So how does it perform? We compared with a recent ultra portable champion, the HP nc2400. This is a much more corporate beast, it's half a kilogram lighter and sports a 1.2GHz CPU ultra-low voltage. On the Sony, we ran the tests using the faster nVidia GeForce chip. In SYSmark 2002, it comfortably outpaced the HP in every test, which is what you'd expect from the faster CPU. The choice of graphics chip in the Sony will pay dividends if you want to be able to play the occasional game - World of Warcraft or TrackMania will run comfortably on the Sony. You won’t want to do that on the HP.
If you then switch to the Intel chip then you can enjoy some quite impressive battery life - 301 minutes is five full hours and nearly four hours for the DVD playback. Sony has some excellent power profiles with the ‘Ultimate’ one turning off the DVD drive, and the networking in Device manager so that they’re not polled by Windows, helping to eek out more battery life.
However, the HP has a truly fantastic keyboard, while the one on the Sony is just Ok. The HP has three advantages, it's small and light, it's got a great keyboard and it's a lot cheaper. You can go for an extended battery life on the HP nc2400 it would still be cheaper and lighter than the Sony. Why go for the Sony then? The HP is a good notebook but the Sony has sheer desirability on its side. Of course, you have to weigh up the balance between desirability and practicality.
What would push things back in the Sony's favour was if it had integrated 3G. Sure enough as I was writing this a press releases popped up in my inbox announcing the launch of the SZ3XP - with an integrated HSDPA module from T-Mobile that connects at an amazing 3.6Mbps. This rather steals the thunder from the SZ2XP.
I can’t complete the review though without a mention of all the software that’s preinstalled on the notebook. From Symantec you’ll find Norton Ghost and Norton Internet Security. However, I find the latter a teeth grinding app and I’d rather uninstall it than use it. Adobe provides the excellent Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements. Google has Picasa2, Google Talk and Google Earth pre-installed. InterVideo WinDVD is there for DVD playback. There’s also a handy recovery utility. It’s certainly an impressive package and it’s good you can just fire up your Vaio and use it with some power apps without having to do any purchasing or installing of extra applications.
Overall the VGN-SZ2XP can be viewed in two ways. It's either a fine mix of power and portability, or it looks oversized and over priced compared to the competition. It's certainly a fine looking machine but I have my concerns with the keyboard. Ultimately, the decision comes down to whether you need its performance on the road. If you want that added flexibility and love the looks it’s a good choice, otherwise go for the more honed HP nc2400. That said, I'd still recommend holding off and waiting for the SZ3 with integrated high-speed 3G.
A great looking notebook with excellent performance and battery life. However, it's on the pricey side and HP's nc2400 is significantly lighter and cheaper, while its replacement with integrated 3G is already on the horizon.