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Sony Vaio VGN-TX5XN review: Sony Vaio VGN-TX5XN

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The Good Decent keyboard; internal DVD writer; vivid display; long battery life.

The Bad Relatively underpowered; limited expansion ports; screen a little small for everyday use.

The Bottom Line It may not pack the processing power of a super computer, but the TX5XN makes up for it in many other ways. It's small and light enough to carry with you everywhere, with enough battery life to keep you going most of the day

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8.3 Overall

Review Sections

The laptops in Sony's TX series are not only impossibly small, but super-stylish, too. The 11-inch widescreen display is enough for use while out and about and its titchy dimensions and lightweight chassis won't slow you down while you're on the move.

Despite its small size, the TX5XN is usable, with a decent keyboard and even an internal DVD writer. It's fully Vista capable, so you don't miss out on the fancy extras in Microsoft's new OS, and at around £1,500 it's not exorbitantly priced.

Design
The TX5XN hasn't changed much on the outside compared to its predecessors -- the TX2 and TX3 -- but when the design is this good, that's no bad thing. Crucially, its footprint is still smaller than a sheet of A4 paper, and even when closed it's less than 30mm thick.

The laptop lid is finished with a stylish black metallic effect, while the rest of the body is decked out in an attractive silver. The lid itself is only a mere 4mm thick, which seems impossibly thin, but thankfully it's protected by carbon fibre to help prevent damage. You'll still want to exercise some care when opening and closing it, though, as the screen can flex a fair bit.

11-inches of screen estate is enough for working on the move, although if you're planning on using the laptop for prolonged sessions in the office, you'll want to hook it up to a larger external display to prevent eye strain.

Despite the small chassis, the keys are decently sized and comfortable to type on, and the keyboard is stable and not prone to the flexing we've seen on some ultraportables. The touchpad does feel like it's been squeezed in though, with the top almost touching the space bar -- you may find you accidentally brush against it when typing. The mouse buttons are a little awkward to press right at the bottom of the unit.


The fingerprint reader is neatly placed on the right-hand side, and the wireless switch is located on the front edge, along with headphone and mic sockets

There's a fingerprint reader tucked away on the right-hand side, so you can use a single swipe of your finger to replace passwords.

The right of the unit is mostly taken up by the internal DVD writer, with a D-Sub VGA port towards the back. Over the other side there are two USB ports -- one of which is hidden behind a flap along with the modem connector -- and a PC Card slot. At the back there's a four-pin FireWire socket, network port and power connector. Along the front edge Sony has included an SD card slot as well as MemoryStick reader, volume buttons, headphone and microphone sockets, plus a wireless on/off switch.

There's a panel of shortcut buttons at the top edge of the machine, above the keyboard, which by default are set to launch the DVD playback software and provide play, stop, fast forward, rewind and eject.

Features
This laptop is built with portability and long battery life in mind, so it's no surprise that it's a little lacking in the Gigahertz department. The Intel Core Solo U1500 ultra-low voltage chip -- running at 1.33GHz -- and 1GB RAM are sufficient for everyday tasks but lack the oomph for anything more intensive.



The Intel GMA 950 graphics card also lacks the horsepower for gaming, and you'll be hard-pushed to play any recent titles.

Storage comes in at a reasonable 100GB from the Toshiba hard drive and there's also an internal dual layer DVD writer so you can burn up to 8.5GB of data at a time.


The shortcut keys provide quick access to DVD controls

Sony has packed a fair bit inside the TX5XN, which is probably just as well since you're limited to two USB ports and a single four-pin FireWire for expansion. The card slot is also the older PC Card format, rather than ExpressCard -- while this is fine for now, it does limit its potential in the future.

Your wireless needs are taken care of by the built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth so you shouldn't have a problem connecting it up to a wire-free Internet connection.

The 11.1-inch screen uses Sony's X-black technology, and while this means extremely vibrant colours, it does have the downside of making the display fairly reflective. The resolution stretches to 1,366x768 pixels so widescreen content will make the most of the display area.

The TX5XN is fully capable of running Vista's flashy Aero interface and you also get an assortment of bundled software thrown in, including a copy of Microsoft Works and Adobe Photoshop Elements.

Performance
To create a laptop this small, compromises have to be made and as a result the TX5XN was only reasonable rather than outstanding in our speed tests.

Its PCMark05 score of 1,508 isn't going to break any records but that doesn't mean that it's slow by any means. In general use, even with all the Vista eye-candy turned on, it was still quick to respond and it's more than capable of turning its hand to office tasks.

If gaming is your thing, however, you'll need to look elsewhere -- a 3DMark06 score of 111 just doesn't cut it for immersive gaming. MobileMark won't run under Vista yet, but according to Sony it should last for seven and a half hours from a single charge, a figure that is in line with our experience. Operating noise is extremely low, with the fan barely noticeable.

Conclusion
If you spend more time out and about than chained to a desk then the TX5XN is the perfect companion -- it's got enough power for everyday tasks and the screen and keyboard are usable on the road. The battery should keep going most of the day and the inclusion of an internal DVD writer means you don't have to cart around annoying external add-ons.

It's better than the Asus U1 in many ways, but then it does cost more, so which you choose will depend on your budget. If portability is more important to you than performance, then this is one of the smallest, most usable laptops on the market.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield

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