Sony makes some of the best multimedia laptops in the world -- you only have to look at the awesome Blu-ray-equippedfor evidence.
Never ones to rest on their laurels, Sony's engineers have been busy trying to up the ante. Its latest creation, the new FZ series, aims to do for desktop replacements what the gorgeousdid for ultraportables.
The FZ is small for a digital entertainment laptop. It's nowhere near as effective as its 17-, 19- or 20-inch cousins for watching videos on from across a room. It is, however, ideal for anyone who simply intends to use it at a desk.
There's nothing particularly adventurous about the FZ's design, but there's no debating its attractiveness. Even from a distance, this thing screams 'premium'. The matte silver lid will attract admiring glances should you venture into the wider world, as will the glossy silver Vaio logo in the centre. You may not be venturing too far, though -- we had to lug its 2.7kg chassis between home and the CNET.co.uk offices and it wasn't much fun.
The area above the keyboard is dedicated to speakers and a set of multimedia shortcut keys for adjusting volume and playback, plus buttons for launching the dedicated AV mode. Below this, the keyboard, palm rest and the mouse trackpad are all matte black, which makes a nice contrast to the rest of the laptop. The keys are all of a good size and feel responsive enough, but the mouse trackpad is a tad too small for our liking -- you'll either have to ramp up the sensitivity or use multiple finger strokes.
The port arrangement on the FZ is subject to the same foibles as most laptops. The USB ports on the right side of the laptop are too close together so large USB devices will obscure the adjacent port. By the same token, one of the ports sits ludicrously close to the optical drive, bringing about the possibility of obscuring the drive tray.
The rest of the ports are logically arranged, though. There's 4-pin FireWire, a single USB, D-Sub, S-Video and HDMI ports on the left, plus LAN and modem ports at the rear -- where they should be. The front of the laptop is home to an SD card reader and a Memory Stick Pro reader, plus a wireless switch for starting and stopping Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The 15.4-inch screen is a joy to look at -- it's clear, crisp and pretty accurate in most regards. But ignore the 'Full HD 1080' sticker on the bottom left of the palm rest -- the screen's native resolution is only 1,280x800 pixels, which isn't very high. Sure, the small screen size limits the number of pixels that can be accommodated, but a 1,440x900-pixel panel (as seen on a MacBook Pro) would have been better. We can, at least, be content with the fact you can output video via the HDMI port.
Whereas the top-spec FZ ships with a Blu-ray drive, our third-tier VGNFZ11L.CEK shipped with a standard, and frankly dull, DVD-RW drive. It also has a weedy 120GB hard drive instead of the maximum 200GB. This is fairly rubbish for a multimedia laptop, so unless you have an existing external hard drive, we'd opt for the next model up -- the VGNFZ11S.CEK.