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The front is pretty well stacked - here you'll find headphone and mic sockets, along with hardware volume controls and a mute button. There's also a hardware switch for the integrated Intel 802.11b/g WiFi adapter and the Bluetooth adapter. By default this switch will activate and deactivate both wireless services - on previous Sony notebooks that I've looked at there has been a utility to configure the wireless switch to apply to both WiFi and Bluetooth, or one or the other, but that utility was not present on the TX1XP. That said, I imagine that this is because I have a pre-production sample and that end users will benefit from all the usual VAIO features.
Also at the front are two memory card readers - one accepts MemoryStick and MemoryStick Pro media, which comes as no surprise. What is surprising though, is that there is another slot that will happily read SD cards. This is a huge breakthrough for Sony and shows that the company finally accepts that consumers do buy products from companies other than Sony. Considering that SD is now the dominant memory card format, this is a shrewd move, and will tick another box for any prospective buyers that use SD in their digital camera.
On the left is a flap hiding a single USB 2.0 port and a modem socket. What's strange is that there's a second USB 2.0 port on the left, but Sony hasn't felt the need to hide this one behind flap. Also on the left is a single Type II PC Card slot - an imperative feature for anyone that makes use of a 3G data card for "on the move" Internet access. Some thin and light notebooks have sacrificed the PC Card slot, but I simply can't do without my 3G data card and therefore couldn't consider buying a machine without one.
Most of the rear is taken up by the battery, but there's still room for a four-pin FireWire port, the power socket and the network port for the 10/100 Ethernet adapter.
With a slim and light notebook like this, cooling is always an issue, but this also has to be balanced with the noise from any fans that are fitted. Usually when I'm testing a notebook like this I try to use it in a very quiet room, late at night on mains power, then I can judge how much noise the cooling system is really making. I'm currently sitting in a very quiet hotel room and I have to say that the sound from the fan is very noticeable. That said, most notebooks switch everything on to full performance when you're plugged into the mains and most of the time this just isn't necessary. I tend to adjust the power saving settings in order to facilitate quiet operation without any effect on general performance. This is something I did when I was reviewing the Sony S4M, which had a loud fan spinning constantly when I first started using it, but became quiet as a mouse after a bit of tinkering.