Below the Spacebar is a touchpad with a widescreen aspect ratio to match the display. The touchpad has a nice tactile feel to it, while its very responsive nature makes pointer manipulation a breeze. You can also use the right side of the touchpad to scroll through web pages and documents, while the bottom edge also allows horizontal scrolling. Two large, black glossy buttons sit below the touchpad, contrasting well with the matt black wrist rest, and exhibiting a reassuring click when pressed.
Like the TX Series notebooks, the lid on the TZ is incredibly thin. The metallic Sand finish on the lid also looks superb, especially with the mirror-silver VAIO logo in the middle. The reason that the lid is so amazingly thin is that the embedded screen uses LED backlight technology, rather than the more traditional cold cathode light source. Early versions of the TX Series exhibited light bleed issues from the LED backlight, but the screens became consistently better as each new version of the TX launched. It’s that ongoing LED screen development that no doubt paved the way for the screen in the TZ11MN, which is quite possibly the best display I’ve ever seen in a notebook computer.
There are several advantages to using an LED backlight screen. I’ve already mentioned that it makes for a very thin lid, but it also increases battery life significantly. The other big plus for an LED backlight LCD screen, is that it gives you a far wider colour gamut than a traditional LCD, which is why NEC’s mega-high-end SpectraView Referance 21 monitor uses similar technology. Although the wide colour gamut isn’t as important on an 11.1in notebook screen, there is no denying that the colours on this display look better than on any other notebook I’ve reviewed. In fact not a single member of the TR team failed to comment on just how great this screen looks!
Despite its small dimensions, the screen in the TZ11MN sports a native resolution of 1,366 x 768, which is a true 16:9 aspect ratio, as seen in most HDTVs. The display also sports a high contrast glossy coating, but unlike many screens using this type of coating, the viewing angle is incredibly good, so you and the person next to you could, say, watch a movie during a long train journey – although you’d probably also need two sets of headphones and a headphone jack splitter.
Above the screen is a built-in 0.3-megapixel webcam, making the TZ11MN perfect for the odd bid of video Skype chatting. Sony even preloads Skype onto the notebook to get video over IP streaming straight off the bat. This is definitely a webcam, rather than a camera for taking stills, as seen on the old VAIO TR2MP, since it’s a fixed device. This is no bad thing though, since I never really saw the point in installing a digital still camera in a notebook, no matter how small it is.