The FZ's chassis, although no stunner, is simple and elegant with an understated quality to it. While the fancy glossy finishes of the Samsung R20 and the Sony TZ may catch all the headlines they don’t age well and just a few scratches will ruin their sleek lines. I prefer to see a finish that is going to stand the test of time and the dull silver and graphite paint of the FZ is certainly going to be able to take a fair amount of punishment before relinquishing its good looks.
However, the chassis isn’t without its problems. The most troubling is the sharp edges that are a result of the orthogonal design. Typing with my hands resting in the usual position, the front edge of the chassis digs right into my wrist and it can become quite painful after extended periods. Obviously it depends on the size of your hands and your typing position but, for me, this one thing alone would put me off considering this laptop. Also, weighing in at 2.7kg and with dimensions of 355 x 34.5 x 254mm (WxHxD), the FZ is no featherweight.
It’s a shame I find the FZ is so uncomfortable to type on because the keyboard itself is very well laid out. The Ctrl key is where it should be – in the bottom left – with the Fn key to its right and the Backslash key is also correctly positioned. Judging from the FZ and the TZ, Sony’s entire new range will have this arrangement – and about time to! The right Shift and Enter keys are a good size and the cursor keys are also easy to locate. If I were being really picky, though, I’d prefer to see the cursor keys offset, like on the TZ, with the Home, End, PageUp, and PageDown, keys as secondary functions.
The obligatory touchpad is in a widescreen aspect ratio to match the display and is positioned a nice distance from the keyboard, ensuring it isn’t accidently activated. The pad has a smooth but tactile surface and sensitivity is just right to ensure easy pointer movement. As usual, you can use the bottom and right edges of the pad for horizontal and vertical scrolling, respectively.
Above and to the right of the keyboard is a set of six multimedia/shortcut buttons. The furthest right is the power button and to its left are three buttons for controlling multimedia playback and adjusting volume. Furthest left is a shortcut button that can be assigned a variety of functions including sending the notebook to sleep, adjusting brightness, and switching displays. By default, though, it opens a Windows Help & Support window that has links for wireless networking, the VAIO websites, backup and restoration, security, and manuals.
The webcam is embedded in the bezel above the screen where it naturally points at your face ready for video calling - which at 0.3-megapixels, is about all it’s good for. Sony is now shipping Skype preinstalled on its laptops so you can be up and running straight away.