Sony has earned itself quite a reputation in the ultraportable space, and deservedly so. Its 13in VAIO Z series has always been the epitome of style and power in the thinnest, lightest package available. But with the new 13.3in Apple MacBook Air turning up the heat thanks to its Sandy Bridge internals and ThunderBolt connectivity, how does Sony stay ahead of the curve?
Well, the latest VAIO Z offers a stunning array of power and features in a slimmer and lighter-than-ever carbon fibre package. Not only is it just as thin and significantly lighter than the Air, but it also manages to pack in an optional higher Full HD screen resolution, better specifications, and an optional external media docking station that adds dedicated graphics and Blu-ray playback. This seems like a recipe for success, so join us as we find out just how this premium laptop holds up.
It's obvious from the get-go that this is one portable little number. Though it doesn't look quite as slim as the Air due to its unapologetically square edges, it shares its rival's maximum thickness of 17mm. And despite packing in more hardware, it actually beats it on weight by quite a margin, coming in at 1.17kg compared to the Air's 1.35kg. This is because Apple uses aluminium where Sony has gone for carbon fibre, a material with a better weight-to-strength ratio than other light options like plastic or magnesium alloy.
Consequently, like the Toshiba Satellite R830, it looks deceptively flimsy and – dare we say it – cheaper than its worth. Patently, with a good level of durability and a starting price of £1,434, it isn't either of those, and neither is it unattractive. Its tight, streamlined design cuts away most of the extraneous embellishments and fat to make for a simple and elegant look that's very appealing for its target executive market (as the Z Series belongs to Sony's Professional range).
However, while we like its serious looks, we can't help but feel that for consumers its appeal isn't quite on the same level as some designer rivals - the Air most especially. Function over form is all well and good, but at these kinds of prices people tend to want something with sexiness to match, and the most attractive thing about the Z Series is the chrome base for its dock. One advantage the Z does have over even the best-looking alternative is that it's available in a range of colours, including the Black of our model, Blue, Gold and Premium Carbon (a £20 extra).
Build quality undeniably reaffirms that this is a premium product, with carefully fitted panels and no unwanted flex or creak. The lid especially comes across as more rugged than the plastic equivalent on Sony's 'lesser' (and of course cheaper) VAIO S, though it does scratch very easily.