Sony VAIO TR2A. The laptop's only variable is its 266MHz DDR memory, which starts at 512MB and maxes out at 1GB. The remaining components don't budge, but fortunately, they're right on the mark for an ultralight laptop. The list includes a 1GHz Pentium M processor, a 40GB hard drive, an Intel 855GM graphics chip with up to 64MB of video RAM borrowed from main memory, an integrated DVD/CD-RW drive, an exceptionally bright 10.6-inch screen, and built-in 802.11b wireless. To achieve true component excellence, Sony would have to include bleeding-edge parts such as a DVD+RW drive and 802.11g wireless.

The Sony VAIO TR2A offers a decent software selection. Windows XP Home is the laptop's sole operating system choice. Microsoft's Works 7.0 minisuite, Money 2004, and Encarta Online are the only office productivity options.

When it comes to multimedia apps, the playing field widens considerably. Sony's own DVgate lets you capture video or images from your built-in or external camera, edit those clips, then export them to a VCR or a DVD player to record on tape or disc. You can also use the included InterVideo WinDVD 4.0 player to view them on the Sony VAIO TR2A. Sony PictureGear Studio and Adobe Photoshop Elements allow you to import and edit photos, then organize them in online collections or albums. Plus, Sony's SonicStage software assists with music playback and organization.

See also:  Sony VAIO TR3AP2; Sony VAIO TR3AP3; Sony VAIO TR3AP1; Sony VAIO TR3A

The Sony VAIO TR2A came in last place in mobile performance in this small test group, bested by both the Toshiba Portégé R1000 and the Panasonic ToughBook CFW2. The Toshiba Portégé R1000 scored only eight points higher than the Sony VAIO TR2A, which is not a huge difference and wouldn't be noticeable when performing most real-world tasks. The 900MHz Pentium M-based Panasonic ToughBook CFW2, however, scored 17 points higher than the 1GHz Pentium M-based Sony VAIO TR2A, which translates into a noticeable difference in mobile performance. Compared to its peers, the Sony VAIO TR2A comes up short, but not by a huge amount.

Performance analysis written by CNET Labs assistant lab manager Eric Franklin.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  
Panasonic ToughBook CFW2
Toshiba Portégé R1000

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Panasonic ToughBook CFW2
Windows XP Pro; 900MHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855GM/GME Extreme Graphics (up to 64MB); Hitachi DK23EA-60 60GB 4,200rpm

Windows XP Home; 1,000MHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855 GM/GME Extreme Graphics (up to 64MB); Toshiba MK4004GAH 40GB 4,200rpm

Toshiba Portégé R1000
Windows XP Professional; 1,000MHz Intel Pentium M; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Trident Video Accelerator Cyber-XP4 32MB; Toshiba MK4004GAH 40GB 4,200rpm

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