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Sony VAIO VGN-SZ61VN - Sony VAIO VGN-SZ61VN
However, the SZ6 also has another small trick up its sleeve; one that's been a feature of the SZ since its inception. Namely, it's the Asus U3 like ability to switch between both a discrete graphics solution and the Intel GMA X3100 that's integrated into the GM965 chipset used in the SZ6. This is done simply by flipping a switch above the keyboard between Stamina and Speed, though a restart is required before the changes take effect. When in Speed Mode graphics are powered by an nVidia 8400M GS which, though by no means brisk, provides a modicum of gaming performance not provided by Intel's integrated solution.
This is a nice feature, though given the £1,899 asking price, it should also come as no surprise to hear that the SV61VN has plenty else on offer as well. Storage is bountiful thanks to a 200GB SATA HDD, which should prove suffice for even demanding users, while wireless connectivity is boosted by the inclusion of an embedded HSDPA module. Obviously there's also standard network connectivity thanks to Gigabit Ethernet, though disappointingly there's 802.11a/b/g wireless but no Draft N support. Bluetooth 2.0 EDR and a 0.3 Megapixel camera are also included and, unlike Asus' U3, there's also space for a Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW drive. All in all it's a very complete specification, providing most things you're ever likely to need.
Another especially important feature of the SZ Series has always been the LED backlit display, and little has changed on this front. With a 1,280 x 800 native resolution, the 13.3in display is brilliantly vibrant, sharp and bright making it absolute joy to work with on a daily basis. It also allows for the incredibly thin profile of the screen, which in turn helps to keep the notebook as slim and light as it is.
Still, there are still some aspects that aren't so praiseworthy. More recent Sony notebooks such as the TZ and CR Series' have included the increasingly popular separated style keyboard, however being an older model the SZ6 has yet to receive such treatment. More is the pity too, because it's one of the few areas where this notebook doesn't quite convince.
Don't get me wrong, it isn't that bad, but there are a few nagging little things that leave you unsatisfied. Though the key response it crisp enough, the keys, which feature a slightly raised inner section, feel rather thin and fragile. Moreover, the way the cursor keys are placed directly below the Return key and to the right of the Shift key proved troublesome. Ultimately it would nice to see them being offset, so they're out of the way and can't interfere during regular typing duties.
Also disappointing were the integrated speakers, which were excessively tinny and quiet even compared to those on other small notebooks. It's not a major complaint, especially on a notebook of this size, but it's worth remembering all the same.