So its feature laden, that much is obvious, but that would be glossing over one of the more important aspects of the Z Series: its design. It is here, as with most Sony laptops, where most of that high price tag goes. Simply put the Z Series is another design triumph. Despite featuring full-fat components and a six-cell battery it weighs only 1.48kg, making it several hundred grams lighter than the SZ it’s replacing and that was no porker!
This is coupled with Sony’s usual visual flair. On the outside it actually looks fairly demure thanks to a relatively durable graphite grey finish that’s only interrupted by the usual VAIO lettering and ‘Sony’ in silver lettering at the top. Like so many notebooks these days the display is LED backlit and as consequence the screen is incredibly thin, just 5mm to be precise. This also means the screen is very flexible and though this is often misconstrued for flimsiness, it ought to be stressed that flexibility is actually a benefit when it comes to preventing damage to a screen.
This also helps make the machine as a whole relatively slim, though it doesn’t quite qualify as “ultra-slim” like an Eee PC S101 does. At the front of its wedge shaped chassis the machine measures just 24.5mm thick, increasing to 33mm at its thickest point and even if this isn’t “ultra-slim” it’s still thin by comparative standards, more or less matching the dimensions of the similar Dell XPS M1330. And, of course, the Z Series is over 500 grams lighter, so it definitely has the edge there!
Inside the Z Series continues to impress. Below the screen sits the now familiar tubular hinge section, finished in silver with the power button on one end and the power input at the other. Along this section also sits a switch labelled ‘Stamina’ and ‘Speed’. This allows you to switch between the discrete and integrated graphics, though the ‘Stamina’ mode actually does a lot more than this.
Switching to this mode automatically disables non-essential items, like the FireWire port and 56k modem while also throttling back the processor. You can also choose to reduce the screen refresh rate and colour depth and deactivate the optical drive, further enhancing the battery saving measures. All of this is handled quickly and effectively by Sony’s power management software that makes it very easy to select exactly what measures you do or don’t want to use. Using this mode we managed four and a half to five hours of basic word processing and web browsing, making it a particularly useful feature when on the move. Unlike previous iterations you also don’t need to reboot between changes.
One area where the Z Series does lack somewhat, however, is in the audio department. Though it does at least offer stereo sound the two speakers, housed just above the keyboard on opposite ends, are very weak and tinny and only really sufficient for general operating system alerts and very basic audio services.