The layout of the keyboard is also very good. First up, the Ctrl key is located at the bottom left, where it should be. So all you keyboard shortcut junkies will have no problem getting to grips with the TZ12VN. It’s also good to see that the Tab, Caps Lock, Shift, Return and Backspace keys are all large, making them easy to strike even when typing at speed. Finally, the cursor keys are dropped away from the main keyboard cluster, to make cursor manipulation easy. All in all, Sony has done an amazing job with the keyboard considering how little space it had to work with.
Below the Spacebar is a suitably tactile touchpad with a widescreen aspect ratio to match the screen. The right hand side of the touchpad can be used for scrolling vertically through documents and web pages, while the bottom edge will scroll horizontally across pages. Below the touchpad are two long, glossy buttons, which respond with a definite click.
Between the two touchpad buttons is a fingerprint scanner. This wasn’t present on the TZ11MN and is reserved for the higher-end TZ models. Although many will argue that biometric security is inherently flawed, due to the copious amount of user fingerprints that can be lifted from almost anywhere on a notebook, I always like to see extra security on mobile computers. For many users, the idea of swiping a finger is far easier than remembering and typing passwords, so rather than biometric security being an alternative for traditional passwords, in many cases it’s an alternative to no security at all.
Mounted above the screen is a webcam called Motion Eye, and before anyone starts harping on about how Sony is copying the MacBook again, I should point out that Sony’s old TR series of ultra-portable notebooks sported integrated webcams long before the MacBook was a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye. The inclusion of the webcam makes it easy to make video calls using applications like Skype, and Sony pre-installs Skype on its notebooks to facilitate this.
It never ceases to impress me that Sony manages to squeeze an optical drive into a chassis as small and light as this. The right side of the chassis is dominated by the integrated DVD writer, which not only allows you to install applications and read discs while out and about, but it also lets you backup or transfer data from the notebook easily. You also have the option of using the TZ12VN as a DVD player – ideal if you happen to buy a movie while you’re away on business. Also on the right is a D-SUB port for hooking up the TZ12VN to an external monitor.
At the front you’ll find a full set of multimedia buttons, which seems like a bit of a waste since Sony ships the TZ12VN with Windows Vista Business, which doesn’t include Media Center. That said, the AV button will launch Sony’s own, basic media playback shell, although I think I’d quite like to see Media Center on a TZ machine – maybe not one with only 32GB of solid state storage though. Below the multimedia buttons is a hardware switch for the wireless adapters. Also at the front are headphone and microphone sockets, a MemoryStick slot and an SD/MMC slot.