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It's no real secret that we're big fans of ultra portable notebooks on TrustedReviews and one of the finest exponents of the genre is undoubtedly Sony. The big S may be suffering in many areas, but judging by the VGN-SZ2XP it hasn't lost the art of creating highly desirable notebooks. The SZ series isn't Sony's smallest line of notebooks, that honour being taken by remarkably dinky TX line, which also offers the greatest battery life. However, the TX line can only manage a single core chip while the slightly larger form factor of the SZ enables Sony to pack in dual-core power. You also get a larger 13.3in screen though admittedly the resolution is actually slightly lower at 1,280 x 800, rather than 1,366 x 768. The other benefit of the larger size means that you don't have to pay the premium that extreme miniaturisation provides - this SZ2XP comes in at just over £1,400, while the weight is 1.7Kg, still in ultra-portable territory. All in all this it seems like a win-win situation, so I was hopeful that a closer inspection wouldn't change my mind.
First impressions of the SZ2XP are excellent. With the lid closed I was immediately taken in by the sleek carbon fibre appearance and the VIAO logo seemingly carved out on the surface. So many notebooks have a plastic feel to them but this Sony has a very pleasing smooth finish. The notebook tapers from a thin edge at the front to a thicker base at the rear. Pick it up from the front and it's literally the thin end of the wedge. There are five indicator lights built into the circular hinge for power, battery, hard disk, and separate ones for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. These can be seen even when the lid is closed. The lid closes gently with a magnetic lock to keep it shut.
Open up the notebook and you'll find a smart brushed metal grey area beneath the keyboard, which looks great. Above the keyboard you’ll find a central area containing two programmable shortcut buttons. These can be used for more than just launching the application of your choice but also for specific functions such as going to maximum brightness or reducing CPU fan noise. There's a slider switch for turning the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (version 2.0) off together and a power button. The other sliding switch is interesting. Its labelled Stamina on the left and Speed on the right. This is because the Sony actually contains two different graphics chipsets - an integrated Intel chip and also an nVidia GeForce Go 7400, for a bit more graphics oomph at the expense of battery life. Inevitably, you have to restart to go from one to the other but it’s great to have the choice.
Surrounding these buttons is a grille that contains the speakers. The output is reasonably bassy and loud for integrated speakers but nothing really to write home about. Below the keyboard is a straightforward silver trackpad and two smallish left and right buttons. I do get peeved by plasticy buttons but these have a good metallic feel and respond with an audible click. Between these buttons is a fingerprint reader enabling you to swipe instead of type to enter passwords. You can use this to log onto Windows and to enter information into forms - it's quite slick.