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At the front you'll find an array of multimedia controls, highlighting the fact that the TZ31MN makes a great portable media player. Below these buttons is a hardware switch for the wireless adapters. Also on the front edge are both headphone and microphone sockets, a MemoryStick reader, an SD/MMC card reader and indicator lights for hard disk activity, MemoryStick use and battery charge.
At the left edge are two USB ports and a 34mm ExpressCard slot. There's also a pull-down plastic flap that hides a four-pin FireWire port, an Ethernet port and a modem socket. Finally, the power socket nestles in the round hinge mechanism, directly opposite where the power button is found on the right.
When it comes to performance, it comes as no surprise that the TZ31MN is faster than the TZ11MN was. What's slightly surprising though, is that it managed to come in slightly faster than the TZ12VN as well, which shared pretty much identical components with this machine - obviously the TZ12VN raced ahead when it came to hard disk performance, but that's because it was equipped with a solid state drive.
Battery life is, as always with Sony's ultra-portable machines, very impressive. Running Mobile Mark 2007 productivity suite turned in a time of six hours and 36 minutes - not only is that an impressive time, but it's also just over half an hour more than Sony quotes for the same test. The less intensive reader test turned in an even more impressive time of around seven hours and 29 minutes. And if you like to watch the odd DVD on your notebook, you'll be glad to hear that you'll get over four hours of playback on a single battery charge.
Any notebook that's as thin and light as the TZ31MN is never going to come cheap, but at £1,361 on the street, the price isn't as scary as it could be. Yes, you can get good notebooks that weigh under 2kg for a lot less, but if you want something that's seriously light, with amazing battery life and still fully featured, you're going to have to dig a little deeper. Let's not forget that the MacBook Air isn't much cheaper than this machine, yet it lacks some rudimentary features, so the fact that Sony has squeezed everything you could ever need (bar HSDPA) into a machine this size is still pretty mind boggling.
The VAIO VGN-TZ31MN is an evolution of last year's TZ11MN, but that's no bad thing - Sony's first TZ series machine did, after all, walk away with the award for best notebook of 2007 here at TrustedReviews. What the TZ31MN brings to the table is a better specification, that improves performance over the old model. It's also good to see Draft-N Wi-Fi finally making an appearance in a TZ machine.
At £1,361 the TZ31MN isn't cheap, but considering what you're getting for that money, it's not expensive either. Despite what the Apple fans may think, Sony's TZ series notebooks are still the best ultra-portable machines you can buy.
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