Taking a tour of the chassis shows that this is a pretty fully featured notebook. The left hand side of the case features a single PC Card slot, two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port and headphone and mic sockets. There’s also a memory stick slot, so if you’re using a Sony digital camera or PDA you’ll be well catered for.
On the right you’ll find a DVD/CD-RW combo drive, giving you the ability to backup data. There’s also a pretty cool looking power button and a modem socket covered by a rubber bung. Next to the modem socket are three lights indicating when you’re on battery power, when WiFi is enabled and when Bluetooth is enabled.
At the rear is the power connector and a flap that hides the 10/100 Ethernet port and a D-SUB output to allow you to connect the notebook to an external monitor. The majority of the rear is taken up by the battery which is easily removed and replaced.
On the underside of the notebook is one last port hidden behind a sliding cover. This one is for the optional docking station which adds features such as DVI output and a parallel port for legacy printers.
Sony has included a decent software bundle. For office productivity you get a copy of Microsoft Works, and to make use of the FireWire port there’s Adobe Premiere LE for video editing. Finally there’s a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements for editing all those images you’ll be pulling off your digital camera.
Performance is pretty strong and the 166 SYSmark score makes the Z1RMP the fastest Centrino based notebook we’ve seen. The 3DMark 2001 SE score of 1,691 isn’t going to impress anyone, but this machine isn’t supposed to be used for playing games.
However, the biggest stumbling block is battery life and the Z1RMP stumbles quite hard. Running Mobile Mark the Z1RMP managed a battery life of two hours and 24 minutes. This is very low for a Centrino based notebook, and is a long way short of Sony’s claim of up to six hours battery life. I was so shocked at the result that I ran the whole battery test again, but the result was almost identical. The only redeeming factor here is that replacing the battery is a very simple affair, but then one of the reasons you’re going for a Centrino system is that you don’t want to have to carry around multiple batteries.
It’s a shame that the battery life is so disappointing, because apart from that one issue the Z1RMP is a superb notebook. Even the price is reasonable at £1,554.21 including VAT. If you feel that the limited battery life isn’t an issue for you then the Z1RMP is probably a smart buy, especially if you want comprehensive wireless functionality. But if the thought of long battery life is what’s attracting you to a Centrino notebook, you’d better look elsewhere.
The Sony Vaio Z1RMP is a great looking notebook that’s also a joy to use. It’s fully featured yet remains slim and reasonably light. The inclusion of both WiFi and Bluetooth will make it an attractive proposition to anyone who needs to stay connected on the move, and the price is impressive considering the specification. Unfortunately the battery life is well below par for a Centrino solution and tarnishes an otherwise sparkling package.
Sony informed me that the poor battery life on the Z1 could have been due to Mobile Mark removing Sony’s custom power management application during install. Since I am always keen to investigate any possible explanations for unexpected results, I asked Sony to send the Z1 back to me for further testing.
This time when I ran Mobile Mark, made sure that Sony’s custom power management application was present and the result was a bit more encouraging. This time the Z1 turned in a battery life score of three hours and eight minutes, which is 44 minutes more than the previous tests. It should also be mentioned that the Mobile Mark performance rating dropped by eight points as well, but that shouldn’t have a huge impact on everyday use.
Although, three hours is still nothing special by Centrino standards, it’s a major improvement. So if you were put off by the very poor battery life in the original test, you might want to take another look at the Z1.