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9/10

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




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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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