Hands-on with Sony Vaio CR20, TZ20 and AR50 laptops

We take a hands-on tour through the new range of Sony Vaio laptops. We must admit that being able to edit 1080p HD content and burn it to Blu-ray while sat on a train is a neat idea

When it's not producing proprietary media formats and expensive games consoles, Sony is crafting tasty laptops. Yesterday, we got to check out some new Vaio models at a lovely hotel in Paddington, London.

The new Vaios we saw comprise the TZ20, CR20 and AR50 Series models, each of which is poised for use in different consumer and business markets. Apparently "central to our entertainment experience", these laptops are geared up to better cater for the media-obsessed world we all find ourselves living in and loving every day. This seems in line with Sony's attempts to become the centrifuge of the networked, on-demand digital home.

The first stop on our guided tour is the tiny Vaio TZ20 range...

The TZ20s are the smallest laptops in the line-up, with 11.1-inch wide-screen displays, and up to 2GB of RAM and a 100GB hard disk. The super-attractive SSD model replaces that clunky old-fashioned platter-centred hard disk with 32GB of non-volatile flash memory. Coupled with a Core 2 Duo chip, this is an attractive ultraportable series, but with prices averaging at around £1,800, its portability comes at a similar price to having a Z-list celebrity whacked. We prefer the laptop option.

With our hands firmly placed upon the TZ20, we appreciated that size and weight have been of critical importance -- the build quality is good, but the laptop feels distinctly more susceptible to accidental damage thanks to its less robust construction. The screen is super-sharp and the built-in HSDPA and WAN connectivity will keep you plugged into the Web wherever you are.

Other features include a fingerprint reader, on-board Intel graphics, Bluetooth and a DVD-RW drive.

The CR range comes in red, blue, pink and white, and features a 1.3-megapixel camera built into the front of the screen, like the Apple MacBook. These laptops have Intel Centrino Duo chips, up to 200GB hard disks, 2GB RAM, a DVD-RW drive, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2300 graphics and integrated WAN connectivity.

They're very solid laptops and are fairly lightweight at just 1.2kg. Like all the new Vaios, the CR series is geared up for use with all your media, and comes pre-loaded with Adobe Photoshop Elements to boot. Prices are just under £1,000 and they offer good performance for the money.

Last on our list of laptops to lust after is the AR50 desktop-replacement range, which comes tripped-out with a Blu-ray Disc drive, an HD Ready 17-inch display, 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 2GB of RAM, a 500GB hard disk, Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics and Windows Vista Ultimate. It also comes with a DVB-T/analogue TV tuner if you're into the old-fangled broadcast TV thing.

It has to be said that we loved this laptop. Though with the top-spec model costing £2,000, we damn well should do, and so should you. It's a beautifully built model with a screen quality matching an HDTV, and better still is that it'll play your 1080p Blu-ray DVDs -- as well as edit your 1080p HD content and burn it to blank 50GB Blu-ray discs.

The AR50 models are available for pre-order now from Sony's Web site. -Nate Lanxon