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To the left there’s a plastic flap that hides a USB 2.0 port and a modem socket. There’s also a single Type II PC Card slot, along with a second USB 2.0 port. Finally at the rear you’ll find an Ethernet port for the integrated 10/100 network adapter, a four-pin FireWire port and the power socket, despite the fact that most of the rear is taken up by the battery.
When I looked at the TX1XP and the TX2XP, both of them suffered from slightly annoying fan noise when hooked up to mains power. Now, fan noise is a bit of a personal thing – although I can sometimes find it distracting, for the most part it usually doesn’t bother me, but then I also know that it drives some people mad. I’d like to say that this problem has been eradicated with the TX3XP, but I’m afraid it hasn’t. However, the fan noise does seem to be far less intrusive with this model than on previous TX machines. I’m sure that there are people out there who will still insist that the TX3XP is too loud, but can’t say it really bothered me.
As usual Sony has thrown in a very good software bundle, meaning that you’ve got pretty much everything you need to get going straight out of the box. There’s Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0, Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0, Roxio DigitalMedia SE 7, Click to DVD 2.5, Adobe Acrobat Elements 7.0 and Microsoft Works 8. There are some other bits and pieces thrown in, but they’re limited trials. Another nice touch is Sony’s VAIO Recovery Utility which allows you to make regular backups, but more importantly lets you restore the system to its factory state complete with all the aforementioned bundled apps.
When it comes to performance, the similar specs in the TX3XP mean that the SYSmark 2002 and PC Mark 2005 scores are almost identical to the previous TX2XP model. In real world terms though, the TX3XP can still handle almost anything you’re likely to throw at it. I say almost, because if you’re a bit of a power user like myself, you may find the TX3XP a little sluggish under battery power. To be fair, it only starts to suffer when you’re doing some heavy duty stuff like editing large images under Photoshop. Also, it’s worth remembering that if you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of battery life you can always push the Sony power scheme up to full performance for a while if you need to do some hardcore application work.