The modem, gigabit Ethernet and firewire ports are hidden underneath a cover that will probably break off far too easily -- we'd almost prefer that they be left open to the outside world, as it's clear it's going to end up that way anyway just through everyday use.
A smattering of multimedia buttons are along the front, however they are quite difficult to press, making their usefulness questionable. The wireless LAN switch is situated beneath these, capable of turning off the 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth connections.
Here Sony wins many brownie points, almost making up for the dull industrial design. An excellent touchpad has been crammed in, with a fingerprint scanner nestled between the two mouse buttons to boot. This is always significantly better than the little joypad that certain brands tend to include, and allows for infinitely greater accuracy.
Surprisingly an optical drive is included, which can be turned off completely to save battery power -- although the eject button is far, far too small for human fingers to comfortably find. An Express Card 34 slot makes sure the most recent pluggables can be used.
Only two USB ports are included, and a VGA port sits behind the optical drive -- which is disappointing, as we'd have at least hoped for some sort of digital output.
Sony continue to separate the Memory Stick card reader from the SD card reader at the front of the notebook, taking up more space than a multi-card reader would for the sake of glorifying its own brand. To be fair though, this separated slot supports Sony's MagicGate DRM -- so if you're unlucky enough to be using the technology, at least your options are open here. Next to this is the requisite headphone and microphone jack.
Not surprisingly, performance at the ultra-portable end of the scale is usually pretty naff, and this is confirmed by the 3DMark06 score of 112 and the inability to do the SM3.0 tests, thanks to the Intel GMA 950 graphics. PCMark05 followed with a not so bad 2127, showing that this notebook is really only meant for productivity apps, and not so much gaming or high powered graphics applications. This is no surprise being an ultraportable, and the inclusion of Windows Vista Business cements its purpose as a word processing and Internet browsing machine.
Pleasingly it will also keep those on long trips entertained, as after turning all the power saving features off, the screen brightness to full and everything else to maximum, the unit lasted a good three hours, three minutes and five seconds when running a DVD on loop.
The Sony VAIO VGN-TZ17GN/N is a little more fragile than we'd like, especially at AU$3,599 -- but the feature set is quite impressive for an ultraportable. If you plan to keep it well protected while travelling, this might be the one for you.