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Despite Sony's reputation in ultra-portable computing stretching back years for many the release of the VAIO TZ11 was the defining confirmation of that mastery. Not only was it effortlessly portable, sleek and alluringly attractive, it delivered a gorgeous screen, an integrated optical drive and epic battery life. It seemed, at the time at least, to be something approaching perfection.
Technology, however, doesn't stand still. So while Sony sat back and watched the plaudits roll in, a few other companies began to plot a response. Apple brought out the MacBook Air, Toshiba the Portégé R500, Lenovo the ThinkPad X300 and more recently Samsung the confusingly named X360. So, despite none of the major challengers matching the TZ's 11.1in form factor, all of a sudden there's a lot more choice out there.
Enter the VAIO TT, Sony's response to its 'competition' and the replacement for the much loved TZ. Right from the off it becomes obvious Sony has taken its ultra-portable range in a slightly different direction, too. Unlike the TZ, whose executive price was sprinkled with styling of a more consumerist nature, the TT seems more trenchantly aimed at executives. Our sample, the VGN-TT11WN, is finished entirely in matte black plastic save for the faux-chrome edges and glossy strip at the front and though there is a striking gold version, as well as red lid option, the feature set and emphasis screams business user rather than impressionable style icon.
And, frankly, this isn't a bad thing. If anyone is going to pay for and appreciate the virtues of an ultra-portable like the TT, it's an executive or successful entrepreneur; the sort of person that isn't tied to the office but needs all the functionality of one. Unfortunately, having made this move, Sony has decided to take the mickey (we'd use a stronger word were we allowed) when it comes to pricing.
For sure, the T11WN is well featured, having integrated HSDPA, a high resolution screen, 4GBs of RAM, TPM security, Draft-N Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth, but you can pick up a ThinkPad X301 with all these features, a three year warranty (as opposed to one year) and a 128GB SSD for the same money. Our TT, in the meantime, must suffice with a somewhat sluggish 160GB 5,400rpm shock protected mechanical drive. And, as a quick glance at our benchmarks will reveal, a decent SSD has a pretty marked impression on performance so the benefits in a low-power machine like this are huge.
Still, before we throw the baby out with the bath water, let's not lose sight of the fact that the TT is still appreciably smaller and therefore more portable than the X300, X301 or any other thin & light 13 inch machine. Measuring just 279mm across and 199.8mm deep, it'll comfortably fit in any travel bag and leave plenty of space to spare. It's not necessarily the lightest machine, though. At 1.32kg it's not heavy per se, but it does weigh more than the 1.19kg of the TZ, while the Toshiba Protégé R600 is in another league of portability at around 800g.