It is clear that Sony is trying to stop this machine from competing with its more expensive sibling, the FZ Series. Fine on paper, perhaps, but Dell has moved the goalposts of what to expect from a “cheap” notebook and the VAIO VGN-NR21Z/T and the rest of the NR Series can’t match it. Dell’s Inspiron 1525 is even cheaper, with a near identical configuration available for as little as £570, while the likes of the Acer Aspire 5920 still give a good account for themselves.
For performance testing we ran our usual set of benchmarks, including PCMark Vantage, our in-house Photoshop Elements and VirtualDub tests and MobileMark 2007, which was miraculously working on this occasion! Unfortunately our results were skewed somewhat by the fact our test system came with a 2.4GHz T8300, rather than the 2.1GHz T8100 advertised.
Despite this one can expect good performance from the VGN-NR21Z/T, with the T8100 boasting an extra 100MHz clock frequency and an extra 1MB L2 Cache over the T7250 found in our sample of the Inspiron 1525. Moreover, with 3GB of RAM on-board as well there’s little you shouldn’t be able to do. In addition, as shown in our results, installing Vista SP1 did provide some marginal performance improvements, though nothing too dramatic.
Battery life is solid too, though nowhere near the heights of over four hours managed by the Inspiron 1525. In the Productivity test it managed just a fraction over three hours, while the lower intensity Reader test ended after three hours and 10 minutes. DVD playback is pretty good too, with a result of two hours and seven minutes at full screen brightness.
In most respects, then, the VGN-NR21Z/T is a solid and well put together notebook. But, though it’s cheap compared to some of Sony’s notebook options, it sacrifices a lot to generate this sense of value. It lacks a webcam and S-Video or HDMI outputs and though it has a generous specification, the excellent Inspiron 1525 is available for less and includes many of the features missing here.
Lacking the stylish touches of Sony’s more expensive offerings, the VGN-NR21Z/T sacrifices a little too much to hit a more affordable price point. If you want a basic and capable notebook then it’s worth considering but it’s overshadowed cheaper and better featured competitors. Not bad, but not outstanding either.