Now that there's only one high definition format to worry about it's a lot safer to invest in Blu-ray equipment. This, of course, goes for notebooks as well and there's a fair amount of choice. Dell, for example, is making it an option on most of its lines, while Acer has launched its Gemstone Blue line of entertainment notebooks. Unsurprisingly, Sony is a major player too and its FZ Series of 15.4in notebooks all come with Blu-ray drives included. Today we're looking at the top of the range model, the £1,100 VAIO VGN-FZ31Z.
Design wise the FZ series hasn't changed at all since the last time we looked at it, back with the FZ11L, and though it only got six out of ten then, it was the feature set and price, not the chassis, that was the disappointment. Although we've become accustomed to 15.4in laptops becoming slimmer and lighter, the FZ is still very impressive in this respect. Weighing a manageable 2.7kg it has an ever popular wedge shaped design that gives it a minimum thickness of 24.9mm, though even at its chunkiest point it's only 34.5mm.
This slimness is continued to the bezel of the screen. Even with the integrated 1.3-megapixel WebCam and dual microphones it's still appreciably thin, giving the 16:10 ratio 15.4in screen a greater sense of size. Of course, this 16:10 ratio could also prove a disadvantage, with 2008 likely to become the year that 16:9 ratio, 16in and 18.4in screens become the norm.
All the same it still looks good and with its largely silver plastic finish exudes a sense of style and simplicity that's typically Sony. Inside, just above the keyboard, is a smart and uncomplicated playback control dial with Next/Previous set to left and right, volume control to up and down and Play/Pause button sitting in the middle. Just to side of this is the Stop button and this is joined by a couple of other shortcut keys and the power button. All of these buttons are set into a brushed metal panel with the keyboard and wrist rest below finished in graphite grey/black plastic.
Speaking of which, the keyboard is a very good one. Keys are well arranged with none of the problems that often befall notebooks, and keys themselves have a solid feel, crisp response and even travel. Just below, the touchpad is nicely integrated into the chassis and though the lack of demarcation for the scroll zones is a tad annoying, it's not a fatal problem.
All in all it's a pleasingly cohesive look; lacking the over the top chutzpah of many laptops and maintaining Sony's reputation for refined looks. That it lacks any of the glossy detailing so popular among many manufacturers is another distinct bonus. Not only is the FZ less likely to lose its looks in the distant future, you won't have to spend every waking moment wiping off fingerprints.