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Sony VAIO Z Series (VPC-Z11Z9E/B) - 13.1in Laptop - Keyboard, Touchpad & Audio-Visual
One of the great things with the 13-inch form-factor is that, while portable, you don't typically sacrifice usability. This is generally true of the Z Series, but it does have one or two idiosyncrasies. One is the keyboard's keys, which are slightly smaller than on most 13in laptops - such as Sony's own Y Series. This means there's plenty of space between each key, so inadvertent keys strokes are infrequent, but it does take a little getting used to. Another is that, like the Y Series, you can sometimes brush the edge of the touchpad when typing. This can often mess up documents when typing, but can be eliminated by adjusting the touchpad driver settings.
Aside from these issues, the Z Series is a great machine to work on. Both the layout and key actions of the keyboard are excellent, while the very subtle backlighting is perfect if working in dimly lit auditoriums or the like. We also love how the slight elevation of the palm rest, and incline created by the battery, creates a near perfect angle for typing. As for the touchpad, it works fine and the two buttons are nicely defined.
Then we come to the most astounding aspect of the Z Series: its screen. Whether you opt for the standard 1,600 x 900 resolution screen, or the insane 1,920 x 1,080 pixels of our model, you'll be greeted by one of the best screens to be found on a laptop. Its colour production, which covers 96 per cent of the Adobe RGB colour space, is out of this world. Be it videos, photos or games, everything is brought to life with a level of detail unsurpassed even by the excellent screen on the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch.
Not satisfied with awesome colour fidelity alone, viewing angles are incredibly wide. It's also extremely bright which, combined with a non-reflective, semi-matt finish, ensure this is a laptop that can be used comfortably anywhere. As for the 1080p res option, it is somewhat extreme. If you have some use for such a high resolution, though (e.g. video/photo editing), it's only a £50 upgrade and adjusting Windows' DPI settings can eliminate any readability issues.
Crashing back down to earth with a bump are the speakers. Their tiny slits beneath each hinge say much about how important Sony thinks these are, and the resultant output only confirms this. They're hopelessly underpowered, tinny and lacking in any warmth at all. Does it matter? Not too much, but it's worth bearing in mind nonetheless.