Sony VAIO VGN-Z16GN/B

An attractive notebook with just enough kick.

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Sony VAIO VGN-Z16GN/B
  • Sony VAIO VGN-Z16GN/B
  • Sony VAIO VGN-Z16GN/B
  • Sony VAIO VGN-Z16GN/B
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Small, light, attractive, good display, long battery life, easy to use

Cons

  • Fragile screen, small left- and right-click buttons

Bottom Line

They've finally done it — the Sony VAIO VGN-Z16GN/B is a great mix of power and style for those who can swallow the $2999 price tag. Users will just have to make sure they treat it carefully, especially when dealing with the screen.

Would you buy this?

Although we’ve often criticised Sony for releasing products that have good looks but not enough power, it seems like the company has finally managed to pull off a balanced unit — the Sony VAIO VGN-Z16GN/B is moderately priced, fairly powerful and extremely stylish.

Cosmetically speaking, there’s no denying that this is an attractive device. Thanks to a simple, modern look, the VAIO sits comfortably in practically any environment from the boardroom to the living room.

Much of the appeal comes from the Sony’s slim body, which doesn’t have the dramatic “speed humps” we found in the Vaio VGN-FW17GU. The minimalist style continues with the “isolation” keyboard, which was invented by Sony but now more widely used in Apple products. The keyboard will take some getting used to but is ultimately worth having.

The compact size helps reduce the weight, with the notebook coming in at a mere 1.4kg without the power supply and 1.85kg put together. When combined with its slim dimension (440x211x37mm) and a fantastic result from our worst case scenario battery test of 2hr 28min, the Z-series becomes a road warrior’s wet dream.

Under the hood, Sony’s system acquits itself well. A 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 processor provides the brains, backed up by 2GB of DDR3 SDRAM and a 250GB hard drive that spins at 5400rpm.

This combination didn’t provide quite the performance we were expecting in WorldBench 6, but the score of 86 isn’t terrible in its own right. Although hardware-intensive functions like 3-D rendering may suffer at times, running office applications like Microsoft Word simultaneously with a range of other programs won't cause problems.

Our iTunes testing, where we convert 53min of .WAV files into 192Kbps MP3s, showed that the processor itself is quick on its feet. The time of 1min 13sec is a good score and within the range we were expecting.

The NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS GPU is not as impressive as the rest of the unit, and this is highlighted by its 3DMark06 score of 2266. This means that while older games like F.E.A.R. will to run smoothly on low-to-medium settings, more graphics-intensive programs are probably something to avoid.

An interesting feature is the “dynamic graphics system”. This means the laptop can use either the onboard motherboard graphics or the discrete GeForce card. Users can switch between the two cards while the system is running. The benefit of this feature is that users can decide if they need graphics power or long battery life; the onboard graphics can save power while the laptop is being used on the road, while the GeForce graphics will give better performance when used at home or in the office.

The unit comes with a 13.1in display that is surprisingly good in terms of picture quality, and provides excellent contrast. The screen’s only negatives are its unsatisfactory vertical viewing angle and physical fragility. Building a unit with a thin screen inevitably means that a rough user or an overeager child can easily damage it permanently.

Another negative factor is the tiny size of the left- and right-click keys below the touchpad. While aesthetically pleasing, it is a very impractical setup and results in every click attempt being a game of accuracy.

While the unit doesn’t have a whole suite of expansion options, it does offer a surprisingly good variety relative to its small size. Two USB 2.0 ports, a D-sub port, one FireWire port and an HDMI port are all included, as are two card readers (SD, MS) and an ExpressCard/34 slot.

In terms of connectivity, the VGN-Z16GN/B offers the latest networking connections. The 802.11n Wi-Fi is built-in, as is Gigabit Ethernet capability. Sony has thoughtfully provided small caps that cover the Ethernet and dial-up modem port holes, and this generally improves the overall look while protecting the ports from excess dust.

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