• Recommended by TR
Sony VAIO Z Series (VPC-Z11Z9E/B) - 13.1in Laptop


Our Score


Review Price free/subscription

Considering the price and the spec, we were expecting some serious performance from this Z-series laptop. Even so, we weren't quite prepared for the extreme testing results we encountered. In PCMark Vantage, at least, it's the fastest laptop we've ever tested and by quite some margin.

This is thanks in large part to the ultra-fast SSD configuration, which has two 128GB drives configured in RAID 0 to boost performance. While we've included a couple of recent laptops, namely the Acer Aspire 5942G and the Samsung R780, for comparison, in reality we've reviewed nothing that affords a useful comparison. Its explosive performance in our synthetic benchmarks is confirmed via subjective use. Whatever you're doing this system just flies.

This is also a machine that can play games. In Trackmania Nations it managed a brisk 90fps, while even our much more demanding STALKER: Call of Pripyat test resulted in a playable 30fps. These are quite similar results, in fact, to the Alienware M11x - no surprise considering both use the same Nvidia GeForce GT 330M graphics card.

All this performance does have some side-effects, however, as the Z Series isn’t the quietest machine around. When using the integrated graphics it's much like any other laptop, but switch to the dedicated GPU and throw the machine some number crunching tasks and the fan kicks in with gusto. This is a somewhat inevitable impact of having such powerful components in a relatively small chassis, but anyone who's particularly intolerant of ambient noise will be irritated by it. That it only occurs during very taxing tasks is something of a consolation, though, and while it does get noisy the machine itself doesn't get too hot.

The battery life, despite not matching Sony's initial claims, is still mighty impressive considering the power at your disposal. Using the Stamina mode, our Z Series lasted 323 minutes (5hrs, 23mins) in the Productivity test - good enough for several hours of offline and online use. Even the 151 minutes (2hrs, 31mins) of DVD playback is impressive considering how bright the screen can go. Moreover, should this not be enough for you, Sony does offer an upgrade over the standard six-cell, 5,200mAh battery.

All of which goes to prove that the Z Series is everything it promises to be. Not only is it eyebrow-singeing fast, on battery power it can last long enough to get meaningful work done. It's not without one or two issues, not least its bank-breaking asking prices, but there's nothing else we can think of that does what it does quite as well, and you can always make a few tweaks to the spec to save money without sacrificing too much performance.


In many ways the Sony VAIO Z Series is one-of-a-kind. As fast as many desktops, but no heavier than many netbooks, it's a testament to what can be achieved thanks to modern hardware and engineering. It's a niche product, of that there's no doubt, but if you need the power and portability it offers then it comes highly recommended.

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May 5, 2010, 11:14 am

I owned one of the first-gen Z machines and loved it. About 2 months ago I purchased one of the new S series machines, I didn't get on with it and ordered a new Z a few weeks ago. It's a stunning machine, easily the best laptop I've ever used/owned. It didn't come cheap (I have a spec similar to the review model but opted for a 1600x900 panel and a i5-540 CPU).

The performance is quite ridiculous, it laughs at anything I throw at it (the fast CPU & SSD proves to be money well spent). It's an unbelievable piece of engineering by Sony. I don't really agree with the value score of 6/10. You get what you pay for.


May 5, 2010, 12:09 pm

not but a month ago i was umming and ahhing between this (with the regular harddrive and core i5) and the alienware m11x. they were two completely different machines, but in the end, price won over the processor for me (the led lights helped a little, too)


May 5, 2010, 1:21 pm

Hi Steve :) (from NBR forums).

I too bought the first-gen Z, a very nice machine indeed but with a lot of problems with it such as sub-par assembly (creaks) and obvious design flaws such as a flexible screen that gets damaged (had mine repaired twice under warranty).

Got the S, nice & fast machine, but its weight is just too much for me for everyday commute. One of the downsides with the S is again the finish is not great, for instance paint finish isn't at all good.

I've got the new Z too, full featured with the i7, 8GB DDR3, 256GB SSD and 1080p screen.

It's clearly an improvement over the previous Z. It's got to be for the premium it's asking for.

SSD is fast but not that much faster in real life compared to the Intel SSD G2 I have on the S.

This is my last premium Sony laptop, if it doesn't get any better I will be a Mac laptop next time.

meeto 0

May 5, 2010, 1:47 pm

this looks like my dream laptop. out of my price range unfortunately.

to the trustedreview team: are you going to be reviewing the vaio f series. im looking to buy one but not sure how to configure it. Will i notice much between 6gb and 4gb ram. would you always recommend a SSD.

Also have sony sent you the nx703 (I think that's right) range tv. they look gorgeous

Daniel Gerson

May 5, 2010, 2:05 pm

I have to say I'm in awe!!!

Agree with the value score though, which is why I now own an M11x


May 5, 2010, 2:27 pm


i wonder how many people did choose the m11x over the vaio z? guess it wasn't only me stuck between the two

evan fotis

May 5, 2010, 2:39 pm

I find it ridiculous for a high end product, to omit an esata port. Even $500 laptops have them... One can use the express card 34 slot for that but thats not the point... Also I do not think it will support Dual link DVI,(as a macbook pro) as there is only HDMI out and VGA for presentations...

Apart from that, its well worth the price for portability and performance.


May 5, 2010, 2:41 pm

I've got the previous generation VGN-Z31WNB and while I am generaly happy, as a desk top replacement there is one major flaw. The docking station is hopeless - no power button, no audio out, a silly little flap on the underside of the PC that needs to be opened to connect to the docking station instead of the automatic clamshell that every other manufacturer uses and no (working) auto switching of display resolution. Has this been improved on the new generation?


May 5, 2010, 3:37 pm

Here's a compelling reason for the ExpressCard 34 slot a USB 3.0 host controller card that doesn't stick out of the slot. Just saying...


May 5, 2010, 6:47 pm

I was also toying with this Z series or the Alienware M11x but in the end still wanted some of the features of the Sony and went for the S series. I'm quite pleased with it as I couldn't justify an extra £1000 just for the lightness of the Z model and a higher resolution screen.


May 8, 2010, 1:01 pm

I own several of the earlier Z series machines, they kept breaking, typically a few months on the road, and Sony's response was "it's a portable computer you shouldn't travel with it", the machines themselves where pretty good but each new one cost me a day to remove the rubbish Sony install and rebuild. I then switched to Panasonic Toughbooks, Y5 then Y7, and these are great coz they don't break, although not as powerful as the Sony's. I'm just contemplating upgrading my current Toughbook to an S9, the only problem with the Toughbooks is what do you do with the old ones, (Not a problem with the 3 Sony's I owned in a year, there are all in the parts bin!), and I'd be curious to see a comparision with that. As I see it the choice is between the Sony Z series and the Panasonic Toughbooks and really is between better performance but short life expectancy or good, not great performance but no need to buy an new one every few mothns. So any chance of a review of the Panasonic?


May 10, 2010, 4:12 pm

@ Kevin

Choosing between a Z and a Toughbook is like choosing between a Ferrari and a Ford Transit! I suspect it kept breaking because you require a very sturdy machine.


May 17, 2010, 12:53 pm


Agree completely; a transit would work every day, a Ferrari only occasionally, at least in my experience. I really like both Ferrari's and Sony Z series, but both are, to say the least, a little fragile. Also the performance of the Toughbook is good, albeit not as fast as the Sony, I didn't notice, but a comparative review would reveal the extent of the difference. In terms of needing an very sturdy machine, do you work for Sony, coz this is what they said, my use is travelling pre sales engineer type role, so lots of trips, occasionally getting put into the hold in a briefcase, coz of security alerts etc.

Perhaps a better analogy is Ferrari (Z Series) v's Porsche (Toughbook).

Nicholas Phan

May 17, 2010, 8:30 pm

Ferrari(VAIO Z)

Range Rover (Toughbook)


May 20, 2010, 7:30 pm

@KevinH - I like the way you think. To add weight to your comparision, I was at a track day on Monday and the guy who turned up in a Z Series didn't leave the pit lane pit lane, while I lapped the ciriut all day in my ToughBook! It appeared that he was more interested in letting people admire his Z Series than actually driving it. God forbid it should actually rack up a few miles!

Yasser Saeed

July 26, 2010, 6:08 pm

Hi everyone,

I just received yesterday my new VAIO Z 128GG, and I can say nothing but WOW AGAIN!!!

My main spec is:

- i7 620M CPU


- 256 GB SSD

So, I am having top of the line model, and the only 2 things missing are the Blu-Ray drive, and the 512GB SSD.

Since my last review of my old Z48GB on 22nd August 2009, ( Sony achieveed many of my wish list, and that included:

1. Bigger & faster SSD drive.

2. Much faster CPU

3. Backlit keyboard with ambient sensor.

4. Better build quality.

However, Sony surprised me by adding:

1. Hybrid Graphics System

2. Full HD display

3. Premium Glossy Carbon Fiber lid.

4. Powerful Nvidia GeForce GT 330M Graphic Card

5. Much better and very attractive design

6. Noise-Cancelation feature on headphone jack.

So... what to like? Well, almost everything, especially:

1. Very handsome design.

2. Dedicated DVD eject button over the keyboard ... very fast response and very convenient.

3. Hybrid GFX &#8211 And switching between Stamina and Speed without a reboot ... very convenient.

4. Extra shortcut keys VAIO, and ASSIST.

5. Top quality Full HD LCD screen.

6. Keyboard buttons style with backlit.

7. Built-Quality... better than the Z48

8. The design of the 9-hours extended battery... makes the VAIO even easier to type with angled keyboard.

9. Some of the bundled software, BUT I am STILL wondering; why on earth Sony bundle competitor&#8217s applications such as Adobe Premier Elements?? Why they do not bundle Sony's own Vegas Studio instead??!!! It STILL does not make any sense to me!!!

10. Light weight..

11. Three USB ports

12. The new location of the LED indicators of HDD, Battery, and WLAN.

What I dislike:

1- The speakers sounds extremely thin and extremely low in volume. The SZ79 speaker was good, the Z48 got worse, and now the new Z128 is much worse than the Z48!!! What is going on?!! !!! For some reason, this feature is getting worse and worse!!

2- DVD drive missing its indicator LED lit!!

3- Premium Glossy Carbon Fiber lid looks very nice, BUT it seems very easy to get scratches!!

4- Missing S2 button!!

5- No USB 3.0 port!!

6- Screen is more reflective than the Z48!!

7- No better battery life than the old Z48!!

Again, this is what I would love to see in future VAIO Z:

1- Multi-Touch OLED display with ambient sensor.

2- Bigger & faster SSD drive.

3- Faster CPU, and more RAM.

4- Much better battery technology to last 24 hours or more on Stamina mode.

5- Better illumination backlit keyboard with ambient sensor.

6- Dedicated buttons for sound volume, and mute.

7- Multi-Touch panel.

8- Much better speakers with deep bass.

9- Standard Blu-ray burner.

10- Smaller power-supply adapter with the LED light on both the adapter, and at the socket that connects to the VAIO. They had such feature on older models.

11- Even better finish and build quality.

12- Optical finger print sensor which does not require sliding my fingers, instead placing my finger on it to register.

13- Built-in laser or PICO projector for on the fly presentation of PowerPoint.

14- Illuminated ring around the headphone jack. This feature is so important and convenient when working in dark places. I always have a very hard time inserting my headphone in such conditions.

Performance: Z128 vs. Z48

Overall the new Z128 has much better responsiveness than Z48. Windows Experience Index shows much better values in all aspects, with base score of 6.4 vs 4.3 on the Z48:

- CPU: 6.9 vs 6.4

- RAM: 6.9 vs 6.4

- Graphics: 6.4 vs 4.3

- Gaming : 6.4 vs 5.5

- Hard Disk: 7.9 vs 7.1

I did a rendering of 3:50 minutes of FullHD uncompressed AVI video in Vegas Pro 9 64bit on both systems, and the new Z128 finished it in 5:03 minutes, when the Z48 took 20:10 minutes. So, the new z128 was 300% faster!!!

Overall, I am very satisfied with my new Z128, however it still not perfect yet, and there is still room for improvement. I hope Sony will listen again to my wishes &#8230

Yousoof Savant

August 2, 2010, 10:07 am

Hi everyone,

I just received my new VAIO Z 128GG on 25 June 2010. Sadly, I've been very disappointed. From the 25 June to 25 July the notebook probably worked well for maybe 5 days. It switched off while working. When it went into sleep mode; it never woke up... I had to reboot midway while working. Sometimes, within 30 seconds the notebook generates intense heat from the front left airvent. I restored the system probably twice and received almost every day the 'Blue screen of Death' error message.

Generally I see the other reviews are good, maybe my notebook is a dud.. I've returned it and waiting for a replacement or a refund. However, on the odd occasion that it did work... it was awesome... scared to buy another Sony product.... should I be?


August 16, 2010, 3:03 pm

I bought a Z1 just after it was released and I've had nothing but problems with it. For instance after a few weeks the 3G hardware failed. I'd bought the system with a 3yr next day onsite warranty, but Sony refused to honour the warranty because I'd got a 'customized' model and, even though they sold me the warranty, they say that they don't support customized models onsite. To get the system repaired I had to return it. I'm CEO of a company, what am I supposed to do without a laptop for a week or two? In the end we sent the whole thing back to Sony and I bought a Dell E4310. A slightly lesser machine, but with a fantasic 3yr next day onsite European service. I'm heartbroken because the Z1 is indeed beautiful and powerful. But Sony has no idea how to support their business customers. Wake up, Sony!

Yasser Saeed

August 20, 2010, 11:33 pm

Hi Again ..

So far so good with my VAIO Z ..

I would not recommend buying a customized version as the risk of having problems is high as I was told by SONY Yemen because it is customized in USA not Japan.. Instead buy a pre-configured version which comes ready from Japan ..

Finally, I think something is wrong with the new VAIO Z speakers!! They sound extremely low and extremely thin!!! My HTC Legend Smartphone has much loader volume, and thicker sound!! Do you believe that!!!!

Kind Regards,

Yasser A Saeed

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