Sony VAIO TX Ultraportable Review (pics, specs)

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Introduction:

Sony is a worldwide leader in electronics, ranging from TVs, game consoles, to computers and laptops.  They offer an array of notebooks from desktop replacements to ultra-portable laptops.  I recently had the opportunity to review the latest Sony VAIO TX series, the VGN-TX770, a sexy looking machine with some impressive features.  The VAIO TX series is Sony’s lightweight, ultra-portable offering in an increasingly popular style of notebooks.

 


Sony VAIO TX Ultraportable (view large image)

 

Portable One, a reseller of Sony VAIO laptops, was kind enough to provide us with this review unit.  A major thanks goes to them for providing this opportunity, they’re a top notch group of people that we can highly recommend buying laptops from.

The review model of the TX770 has the following specs:

  • Intel Pentium M Ultra Low Voltage 773 (1.30 GHz, 2 MB L2 cache, 400 MHz FSB)
  • Intel 915 GMS Chipset with Intel Integrated Graphics Media Accelerator 900 with up to 128 MB Shared Video Memory
  • 1 GB (PC2-3200) Dual Channel DDR 2 533 MHz (1.5 GB Maximum)
  • 80 GB 4200 RPM HDD Ultra ATA
  • Built in DVD Burner
  • 11.1″ WXGA Display (1366×768 resolution) with XBrite Technology
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 2200 B/G Wireless LAN
  • Integrated Wireless Access Network (WAN) accessing Cingular Wireless National
  • EDGE Network
  • Integrated Bluetooth
  • 1 x PC Card Slot
  • Memory Stick/SD Memory Card Slot
  • 2 USB Ports/VGA Out/Port Replicator/Microphone&Headphone
  • Jack/Modem/Ethernet/FireWire
  • Instant ON DVD/Music Player


VAIO TX lid (view large image)

Build Design of the TX770:

The Sony TX is a very sexy notebook.  This particular laptop uses a classy black finish for the LCD and outer casing, and a nice gray/silver color for the keyboard area (Sony also offers other colors such as Sienna and Platinum).  Sony uses carbon fiber and carbon composite material for the computer’s casing for increased durability but allowing for light weight.  The LCD screen is razor thin (approximately the width of 4 stacked credit cards).  While it seems fragile to me, Sony claims this screen is 230% less likely to crack.  Personally, I wouldn’t go out of my way to test this claim!

The casing of the notebook is well designed and feels durable.  I did not notice any flexing in the casing.  The LCD screen is easy to open and close.  The thin screen does have its drawbacks.  I was able to bend the screen left and right rather easily.  Also, by pushing on the back of the screen even with a light amount of force, I was able to produce significant rippling of the LCD screen.


Right side view of  VAIO TX (view large image)


Left side view of VAIO TX (view large image)


SD card / Memory stick card reader slots (view large image)

The overall measurements of this machine are 10.7″ (width) x 0.83″- 1.12″ (height) x 7.7″ (depth) and it weighs in at a meager 2.76 lbs with the standard battery.  Very impressive measurements for an ultra portable with a built in optical drive!  The back of the machine has the Ethernet and FireWire ports.  On the left side you will find the modem and USB ports.  On the right, is the optical drive and VGA port.  The front of the laptop has the microphone/headphone jacks as well as volume control and Wi-Fi power switches.  The power switch and multimedia buttons are found at the top of the keyboard, underneath the LCD screen.


Underside view of VAIO TX (view large image)

Overall, this laptop is one of the coolest looking notebooks I’ve used.

Screen:


VAIO TX screen (view large image)

The Sony TX series uses a 11.1″ widescreen LCD with XBrite technology (glossy type).  Personally, screens under 12.1″ are too small for me.  However, I was impressed with the quality of this particular LCD panel.  The screen was fairly bright on maximum settings.  I saw no light leakage with this model.  Colors were vibrant with good contrast levels.  And I already mentioned that the screen is incredibly thin.


Look at how thin that screen is! (view large image)

Speakers:
 
The speakers actually seemed to perform a little bit better than some other ultra portables I’ve used.  While I didn’t get much bass from them, I thought they sounded clear and the volume was decent.

Processor and Performance:

The Sony TX 770 series uses the  Pentium M 773 Ultra Low Voltage processor running at 1.3 GHz.  For the typical business user, which this machine was designed for, it should have no problems with day to day office tasks and presentations. 

Unfortunately, this laptop does come with a slower 4200 RPM hard drive and is not upgradeable.  This is rather typical of an ultraportable though and doesn’t really serve as a knock.

The Sony TX uses Intel GMA integrated graphics 900 which uses up to 128 MB of the system memory.  While good enough to play the occasional non-intensive game, don’t expect to use this machine as a gaming laptop. But for watching movies and other basic multimedia tasks, the integrated chipset is certainly good enough.

Below are some benchmarks I ran on this notebook to get an idea of the speed.

Super Pi (time to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy):

Notebook Time
Sony VAIO TX770 (Pentium M 773 ULV 1.3 GHz)  2m 21s
Alienware M770 (AMD Dual Core FX-60)  1m 23s
 Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 53s
 Dell Latitude X1 (1.1 GHz ULV Pentium M)  2m 40s
 IBM ThinkPad Z60m (2.0 GHz Pentium M)  1m 36s
 Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)  1m 48s
 Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  1m 52s
 Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  2m 10s
 HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 39s
 Asus V6Va (Pentium M 1.86 GHz)  1m 46s
 Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)  1m 18s


The above Super Pi calculation is of course not on par with a Core Duo processor placed in larger notebooks, it stacks up well relative to other ultraportable notebooks though.

Below is the PCMark05 result for this notebook, it’s slightly better than the similar sized Panasonic T4 ultraportable:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Sony VAIO TX770 (Pentium M 773 ULV 1.3 GHz) 1,441 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo) 3,487 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60) 5,597 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Panasonic ToughBook T4 (Intel 1.20GHz LV) 1,390 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400) 3,646 PCMarks
Toshiba Satellite M70 (Pentium M 1.86GHz) 1,877 PCMarks


During my review period, the Sony TX seemed plenty fast enough for using programs such as Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer and movie watching. 

Of note, the Sony TX does come with the ability to instantly watch movies and music without starting up Windows.  I was really impressed that Sony included this feature with their ultra portable series.  Needless to say, movies looked gorgeous on the widescreen XBrite screen.

Heat:

The Sony TX does produce some heat, particularly underneath on the left side.  The heat never became uncomfortable, however.   Sony opted not to use a fanless design.  After about 1-2 minutes of use, the fan turns on and unfortunately, stays on.  While not the loudest fan in the world, the fact that it never seemed to turn off (even on lower speeds) was a bit annoying.  I would have liked to seen a quieter laptop for an ultra portable machine geared for the mobile professional. 

Keyboard & Touchpad:


Keyboard and touchpad (view large image)

The Sony TX uses an 82-key keyboard.  With most ultra portables, keyboards tend to be on the smaller size in order keep the size of the laptop down.  Typing on the small keys took some getting used to, but overall I felt the keyboard was comfortable to use.  A tiny bit of flexing was noticeable on the right side, but the overall keyboard was solid.   Unfortunately, you have to press the FN key to use the page down and page up keys. 

The touchpad is a standard touchpad.  I thought it had good response and felt comfortable to use.  No complaints here.

Wireless:


VAIO TX Wireless on / off button (view large image)

The Sony TX has a wide array of wireless capabilities and is definitely one of its stronger points.  It contains the older Intel PRO/Wireless 2200 B/G.  I had good range and connections throughout my home.  The laptop also has integrated Bluetooth Technology, which is a nice feature to have,  particularly for those that have Bluetooth ready cell phones and PDAs.  Finally, the Sony TX comes with built in Wireless WAN that connects to Cingular’s National EDGE network.  You of course need to sign up for a Cingular Wireless Data Connect Plan.  Supposedly this network is available in over 13,000 U.S. cities and towns and 40,000 miles of highway.  So, if you aren’t near a WiFi hotspot and are willing to shell out the $60+/month Cingular Plan, you can have internet access virtually anywhere.  I have never used this plan before so I cannot comment on the reliability and performance.

Battery Life:

Simply put, the battery life of the Sony TX is absolutely amazing.  This laptop uses a 7800 mAH battery that only slightly protrudes from the back of the machine.  Sony claims that a user can have anywhere from 4 to 7.5 hours of battery life with the standard battery.  With Wi-Fi on and medium brightness, I easily had 4.5 to 5 hours.  With Wi-Fi off I had well over 5 hours of battery life!  If I kept the screen brightness at a minimum, I probably would have squeezed out even more battery life. I was really impressed with the battery life of this laptop.  A business user would have no problems making cross country flights with this notebook. Sony also offers a heavier, higher capacity battery that has over 1.5 times longer life than the standard battery.

Software:

The Sony TX comes with Windows XP Professional.  It also comes with various standard imaging and multimedia programs as well as trial anti-virus programs and a trial version of Microsoft Office 2003.  A recovery program is included to reinstall the OS, DVD player, drivers, etc.  Unfortunately, out of the box, the laptop has quite a bit of bloat ware installed.

Customer Support:

The Sony TX comes with a 1 year manufacturer warranty.  This is pretty standard, although for such an expensive machine it would be nice to have 3-years included like the Panasonic Toughbook series has.  You can pay to upgrade the warranty to as long as 4-years though.  I have never owned a Sony computer before this, but based on feedback on this sites forums the reputation for support there isn’t great.  We can however totally back up and recommend Portable One as a great place to buy Sony laptops and get initial support for the product if needed.  Portable One offers an excellent buying experience with support to the customer for a newly received laptop if there are any problems out of the box.

Pros:

  • Incredibly thin and light (2.76 lbs)
  • Sexy design
  • Built in DVD Burner
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Nice screen
  • Excellent wireless capabilities

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Slow hard drive which you can’t upgrade
  • Fan seems to never turn off
  • Customer support supposedly is hit or miss

Conclusions:

I really enjoyed using the Sony TX 770.  We are starting to see more and more options in the ultra portable category, and this model is right up there.  The wireless capabilities make this a perfect travel companion for those that are constantly on the move and need to have frequent internet access.  Sony adds a bit of fun by allowing for instant on music and DVD use.   Unfortunately, the laptop is expensive.  I hope future models will incorporate a fanless design because the fan noise is constant and can be annoying.  A faster hard drive would be nice as well.  Overall, the Sony TX770 is a solid business-class ultra portable notebook. 

Pricing and Availability:

# 1 Recommended place to buy starting at $2,300: PortableOne.com VAIO TX Product Page

Other retailers:



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