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Sony VAIO VGN-TZ31MN - Ultra-Portable Notebook - Sony VAIO VGN-TZ31MN
The combination of Sony's experience with LED backlighting and the X-Black high contrast coating on the screen really does make this display a joy to behold. It's hard to describe how vivid and bright the colours are, while the black levels are way beyond what anyone could realistically expect from a notebook display. These attributes lend themselves very well to watching video, and it has to be said that the TZ31MN would make a superb companion on a long haul flight - load it up with some of your favourite TV shows, or even carry a couple of DVD movies with you and you'll be entertained for hours - over four hours to be precise.
But the screen on the TZ31MN has a lot more going for it than just great video playback. Most notebooks with 12.1, 13.3 and even some with 15.4in screens sport a native resolution of 1,280 x 800, which is perfectly acceptable for a 12.1in, reasonable for a 13.3in and woefully disappointing on a 15.4in notebook. But the TZ31MN has an 11.1in screen with a native resolution of 1,366 x 768, which means that it has more desktop real estate than many notebooks that are physically much larger. The high resolution also brings with it reduced pixel pitch, which makes for a pin sharp image. Put simply, the screen on this notebook is stunning.
Above the screen is an integrated webcam, in case you feel a burning need to do some video conferencing. To ensure that it's as easy as possible to use the webcam feature, Sony has preloaded Skype onto the TZ31MN, assuming you've got friends who actually want to see you when you're chatting.
Luckily the TZ31MN isn't a one trick pony and the outstanding screen is only one of its many appealing attributes. Despite its diminutive dimensions, the TZ31MN also has a superb keyboard, so good in fact that with the exception of Lenovo's ThinkPads, you'd be hard pushed to find a better example. With each key completely separate from the next, the keyboard resembles a group of buttons rather than traditional keys, but that really isn't anything to worry about. Each key is perfectly weighted, with more travel than you'd ever have thought possible considering the slim chassis.
When the TZ series launched last year many ill informed journalists accused Sony of copying Apple's MacBook keyboard, which has a very similar design. However, Sony actually pioneered this keyboard style with the legendary VAIO X505VP - a notebook that was inconceivably thin and light, and one which Apple has recently tried to copy with its MacBook Air some four years later.
It's amazing just how well spaced the keys are too, considering that this is an 11.1in notebook, while the layout is also spot on. The Tab, Caps Lock, Shift, Return and Backspace keys are all large, while the cursor keys are dropped away from the main keyboard for easy manipulation. And of course, the fact that Sony puts the Ctrl key in the bottom left, where it should be, will always earn brownie points.