I won’t go into too much detail about the chassis as I’ve already covered it in my Sony Vaio VGN-SZ2XP review, but I will go over the most salient points. The first is the very thin display. This is due to Sony using an LED backlight. This enables the screen to be noticeably thinner than a conventional laptop displays that use Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamp technology. It also means that the laptop tapers from the back to the front making it easier to hold, while the wedge shape is easier on the eye.
Another advantage of an LED backlight is that it produces a better black level, giving you a better image in dark scenes when watching videos or playing games. I found that it was actually less forgiving of poorly encoded videos with dark scenes as I could clearly seen artefacts – the latest Harry Potter trailer was a case in point.
The keyboard is the same Spectrum like affair as on the SZ2 – I found the keys to be a bit too springy and not as firm as I would have like them. At least their large size made them easy to hit. I found that if I pressed a little bit firmer than I would normally on the keys then I could get a good typing speed up.
One thing I don’t like is that there aren’t quite enough USB ports – there are two on the right hand side, and that’s it – which isn’t really enough for my liking.
As ever Sony is quite generous with the software bundle with some decent apps pre-installed – and SonicStage too. One feature that I made extensive use of during testing was the built-in recovery feature, which enables you to restore your notebook to its factory state easily, with an image stored on a hidden partition. It’s not a particularly quick process though, so you’ll need to be patient.
Interestingly, the SZ3 features a DLNA Certified sticker on the front. The DLNA, Digital Living Network Alliance, means that it will let you control content on a DLNA server.
Aside from being bundled with the HSDPA Express Card the only other major change from the SZ2 is the move to a Core 2 Duo processor – the previous model featured a Core Duo. This is a T7200 running at 2.16GHz – the previous version was a 2GHz T2500. The graphics are the same – with both an Intel i945 chipset integrated graphics and a nVidia GeForce Go 7400 TurboCache chip. These can be selected by a Stamina and Speed switch above the keyboard – that’s Intel for stamina and nVidia for speed. We ran our MobileMark 2005 tests on both.