The keyboard itself is distinctive looking and immediately made me think of an eighties Spectrum computer. The keys are quite wide and each one has a raised central area, presumably to make each one easy to hit, but also to provide space between the keys so that they don’t interfere with each other. This worked well but I did have a consistent problem in getting the space bar to work so I kept having to go back and add in spaces. However, Riyad gave it a go and had no problems so it could be down to my typing style. In terms of layout and arrangement I was happy.
The screen on the SZ is impressive as it uses an LED backlight. This has a number of benefits. It allows for a thinner display than conventional LCD screens, has a greater colour gamut and helps extend battery life. It’s certainly very bright at the maximum setting and the only disappointment was that the relatively modest 1,280 x 800 resolution.
At the top edge of the bezel you’ll find a webcam. The maximum resolution is only 640 x 480 but if you ever need to communicate via video when you’re on the move for business or personal reasons you’ll appreciate not having to mess around with an external camera. It works well enough and a yellow light next to the lens indicates when it’s running.
The front of the notebook is featureless providing a smooth curved front to the notebook. On the left hand side you’ll find from front to back, a Sony Memory Stick reader, a PC Card slot, a VGA output, a mini- FireWire port and at the back a microphone and headphone socket. The battery takes up most of the rear, with the CPU exhaust fan and a power socket at either edge. On the right hand side you’ll find an integrated optical drive capable of burning dual layer discs. It may not be the smallest Sony notebook with an optical drive but it still feels like an achievement. Behind this there is a Express card slot, and Sony has actually provided something to fill it with – a memory card reader so you can plug SD, MMC and xD straight into the notebook. It also takes Memory Stick. This means that should you need to you can access two memory sticks at once. Below this are two USB 2.0 ports, which is actually not very many – the only real concession to the size of the notebook here. At the corner edge you’ll find a modem port and a Gigabit capable Fast Ethernet controller.
Inside the thin chassis the notebook is powered by an Intel Core DuoT2500 – 2GHz of dual-core power – still impressive in something so thin. There’s 1GB provided, which is enough to get started with and sensibly this has been provided on a single DIMM. A recommended upgrade would be to add a second 1GB DIMM – you’ll get a performance boost from 2GB of RAM and the fact that with two DIMMs the i945 chipset will be able to run in dual-channel mode.