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Sony VAIO Z (2011) review

Ardjuna Seghers




  • Recommended by TR

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Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z (2011)
  • Sony VAIO Z Battery Results
  • Sony VAIO Z
  • Sony VAIO Z PCM
  • Sony VAIO Z


Our Score:



  • Super light yet sturdy
  • Oodles of connectivity
  • Backlit keyboard
  • High-resolution screen
  • Dock makes this the most versatile ultraportable


  • Expensive and noisy
  • Shallow keyboard feedback
  • Carbon fibre chassis scratches easily
  • Proprietary Thunderbolt implementation

Key Features

  • 13.1in semi-matt display with up to 1920x1080 pixels
  • Slim (17mm) and light (1.17kg) with carbon-fibre chassis
  • Backlit keyboard, Thunderbolt/USB 3 connector
  • Dedicated Radeon graphics (with dock)
  • External Blu-ray reader or writer (with dock)
  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Review Price: £1,783.72

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.

Sony VAIO Z 19

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).

Sony VAIO Z 2

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.


June 29, 2011, 2:43 pm

Copy of my comment from the news article...

I have the last version of the Z series (VGN-Z11WN) and it is fantastic! However it is starting to show its age and was thinking about putting in a 256GB SSD to give it a real boost.

On learning of the new Z series I was thinking I could also pass it off to my colleague and treat myself to a new one.

Firstly, I would stick to a 1600*900 screen, the higher 1920x1080 screen would be unreadable (please take note anyone thinking of buying it) on a 13inch screen. Most people I know complain about the 1600*900 screen I use and it does cause me a lot of strain when I use it a lot.

The specs are good for the new Sony Z, the basic model would still be a great business machine and the USB3 port is also welcome.

The PMD price is too steep for me to justify buying that.

However what really kills it for me is the cost of upgrading the basic 128GB SSD to 256GB, which will set you back an additional £440 (+VAT). No thanks! You can buy a 256GB 2.5inch SSD for £225 (+VAT) - so there is no way Sony can justify their pricing, except that the Sony fanboys will probably snap them up.

Their loss really, shame.


June 29, 2011, 2:46 pm

'For those who don't like black, blue, gold and graphite (AKA Premium Carbon) should also become available in the near future'.

I think this sentence needs to be revised.


June 29, 2011, 4:25 pm

Cheers for pointing that out, there was meant to be a semi-colon in there originally :)
In fact, the sentence had been altered to its current state before your comment, but due to caching the article hadn't been updated yet...


June 29, 2011, 4:31 pm

Thanks for reposting your comment.
I definitely agree with both your points, though there are ways to get around the Full HD resolution so ultimately it does give you more flexibility.
The SSD pricing though is a bit much whichever way you look at it!


June 29, 2011, 5:53 pm

First of all: are you sure that the graphics card is Radeon HD 5650?!
Sony's site says 6650m, big difference.
What I would be looking forward to in a lengthier review is how the new Z compares to the old Z, which you've raved about. I am the happy owner of a top of the line VPC-Z1 and to be truly honest find nothing in the new machine that is compelling enough for me to sell the old and purchase the new. Thinness alone doesn't really cut it, as the important measure for me is weight.

What I'd miss most about the old VPC-Z1 is the ability to lie down in the sofa or the bed, plugged into the mains and the lappie in my lap and enjoy some HD-content or play a game of Starcraft. In the new version I'd have an unwieldly external gpu connected by yet another tether - so very 2008...


June 29, 2011, 5:57 pm

@Neil873: "the higher 1920x1080 screen would be unreadable (please take note anyone thinking of buying it) on a 13inch screen"

Well there, a matter of oppinion and good eyesight. I've been using the FHD screen without any kind of eye strain for a year now and can't complain. Had a FHD Thinkpad t61p previously, a 15" screen which was substantially more tiresome than anything else.

Had a 1st gen Z, VGN-Z11 like you before, I think that the FHD is a welcome upgrade.
Also, if you're running a modern OS, there is a thing called DPI scaling that works just wonderfully.


June 29, 2011, 6:18 pm

I thought the old Z had some kind of proprietary RAID SSD that was faster and more compact than a usual 2.5 inch device. If that's the case, it may go some way to explaining the huge hike in price from 128GB to 256GB.

That said, I'm sure there's still an element of BMW-esque options list robbery going on.


June 29, 2011, 8:02 pm

My VGN-Z11WN only has a 5400rpm hard drive which is super slow (admittedly, more so since I got a SSD in my Desktop). I am guessing that the Raid SSD you are talking about was probably an option I dismissed at the time, because of the cost.

I would update the hard drive tomorrow, if it wasn't still covered under the 3 year warranty I got. Whilst it has been a great laptop, that warranty has come in useful, twice!


June 29, 2011, 8:43 pm

Sorry, typo. Yep, it is a 6650. It's changed, just awaiting cache refresh.

To be honest I'm with you in preferring the graphics card in the laptop, but it's rather exciting to think that this configuration gives Sony the theoretical ability to upgrade it...

However, HD material won't be a problem for the HD 3000 - even demanding Full HD video should be played without a hitch. And you shouldn't even need mains power :)

Tony Walker

June 30, 2011, 2:27 am

For those on a more constrained budged, treat yourself to a Thinkpad X220. Make sure you spend the extra £33 on the SIPS screen though. And budget for an SSD if you want to make the thing rock!


June 30, 2011, 3:44 pm

I'm not convinced with the external dock. i've got a current generation Z series and quite happy to have the dedicated graphics card inbuilt into the machine. Ok, so its a few hundred grams extra weight, but at least i dont have to carry my laptop around in two pieces! Also with this new Z series it looks like you are stuck with an optical drive if you want dedicated graphics card! I think like many 'power users' i rarely need to resort to using an optical drive these days.

A couple of 'power issues'. I bought the compact mains adapter for my Z series and its pretty heavy! The non compact one must be even heavier! It would be nice if TrustedReviews would give a one line summary of the power adapters in reviews, or even just the dimensions. This really matters to most people buying an ultraportable notebook.

I miss the days when Sony used to make super light super slim mains adapters!

The other power issue is with Sony Batteries. I've had 4 vaios over the last 7 years or so, and all of them have lost their battery capacity quite quickly. My Z series is about 8 months old now and there is a noticible drop in the capacity. Still a fantastic machine though!


June 30, 2011, 5:38 pm

The two worst things about Sony Vaio laptops are:

1) The support - too long to discuss here, but totally inexcusable in light of the selling prices of the business oriented machines. Lenovo is not only in a different class, more of a different planet alltogheter

2) Driver support - total FAIL. My laptop is less than 1 yr old, premium €2500 machine and they haven't bothered to update the graphics driver. There is a newer version released, but one has to hunt for it through the pre-installed drivers of the VPC-Z13 model (I have VPC-Z11)
Sony and the proprietary hw solutions they have may be great in terms of hardware, but the software is lousy, bug-ridden and the support is non-existant.

So, don't hold your breath that Sony will release an updated gfx card


June 30, 2011, 6:55 pm

This is all very well and good, but this has nothing to do with Just in Timberlakes buying My Space.

Chris Hamer

August 31, 2011, 4:15 am

Is it 37 fps or 47? In the article you say 37fps and the graph it is 47?
It seems you are comparing the cheaper Vaio S, I have the more expensive version with a 6630m HD graphics card which would probably be nearly as quick as the Z.
Also my Vaio S has the Intel 2.7Ghz-2620M processor, the same as the high end Z.
It can also last over 5 hours on battery with the dedicated chip turned off and has all the connectivity and external battery.
All for £1200 with the extra battery, tbh i don't see the improvements over the S.
Except for the build quality and screen and weight (only 500g or so less).


August 31, 2011, 2:50 pm

No indeed it does not, Sir. :)

@Chris Hamer:
Sorry, typo in the chart - it is 37fps. Cheers for the spot, corrected.

To be honest, size and weight are the main improvements, and for most folks something a little heavier and a lot cheaper will be a better solution. Of course, the optional Blu-ray drive and all that extra connectivity might also swing it for some, not to mention the screen resolution.


August 31, 2011, 3:39 pm

I've had similar issues like some here have mentioned in the past with Sony VAIO's.

When I used to use VAIO's, Driver support was horrid, 6 months down the line and it's they have totally forgotten about you.

Battery's life was terrible, ok when brand new, but a couple of months down the line you'd be lucky if you got an hour. Couple of years, you'd be lucking if you got 10 mins.

Cooling/Dust protection. Sony really need to put dust filters or something in the cooling ducts. My old VAIO's CPU would constantly put the CPU into protection mode because of overheating problems. Constantly having to get some compressed Air and blowing the dust out wasn't ideal, and it's not like I'm even in a dusty area.


February 20, 2013, 11:34 am

Well i have to 2010 Sony Vaio netbook and i haven't had any problems with it and also it runs smoothly and i dont have a problem with the battery life its because if you consantly charge things the battery life goes down and also dont charge it when you are on your laptop.

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