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Sony VAIO VGN-TX2XP/L review: Sony VAIO VGN-TX2XP/L

The Good Ultra-small, lightweight chassis; excellent keyboard, great screen, wireless connectivity.

The Bad Relative lack of power; limited number of IO ports.

The Bottom Line The VAIO TX2 is a showcase for Sony's design department. It looks incredible from just about any angle, and while it lacks the performance of its larger rivals, it is perfectly adequate for running business productivity applications. If you're after an ultraportable laptop, and can afford the asking price, then look no further

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8.3 Overall

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The VAIO TX1 caused a major stir when it was unveiled in 2005. Many consider it the most accomplished ultraportable laptop ever released thanks to its svelte exterior, stylish chassis and excellent battery life. Its successor, the VAIO TX2, makes just as good an impression. Available from www.sonystyle.co.uk and other good retailers, it is the smallest, lightest two-spindle laptop on the market, incorporating an integrated DVD rewriter, an ample hard drive and strong connectivity features. However in a world where dual-core processors are fast becoming the norm, it'll be interesting to see whether its reliance on older technology is its Achilles' heel.

Design
The VAIO TX2 is the epitome of sexy. It is just 272.4mm wide by 195mm deep, and is just over 28mm thin, so when you slip it into its accompanying leather carry-case, it looks as if you're carrying a small Filofax rather than a state of the art laptop. It feels like you're carrying one too -- the TX2 is a lightweight 1.24kg.

The lid of our review sample, which bears the full moniker VAIO VGN-TX2XP/L, is a resplendent dark blue, but there are silver and blue versions available -- albeit with differing specs. The screen itself is an absurdly thin 5mm. The body section of all TX2s (including the keyboards) are of a carbon fibre construction and finished in silver. The mouse touchpad, also silver, has a Braille-like dot pattern beneath its smooth plastic shield, but the small mouse buttons below it felt a tad fiddly.

Like the TX1, the TX2 has a set of control switches mounted at the front. These include a hardware wireless switch for one-touch activation of the integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi adaptors, volume control buttons, headphone and mic sockets and a card reader. Refreshingly, Sony has included an SD Card slot alongside the traditional MagicGate Memory Stick reader -- a feature not seen on all VAIO laptops.


There's a range of control switches on the front

Sony has somehow crammed an optical drive into the right side of the laptop. Just behind this is a VGA port for connecting the TX2 to an external display, and on the opposite side of the laptop, there's a modem port and two USB ports. One of these is shielded behind a body-coloured flap. The rear is barren with just a 4-pin Firewire port and an Ethernet adaptor.

Features
Like most new VAIO laptops, the TX2 is of second-generation Centrino heritage. Sony has opted not to use one of the latest dual-core processors and the Intel 945 chipset. Instead, we get an ageing Pentium M 753 clocked at a modest 1.2GHz on an Intel 915 chipset. The CPU is comparatively slow, but it consumes little power (which aids longer battery life) and is paired with a respectable 1GB of Ram.

You won't be playing any games on the VAIO TX2. Its integrated graphics card, as supplied by the Intel 915 chipset, can share 64MB of main system memory, but it won't run anything more demanding than a DVD movie or Powerpoint presentation.

Sony is keen to highlight the laptop's multimedia capabilities and has furnished it with a set of dedicated AV control buttons just above the main keyboard. When in Windows XP, these provide basic playback functions and quick access to WinDVD, SonicStage and Windows Media Player.


The TX2 has dedicated AV control buttons above the keyboard


Despite the lack of image processing power, the TX2 has an impressive 11.1-inch screen which runs at a native widescreen resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. It delivers impressive image quality thanks to Sony's X-Black screen coating, which helps images appear well defined with good levels of contrast.

X-Black screens can be highly reflective and this can hinder usability. However the TX2's screen is a joy to use in most lighting conditions, and has an Automatic Luminance Sensor, which automatically controls the screen brightness depending on a room's light conditions.

Unlike most laptop screens, it uses LED technology instead of traditional liquid crystal. This uses less power than ordinary LCD displays and can help prolong laptop battery life. The screen isn't perfect though, like the TX1, it suffers from minor light bleeding. In other words, the pixels in the first 10mm starting from the base of the screen look marginally brighter than those above them. However, the effect is barely noticeable and it doesn't hinder the overall quality of the display.

We were very impressed with the 120GB hard drive in the VAIO S5VP. The TX2's 80GB offering isn't as impressive, but it should be capacious enough for most users. If you do run out of room, there's an integrated Matshita UJ-832D optical drive, which can copy up to 8.5GB of data to dual layer DVD discs at respectable 2.4x.

Like the rest of the VAIO laptop range, the TX2 has ample options for connecting to the wider world. It adheres to the Centrino standard, so it has an integrated 802.11a/b/g wireless adaptor, and you also get a built-in Bluetooth adaptor. The former lets you connect to the Internet via local Wi-Fi networks, and the latter is a great way of synchronising with or sending documents to and from a mobile phone.

Like the TX1, the TX2's keyboard is logically laid-out and is of a very good size, so we had no trouble churning out text documents at typing speeds we'd expect to achieve on full size desktop keyboards. We took issue with the mouse touchpad, though. Its buttons are small, fiddly and positioned awkwardly on the edge of the laptop. The pad itself was also unresponsive at times. For best results, we'd recommend using an external USB mouse.

Performance
The VAIO TX2's 1.2GHz processor is a bit of a slouch in comparison to most new laptops. It will happily let you surf the Web, perform minor image and video editing tasks, and run office productivity software such as Microsoft Office, but it slows down noticeably when running demanding applications. It achieved a fairly low PCMark 2005 score of 1,327.

Its gaming performance is nigh-on nonexistent. It racked up a paltry 3DMark 2006 tally of 49 and even at a low resolution of 640x480, it could only run Doom 3 at 7.2fps. Cranking up the resolution to 800x600 paints an even bleaker picture -- just 5.4fps.

The TX2's lacklustre processing performance isn't a major concern though. What it lacks in overall grunt, it makes up for in quiet operation and long battery life. It is barely audible during normal use, and though its fans do emit a whine when running demanding applications, it lasted a massive 4 hours and 53 minutes on battery power, which is the longest we've seen for any laptop.

Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield

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