Sony VAIO TZ Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (258,036)

Buy Direct From Manufacturer


by Kevin O’Brien

The Sony TZ is the latest offering from Sony in the ultra portable market. With its small size and extreme low weight, it is a must on any business traveler’s notebook list. The Sony TZ combines a new LED backlight display, solid state drive, over-sized battery, and ultra low voltage processors from Intel to make it an all around extended battery performer. Read on to find out how the paper specs stack up in real world use.

The Sony TZ (VGN-TZ191N) we are going over today has the following configuration:

  • Windows Vista Business (32-bit)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo Processor U7600 (1.20GHz, 2MB L2, 533MHz FSB)
  • Mobile Intel 945GMS Express Chipset
  • Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN (802.11a/g/n)
  • Sprint Mobile Broadband (EV-DO Rev. A)
  • 2GB PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM (1 slot, maximum capacity 2GB)
  • 32GB Samsung SSD Ultra-ATA HD
  • 8x DVD (+/-R double layer) drive
  • 11.1" diagonal widescreen XBrite TFT LCD display at 1366×768 (WXGA, Glossy, LED Backlit)
  • Premium Carbon-Fiber Casing
  • Intel GMA950 w/ up to 224MB
  • MOTION EYE camera and microphone
  • Bluetooth version 2.0 plus Enhanced Data Rate (EDR)
  • ExpressCard slot (ExpressCard/34)
  • 5-in-1 media card reader
  • Memory Stick PRO (with MagicGate functionality) Secure Reader
  • VGA, Modem, 1Gb LAN, IEEE 1394, Dock, and Mic/Headphone connectors
  • IEEE-1394s (FireWire)
  • Two USB 2.0 ports
  • Dimensions (WxDxH Front/H Rear): 10×7.8×0.9/1.2
  • Weight: 2lbs 10.5oz actual, 3lbs 4oz travel weight
  • 60W (19V x 4.62A) 100-240V AC adapter (10oz)
  • Standard Lithium Ion battery (11.1oz)
  • 1-Year Standard Limited Warranty


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Build and Design
Sony’s designers worked overtime to make the TZ not only an ultra portable notebook, but to make it an ultra portable notebook that looks good. Lines match up, panel thicknesses stay the same, hinges are molded into body with the battery, AC plug, and power button integrated, and it’s topped off with a carbon fiber lid to seal the deal. Lifting the display cover you find the glossy keyboard surface reflecting the world around you with keys standing out like ripples on a pond. This notebook could be perfectly described in one word; glamorous.


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The build quality of this notebook is excellent. Having such thin panels merging together across various parts of the notebook you would almost expect to see uneven panel spacing or gaps, but this notebook has none. Panels merge together with razor thin clearances, and even flexing the notebook doesn’t make the parts squeak or groan from plastic rubbing together. Support is excellent around the base of the laptop, leaving just the screen with some amount of flex. I can’t really place too much blame on Sony for that, since it is only 4.75mm thick. Overall I found the Sony TZ to be of excellent quality, only lacking on allowing certain parts to be upgraded by the user.

Screen
Sporting a new LED backlight screen, a first for a Sony ultra-portable, the laptop is able to achieve great color reproduction and backlight distribution. Watching movies, editing pictures, or just browsing the web was very enjoyable. I only wish this laptop had the performance of a gaming machine, so that the screen could be used for more recreational purposes. Comfortable brightness levels on the TZ were around midrange, with anything above too bright for my poor eyes. As is common with most notebook displays, viewing angles were excellent horizontally, but poor vertically. The purple anti-glare screen coating combined with the poor viewing angles helped make dark colors invert at shallow angles.


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Protection of the screen from the display cover is on the weak side, since it is extremely thin. Throughout the review procedure, the only damage I was able to inflict were key marks left on the screen from the LCD pressing on the dirty keys. These were only temporary marks, I was able to rub them off with a soft cloth (which Sony included with the notebook). Besides flexing the screen into a taco shape or accidentally sitting on it, I don’t see most users having any problem with the screen.

Speakers
The speakers on the Sony TZ are located right below the pivot point of the display, providing a clear path to your head for maximum listening pleasure. They worked quite well for watching movies, playing games, or listening to some music around the office. With the volume set to max, the decibel meter registered ~64dB at one foot. The audio was only slightly distorting on high notes, but stayed mostly clear. During normal use high and upper midrange came through well, but don’t expect any lower notes from speakers this small.

Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the Sony TZ is very compact, and takes a bit to get used to typing on. It took a few hours of use before I could type without peaking at the keys. Passwords were mangled, friends were confused with my typing, and websites locked me out for too many login attempts. Once I got used to it the typing was fairly comfortable, but this keyboard is not ideal as a primary machine used during an entire work week. For users who would buy this machine as the main computer in their office, a docking station with full-size keyboard would be highly recommended.


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The touchpad was easy to use, and very stable with finger tracking. It did not appear to have any lag moving across the screen, nor did it have any pause when it sat idle. My only complaint with the touchpad was the upper boundary was flush with the keyboard tray, making it easy to slide your finger right off the surface. The soft texture made the touchpad easy to control, as well as very comfortable on the fingertips.

Performance and Benchmarks
The only modern game I found to work at decent frame rates was Half Life 1 as mentioned in my first look. Watching movies, editing photos, and using productivity software worked out much better. The beautiful LED backlit screen really made those activities enjoyable. Below are the standard benchmarks to see how this laptop stacks up against others notebooks. Keep in mind that the TZ compares favorably to other notebooks in the ultra portable notebook class.

PCMark05 comparison results:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 2,446 PCMarks
Toshiba Portege R500 (1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600) 1,839 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook P7230 (Core Solo CPU U1400, 1.20GHz, Integrated graphics) 1,152 PCMarks
Toshiba Satellite U200 (1.73GHz Core Duo, Intel Integrated graphics) 3,113 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook N6420 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1600) 4,621 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Asus Z84Jp (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia Go 7600) 4,739 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400) 3,646 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks


3DMark06 comparison results:

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 122 3DMarks
LG R500 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GS 256MB) 2,776 3DMarks
HP dv2500t (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,055 3DMarks
Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,329 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 532 3DMarks
Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,408 3DMarks
Samsung Q70 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 and nVidia 8400M G GPU) 1,069 3DMarks
Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB) 2,344 3DMarks
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB 2,183 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 1,831 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks


wPrime comparison results:

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz) 76.240s
Zepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 42.385s
Lenovo T61(Core 2 Duo T7500) 37.705s
Alienware M5750 (Core 2 Duo T7600 @ 2.33GHz) 38.327s
Hewlett Packard DV6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz) 38.720s
Samsung Q70 (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 42.218s
Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi (Core Duo T2500 @ 2.0GHz) 42.947s
Samsung X60plus (Core 2 Duo T7200 @ 2.0GHz) 44.922s
Zepto Znote 6224W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 45.788s
Samsung Q35 (Core 2 Duo T5600 @ 1.83GHz) 46.274s
Samsung R20 (Core Duo T2250 @ 1.73GHz) 47.563s
Dell Inspiron 2650 (Pentium 4 Mobile 1.6GHz) 231.714s

Port Selection
Front:


Headphone, microphone, memory card readers, and media controls. (view large image)

Right:


Optical drive and VGA (view large image)

Rear:


Battery (view large image)

Left:


(Under Cover) Ethernet/Lan, Modem, Firewire, ExpressCard slot, two USB ports and a security lock slot. (view large image)

Software
Once you dig deep past the bountiful bloatware, and get a chance to uninstall most of it, the TZ really becomes different machine. Power usage drops, programs load faster, startups and shutdowns speed up … I can’t recommend enough that users clean off all of the bloatware before they start using the notebook. If you add up all the preinstalled software, by far the most has to do with specific Sony notebook features like backlight adjustment or eject functions. If you take off too many, you start to lose vital functions. I really wish Sony incorporated all system functions into one software package.

Battery
Under normal use, backlight at 80 percent, Sony Optimized power profile set, and using wireless for web browsing, the TZ pulled off six hours and 43 minutes. I was hoping for more, as the preproduction model seemed to go more than seven hours, but it was still very good. Watching movies on the laptop got just less than four hours, meaning you could get through even the longest movies on a flight without a recharge.

Charging the battery took quite long compared to what I have been used to. More than five hours to get a complete charge was not out of the question, and two hours to get over 50 percent. Most other laptops will charge at a faster rate up to the 75-80 percent level, but the TZ had no such feature.

Heat and Noise
Even with the low voltage processor and SSD drive, the Sony TZ could produce heat with the best of them. The bottom of the notebook got quite hot even under normal use, and the fan was always running after the notebook had been on for over 20-30 minutes. Fan noise was minimal, and the only way to tell it was blowing would be sticking your hand next to the outlet, and feeling the warm air blow past.

Below are heat overlay images showing where the Sony warmed up (in degrees Fahrenheit) during normal extended use.


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Conclusion
Compared against every other ultra portable notebook I have worked with, the Sony TZ was by far the brightest, lightest, and smallest of the bunch. The screen was gourgeous, battery life was excellent, and the notebook barely weighed anything. I would recommend this notebook to anything considering a portable laptop, especially those who demand the lightest possible items for travel.

Pros

  • Amazing LED backlit screen
  • Almost seven hours of battery life
  • SSD Hard Drive

Cons

  • Bottom gets very hot, pants required.

 


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