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Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11L
Having been completely blown away by the sheer elegance and portability of the Sony TZ, which Riyad just looked at, the next notebook to come through our labs would need to be something seriously special to impress us. Unfortunately the Sony VGN-FZ11L doesn’t quite have the drool worthy credentials to set our hearts alight again. However, it is still a powerful mid-priced all-rounder.
Billed as providing “Entertainment in style” the FZ range should be brimming with all the multimedia goodies that would make for a perfect portable living room entertainment centre. However, only half the range features the all important HDMI output for connecting to HDTVs and none of them have TV tuners or screens large enough to display 1080p video. Moreover, none of them ship with Media Center remotes. All of which suggests the Entertainment moniker is a bit of a misnomer but that’s not to say the FZ series isn’t good, it’s just a bit mis-branded.
Perhaps a better description would be “The Everyman”, the laptop that’s a Jack of all trades but master of none. It’s powerful yet not a gaming machine, has some multimedia leanings but isn’t a fully fledged Media Center, and is relatively light but by no means is it ultra portable. Whatever it is, it has one very sound redeeming factor; it’s cheap.
While the entry level VGN-FZ19VN at £880.08 is a bit of a dead duck, only having Intel integrated graphics and thus no HDMI, the VGN-FZ11L that has GeForce 8400M GT graphics with HDMI hits a nice sweet spot of price and performance. If you fancy the idea of using a laptop to playback movies through your HDTV the top end VGN-FZ11Z even has a Blu-ray drive as well. However, with a price of £1,498 it may be worth just getting a dedicated Blu-ray player instead - or even a Sony PlayStation 3.
All models in the range conform to Intel’s Santa Rosa platform, just, by virtue of the inclusion of the latest Merom Core 2 Duo CPUs and 965 Express chipset. This means you get dynamic FSB throttling and overclocking in single core applications, as well as the other power saving measures. Unfortunately that’s all the Santa Rosa goodness you get, as neither Draft 802.11n wireless nor Turbo Memory are present. Not that this comes as too much of a surprise as nearly all early Santa Rosa laptops are lacking in one area or another (except the Evesham Zieo N500-HD) and for the price you're still getting plenty of notebook.
As well as the aforementioned GeForce 8400M GT the specification of the VGN-FZ11L is quite impressive. A Core 2 Duo T7100 running at 1.8GHz, coupled with 2GB DDR2 667MHz RAM, lies at its core. Storage comes courtesy of a 120GB HDD, a multi format rewriteable DVD drive, and slots for MemoryStick Pro and Duo. You also get Bluetooth, wireless 802.11 a/b/g and 10/100 Ethernet network connections as well as an Express Card slot, and a 0.30-megapixel web camera. Finally, the screen is a 15.4in 1,280 x 800 WXGA TFT that uses Sony’s X-black technology. Overall this is a very capable specification that, in terms of raw horsepower, won’t have any problems with everyday duties.