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Sony VAIO Z Series (VPC-Z11Z9E/B) - 13.1in Laptop review

Andy Vandervell

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

Summary

Our Score:

9

Best Portable Laptop{/centre}

Sony has never been afraid

to challenge the conventions of mobile computing. Sometimes this leads it down silly blind alleys, but in the VAIO Z Series its boldness is well-founded. A 13.1in laptop, it weighs just 1.43kg, has enough processing power to go toe-to-toe with any desktop replacement laptop and should last more than a few hours on a single charge. It is, in other words, a genuine mobile workstation.

Unsurprisingly, such delights don't come cheap. Even in its cheapest guise, which dispenses with the integrated optical drive, it'll set you back a cool £1,350. Our particular review spec, however, costs an eye-watering £2,399! This is clearly a massive amount to ask for any kind of machine, but a quick look at the spec list explains this astronomic price.

Kicking things off is the Intel Core i7-620M processor, the two cores of which run at 2.66GHz and share a 4MB Cache. Like all Core i5 and i7 chips it has Intel's Turbo Boost technology, which in this case means it can run at up to a massive 3.33GHz should the need arise. This is the fastest dual-core mobile chip Intel currently has, and it's supported by a whopping 6GB of DDR3 RAM and two 128GB SSDs (total 256GB) configured in RAID 0 for maximum performance.

This isn't the end of the extravagances, though. While the default display is a 13.1in, 1,600 x 900 panel, our model has a 1,920 x 1,080 native resolution screen. Throw in other expensive extras, such as an HSDPA modem to go with the Wireless-N Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, or the fingerprint reader and TPM (Trusted Platform Module) for enhanced security, and the Z Series comes packed with every conceivable feature possible.

There's more, too, as one of the key features of the Z Series is switchable graphics. This means it can cycle between the powerful 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 330M dedicated graphics, and the power-saving Intel integrated chip. This, so reckons Sony, should result in up to 7.5 hours of battery life - something we'll be testing later on.

Unfortunately, like the Alienware M11x we reviewed recently, Sony has yet to implement Nvidia's Optimus graphics switching tech, but its solution is fairly elegant. Instead Sony has created a three-way switch, labelled somewhat laboriously as the "Dynamic Hybrid Graphics System", which has the self-evident options of Speed, Stamina and Auto. Leaving it in auto mode should suffice for most people; it simply switches to the integrated graphics when on battery and vice-versa when plugged-in.

Steve

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.

ilovethemonkeyhead

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)

daneel3001

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

ilovethemonkeyhead

May 5, 2010, 2:27 pm

@ DMG





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.

Teabag

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?

TheLostSwede

May 5, 2010, 3:37 pm

Here's a compelling reason for the ExpressCard 34 slot http://www.photofast.tw/produc... a USB 3.0 host controller card that doesn't stick out of the slot. Just saying...

Orinj

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.

KevinH

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?

Steve

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.

KevinH

May 17, 2010, 12:53 pm

@Steve





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)

Riyad

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


- 8 GB DDR3 RAM


- 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, (http://www.trustedreviews.com/... 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 – 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’s 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 …

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?

ExtraPilot

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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