Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31Z 15.4in Blu-ray Notebook Review - Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31Z Review

Given the fairly sizeable price you’d expect a generous specification and largely the FZ31Z doesn’t disappoint. Powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo T8300, which runs at 2.4GHz with an 800MHz front side bus and 3MB L2 Cache. It also has 4GB 667MHz RAM and a 256MB nVidia 8600M GS for graphics. Unfortunately you only get a 32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium OS, so only 3GB of that RAM gets used. As for gaming, the 8600M GS will give you some limited gaming potential, but it lacks the necessary memory and processing power for most modern titles.

Still, the 2.4GHz CPU should make mincemeat of most everyday applications and feature wise there’s plenty to enjoy. Wireless-N Wi-Fi makes it in there, as does HDMI output and Bluetooth 2.0+ EDR. Obviously there’s the Blu-ray drive and it’s a recorder too, so you could burn superfluous data to those capacious optical discs – though a portable hard drive might be a bit more practical!

Not that you’re likely to run out of space too quickly because you’ll benefit from a 300GB hard drive. It’s more than big enough for sizeable collections of photos, videos, music and plenty else besides, though the only downside is that it’s a relatively slow drive, spinning at only 4,200rpm and this does have some impact on performance.

Connections, in modern terms at least, are fairly standard. You get three USB ports, four-pin FireWire and a 34mm ExpressCard slot, while video connections include D-SUB (VGA), S-Video and an HDMI output. On the front edge there are two memory card readers, one for SD cards and derivatives and another supporting Sony’s own range of memory cards.

Perhaps the key feature of the FZ31Z, though, is the screen. It uses what Sony calls “double lamp technology” that allows for a higher than normal colour gamut, in this case 90 per cent NTSC. As a consequence it’s a very vibrant and colourful screen. In fact, sometimes it can appear slightly over saturated, but it certainly brings video to life, with decent black levels, little light bleed and impressively clean whites.

Unfortunately, audio performance isn’t anywhere near as impressive. Integrated just above the keyboard the speakers are simply rubbish. Tinny, lacking bass and easily distorted, there’s little edifying about them and they make owning a good set of headphones or desktop speakers a necessity. When compared to the excellent speakers on the Toshiba Satellite A300, they’re a severe disappointment and one that calls into question some of this machine’s multimedia aspirations.

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