Sony's T series has always represented the ultimate in ultraportable computing and its latest incarnation, the TT epitomises everything the series stands for: it's attractive, has great connectivity and is highly portable. Netbooks offer similar functionality for a fraction of the price, but the Sony Vaio TT is the best money can buy
Sony's T series has always represented the ultimate in ultraportable computing. The latest incarnation, dubbed the TT, epitomises everything the series stands for: it's attractive, has great connectivity and is highly portable. It doesn't come cheap, though. SonyStyle.co.uk is selling the entry-level machine for a cool £1,399, while the top of the range model commands a quite staggering £2,799.
The Vaio TT is very compact in size, sitting somewhere between the largest netbooks and the smallest ultraportables. The chassis measures 279mm by 23mm by199mm and weighs just 1.3kg, making it ideal for lugging to and from business meetings.
Sony has done an exceptional job styling the TT -- it's right up there with the best laptop in any category. The entry-level TT 15V version is available in 'gold fever' or -- for an extra £10 -- red finishes. The mid-range TT 15W and high-end 15X, meanwhile, come in matte black (or Intense Noir as Sony calls it). We're particularly fond of this option since it doesn't attract fingerprint smudges or grease in the same way many rival laptops do, so it stays cleaner for longer.
Open the lid and you'll be greeted by the same Intense Noir colour scheme and an isolated keyboard with keys that are slightly smaller than the norm. However, there is a 2mm gap between each key, so if you're a little off with your aim, you're less likely to hit an adjacent key by mistake. This works well in practice, with high-speed touch typing a definite possibility for those who are capable.
Sony's got the mouse right, too. The trackpad is relatively large and smooth and has dedicated swipe zones at the far right and bottom edges for scrolling vertically and horizontally with a simple gesture. The selector buttons, which are typically very small on laptops of this type, are good too -- they're actually bigger than those you'd find on many desktop-replacement laptops and have a smooth action.
The number of ports on the TT is about right, all things considered. On the left side there two USB ports, a four-pin iLink (aka FireWire) port, an ExpressCard slot, and behind a flap labelled 'HDMI', there are HDMI and Ethernet ports. The flap, which is tethered to the chassis, looks rather unsightly when hanging loose, but at least it keeps dust and debris from two of the laptop's most important ports. On the right lives a D-Sub video output port and DVD rewriter drive, which is a huge bonus for a machine of this size.
There are four off-the-shelf, and three user-configurable versions of the TT. The latter group includes the £1,380 entry-level TT 15V, the £1,888 mid-range 15W and the £2,798 high-end TT 15X. The TT 15V and 15W come with 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs plus 1GB and 2GB of RAM respectively, while the TT 15X ships with a quicker 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo and 4GB of RAM. The performance delta between these systems isn't enormous, but if you're more interested in running demanding applications than prolonging battery life, you can upgrade to the 1.4GHz model for an extra £50, prolonging battery life.
Storage isn't a primary concern on laptops of this type, since the TT is more likely to be a second PC than your main computer. It's therefore no surprise to learn the TT 15V uses a 120GB hard drive -- the TT 15W uses a 160GB model. We personally wouldn't bother buying the larger drive, since that extra 40GB will cost you £110. If you really do need extra storage, there's always the option to upgrade the drive yourself, or buy a USB hard drive or memory card. Likewise, we'd be reluctant to spend an extra £580 on the 128GB solid-state drive. SSDs theoreticaly provide quicker disk access and use less power, but they offer much less storage for your money.
All versions of the TT ship with an 8x dual-layer DVD rewriter drive, so you can watch DVD movies and make backups of up to 8.5GB in size. All three models can be upgraded with a Blu-ray drive at a cost of £330, but whether it's worth doing so depends on how much cash you have to spare. The integrated Intel Graphics Media Adaptor X4500 MHD is capable of decoding 1080p Blu-ray, but in our eyes, Blu-ray is a luxury best reserved for your main desktop PC.
Ordinary DVDs look fantastic on the 11-inch display anyway. This has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, so DVDs are scaled up to match this, while 1080p video is scaled down. It is bright, has good colour reproduction, and the glossy X-Black finish isn't so glossy it prevents use outdoors.
One crucial aspect of the TT's specification is its wireless WAN capability. The mid- and high-end models come with integrated 3G modems as standard -- users simply have to insert their own 3G SIM into a dedicated slot beneath the battery to enjoy wireless Internet access wherever they please. This feature can be installed on the entry-level TT15V for an extra £135, but if this isn't your cup of tea, you can always fall back on the 802.11g/n Wi-Fi adaptor, or connect to a Web-connected mobile phone via Bluetooth.
The TT15W and TT15X both come with a fingerprint reader for logging in without entering a password. This is linked to a trusted platform module (TPM), which provides an extra level of security. It can, for instance, encrypt your data in such a way that thieves cannot remove your hard drive and extract important files. The TT15V ships with Windows Vista Home Premium, but for an extra £60, Sony will swap that for Vista Business edition, which the TT15W and TT15V use as standard.
All versions of the TT offer balanced performance. They're by no means the quickest laptops in the world, but they're fast for their size and offer long battery life. The 1.2GHz Core 2 Duo CPU in our TT15W clocked up 2,259 in the PCMark 2005 benchmark, so it's significantly quicker than your average netbook, which tend to score approximately 1,500. We didn't expect the graphics performance to be up to scratch, and it wasn't -- it achieved just 654 in the 3DMark 2006 benchmark, which is par for the course in any laptop using an integrated Intel solution.
If there's one thing the TT should be renowned for, it's its battery life. It lasted a very commendable 3 hours 51 minutes with its CPU running at full tilt in the Battery Eater classic benchmark. In the more relaxed reader test, it lasted a very impressive 6 hours 2 minutes. That's not exactly Sony's claimed 9 hours away from the mains, but it's highly impressive nonetheless.
If you have the money, you shouldn't hesitate to buy the TT, no matter which version you choose. It looks phenomenal, is comfortable to use and is exceptionally portable. Netbooks offer similar functionality for a fraction of the price, but if you're not affected by the credit crunch and don't mind people laughing at you for blowing so much cash on a second computer, you should definitely join the TT club.
Edited by Cristina Psomadakis