Sony VAIO TR5 First Thoughts (pics, specs)

by Reads (9,535)

I’ve been using the new Sony VAIO TR5 ultraportable notebook for a couple of days now so it’s time to post some first thoughts and pictures of this newly refreshed VAIO TR Series notebook.  With a built-in DVD burner, 1GB of RAM, movie camera, Memory Stick reader all in a 3.1 lb travel weight there’s a lot to like and a lot of cool factor to this notebook.

product image

The Sony VAIO TR5 comes with a front loading DVD burner

The last notebook I reviewed was the Dell Inspiron 9100.  The VAIO TR5 weighs 3.1lb and is literally a third the weight of the Inspiron 9100 that weighed 9lb, so we’re obviously dealing with a totally different class of notebooks in this case of comparison.  The 9100 is intended to sit on a desk at home and move very little.  The VAIO TR5 begs to be taken with you everywhere.  It’s a pleasure to work with in cramped places, the obvious example being in coach class of an airplane.  Or train, or passenger ferry or whatever form of sit down public transportation you take for that matter.  The point is, this 3.1lb machine is easy to carry and use anywhere.  I would even venture to take it on the subway and get some work done while commuting, that is I would if it weren’t for the fact this is a review unit on loan from Sony that costs $2,999 and I’m responsible for paying if anything happens to it!

Side-by-side, VAIO TR5 and ThinkPad T40 for size comparison

The VAIO TR5 is what’s called a product refresh, it is essentially the same as the VAIO TR3 but with a couple of bells and whistles that make it stand out.  The main bell being the fact the TR5 is the first ultraportable to contain a built-in DVD-RW/CD-RW drive.  No media slice needed, it’s right in there for you to use.  This drive is loaded from the front of the machine, which is not quite as convenient as having a drive on the side, but with such a small size notebook the engineers are pushed for space on where to put things, so one must be understanding of these limitations in the name of a smaller size and lighter notebook.  The other major feature upgrade of the TR5 is the fact it comes with a whopping 1GB of SDRAM.  No need to ever upgrade this machine for RAM, as a matter of fact you can’t because the max it supports is 1GB of RAM.  But that’s plenty enough and gives you excellent performance for applications that are RAM hungry (ahhem, Microsoft Windows XP).

more side-by-side of Sony TR5 and ThinkPad T40, this time closed

The processor included with the TR5 is the Intel Pentium M ultra low voltage 1.1 GHz chip.  Yes it’s slower than the main family of Pentium M chips, but the point is to save battery life and the Pentium M 1.1 GHz processor is good at that.  Battery life conservation is important in a notebook of this size because you’re using a smaller battery.  Batteries tend to be major contributors to the weight of a notebook, so Sony went with a small battery that gives 3 – 5 hours battery life.  You can buy an extended battery that gives up to 11 hours of power, but it weighs more and sticks out from the back a little.

Watching a movie on the bright, widescreen of the TR5 is a pleasure, even at 10.6″!

The screen on the TR5 uses Sony’s XBrite.  And yes, XBrite does provide a boost to Brightness.  The TR5 screen is just really beautiful. It’s certainly one of if not the brightest screen I’ve ever seen on a notebook.  The 10.6″ wide screen (1280×768) TFT display is not as limiting as I thought it might be.  Indeed, I’m amazed at how much I can see and do.  As I type at the moment my preconceived notions of an ultraportable being impossible to type on and work with are getting proven wrong.  I also find that watching movies on the TR5 is a pure joy due to the clarity and brightness of the screen.  The sound from the built-in speakers isn’t all that good, but the Dolby Headphone support alleviates that problem if you really crave better sound.

The TR5 does a nice job of hiding ports behind flip-open doors, part of the Sony Style mantra is to make things look clean on the design finish

The built-in web camera is a cool feature.  It’s a 370,000 pixel camera, so it’s certainly not going to get you any high definition images, but it can either serve as a cool toy or a serious aid in doing online web conferences when you want video to supplement a presentation.  A button aligned next to the screen titled “Capture” allows for quick launch of a software application that allows you to control the camera.

The built-in camera can only give you VGA quality resolution — but that’s okay, you don’t want any more detail on my face!

The keyboard is of course not full size, things are a little cramped to get the QWERTY keyboard on there.  But typing is not a huge challenge, I’m able to type about as fast as I do on my ThinkPad T40 but find that I just tend to hit the wrong keys more often…time will alleviate that problem as I get used to the smaller keys.  The key travel and feedback is by far the nicest I’ve used on any VAIO.

Right now I’m still enamored with the small size and cool factor of the Sony VAIO TR5, so I need to get over that and evaluate the notebook for what it is.  Check back in a couple of weeks for a full review of the TR5.

Sony VAIO TR5 Availability and Pricing

The Sony VAIO TR5 is available now for a starting price of $2,999.99, check out the latest prices for the VAIO TR5 here

Sony VAIO TR5 Specs

Processor
Ultra Low Voltage Intel Pentium M processor, 1.10GHz1

  Operating System
Microsoft Windows XP Professional

  Cache Memory
L2: 1MB Integrated On-Die

  Front Side Bus Speed
400 MHz

  LCD
10.6″ Wide (1280×768) TFT display with XBRITE technology

  Graphics
Intel 855GM Chipset Integrated Graphics 64MB (shared)

  Memory
1 GB DDR SDRAM (512MB x 2), maximum 1GB

  Hard Drive
40 GBhard drive (4200rpm)2

  Optical Drive
Internal DVD-RW/CD-RW drive
(Max speeds: DVD-R/RW write 2x, CD-R write 16x, CD-RW write 8x, CD Read 24x, DVD-ROM read 8x)

  Optional Floppy Drive
External 1.44 MB, 3.5″ USB floppy drive (PCGA-UFD5)

  Modem
Integrated V.90 modem

  Ethernet
10BASE-T/100BASE-TX Ethernet with RJ-45 interface

  Memory Stick Media Slot
Supports optional Memory Stick PRO media5

  Pointing Device/Keyboard
Electro-Static touch pad
QWERTY, 83 keys with 2mm stroke and 17mm pitch
Magnify button and Volume buttons

  Estimated Battery Life
Lithium-ion battery
2.5-5.5 hours with standard battery7

  PC Card Slots
1 type I or type II card with CardBus support

  Integrated Camera
CMOS 370,000 pixels (VGA 640×480)
MotionJPEG

  Audio
Windows sound system compatible
Dolby Headphone & Dolby Virtual Speaker
Built-in stereo speakers; monaural mini-jack microphone,
Internal microphone

  Other Interfaces
RJ-11 modem jack, i.LINK (IEEE 1394) interface3, 2 USB2.0,
RJ-45 Ethernet, VGA output, headphone (stereo), monaural
mini-jack microphone

  Integrated Wireless LAN6
Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG
Network Connection (802.11b/g)
Bus/Interface: mini PCI
Radio frequency band: 2.4GHz (ISM band)

  Power Requirements
68 watts maximum + 10% (16V / AC100-240V)
Energy Star compliant
Advanced power management – APM-ACPI compatible

  Weight
3.11lbs.with a standard battery

  Size (H x W x D)
1.37″-1.44 X 10.6″ X 7.4″

  Supplied Accessories
Lithium-ion battery, power cord and AC adapter

  Limited Warranty
1 Year battery
1 Year Hardware Parts and Labor

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