Though it requires the removal of eight screws, the VAIO Z’s
battery is removable – a significant advantage compared to many slim ultraportables
where the battery isn’t user replaceable. The Z uses an 11.1V, 4,000mAh/45Wh
unit that will power the laptop for a good while away from a socket. In our
non-intensive test with wireless radios disabled and screen brightness set to
40 percent, the Z managed five hours and 36 minutes, beating many rivals
(though not the Samsung Series 9 900X3A.
In addition, just like the S you can buy a battery slice to double your time away from a socket. Unfortunately we weren’t sent a slice for testing, but from our hands-on time with it at the Z preview we can tell you it’s quite fiddly to attach or detach. Installation difficulties aside, it makes the Z one of those all-day or transcontinental flight machines that are so frequently valued by its target audience. Speaking of executives and business users, they’ll also be pleased to know that this VAIO offers a fingerprint scanner for password-free login and, more importantly, TPM (Trusted Platform Module) for superior information protection.
Overall then, Sony’s premium ultraportable is an attractive, thin, light and versatile machine with decent usability, incredible performance (especially if you buy the dock with its dedicated graphics) and impressive battery life.
There are only two real flies in the ointment. The first is that it gets even noisier than the VAIO S under heavy load, leading some of our office staff to dub it “the squealer”. It’s simply unpleasant to be around when running anything intensive. The second, of course, is price. It’s quite difficult to find the Z in stock at any other retailers than Sony, and buying direct, the cheapest configuration is £1,434 (£1,450 with the backlit keyboard). With the cheapest dock that shoots up to £1,818, and throwing in a faster CPU and 3G puts you over the £2,000 mark.
But even comparing the basic £1,450 config to rivals it doesn’t come out too well for consumers. The 13in Air, for example, might have a slower CPU but does offer similar other specs (including a ThunderBolt port) for £1,100. On the other hand, Apple’s laptop is heavier, not nearly as well-connected, doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner or TPM for business use, doesn’t last as long on a charge, doesn’t offer a removable battery or additional battery slice and, crucially, doesn’t support an external Blu-ray drive or dedicated graphics card.
So if you have the money and want a super-light machine that can edit video and play games when near a socket (with the dock) – and until we see more external graphics solutions using Thunderbolt or equivalents – the VAIO Z is not just a great choice, it’s the only one.
Sony’s carbon-fibre VAIO Z is the lightest, most powerful and most versatile ultraportable available. With highlights like an optional Full HD screen and up to a 512GB SSD, and with its optional dock offering dedicated graphics and Blu-ray playback, its rivals don’t even come close – especially since battery life is also good. As a package, it has no competitors, though for many users the Z won’t justify its extra cost over either its S-series cousin or other rivals like the MacBook Air. However, while it’s not without its faults, if you can afford it this is a stunning machine.
Score in detail
Battery Life 8