Sony VAIO VGN-Z17GN/B
Sony's VAIO VGN-Z17GN/B is a stylish 13.1in laptop with a lean body and plenty of speed.
- 1600x900 screen resolution, only 1.5kg, dual graphics system, excellent touchpad, looks good
- Needs longer battery life, no ExpressCard/54 slot, screen is creaky, gets noticeably warm when NVIDIA graphics card is used, expensive
The Sony VAIO VGN-Z71GN/B has both style and substance. It looks good and it has a speedy CPU and plenty of RAM. It's also very light and comfortable to use, as long as you don't have the NVIDIA graphics enabled.
Price$ 3,699.00 (AUD)
With the VAIO VGN-Z17GN/B notebook, Sony is targeting corporate buyers with an eye for style and a need for speed. It’s a 13.1in laptop that weighs only 1.4kg, yet has plenty of features.
It’s light, small and easy to carry and use while travelling, but it still packs a powerful CPU and a good amount of storage. You get a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P9500 CPU, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 5400rpm, 320GB hard drive, and dual graphics cards. The Sony VAIO VGN-Z17GN/B’s screen has a native resolution of 1600x900, which makes it ideal for lining up windows next to each other when you are multitasking.
With the Sony VAIO VGN-Z17GN/B you can switch between the integrated Intel GMA 4500HD graphics and an NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS graphics card. The GeForce 9300M GS is twice as powerful as the integrated Intel option, and can use up to 1.5GB of memory (much of it taken from the system RAM); the integrated graphics card only has 256MB of dedicated RAM (it scored 1112 in 3DMark06 which is a weak result). The extra RAM is handy if you plan to use the Sony VAIO VGN-Z17GN/B to process 3D graphics — that is, for gaming! But you’ll only be able to use the laptop for low-level gaming anyway (its score of 2273 in 3DMark06 indicates this), and most current titles won’t run well on it.
For the most part you’ll be fine using integrated graphics, but the beauty of Sony’s implementation of dual graphics cards is that you can switch between them at the flick of a switch and not even restart the laptop. The options are labelled Stamina and Speed. The Stamina setting uses the integrated graphics and provides 30min more battery life.
When using the NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS, the Sony VAIO VGN-Z17GN/B lasted 1hr 25min in our DVD rundown test while using maximum screen brightness. This isn't long if you’re going to be using the laptop on the road, but it’s nevertheless on par with what we have seen from comparable laptops. Using integrated graphics, the battery lasted a more respectable 1hr 55min.
You can also finetune the power scheme by switching off unused features such as the modem, FireWire and optical drive, as well as turn down the screen’s brightness. And the screen is bright — and only 5mm thick. It uses LED backlighting and possesses excellent contrast and adequate horizontal viewing angles. Its vertical viewing angles are narrow, so you need to tilt the screen just right to avoid colour shift. The screen is so thin that it feels a little flimsy, and it also creaks as you open and close the lid.
When using the NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS the laptop garnered a score of 86 in WorldBench 6 (it scored 84 when using the integrated Intel GMA 4500HD graphics), which is slightly slower than the Dell Studio XPS 13's 93 (another hot 13in laptop). The Dell Studio XPS 13 has a faster hard drive (7200rpm) and this was evident in our hard drive transfer test, in which the Sony VAIO VGN-Z17GN/B recorded 19.74 megabytes per second. This is approximately 13MB slower then the 32.32MBps that the Dell Studio XPS 13 recorded.
In our iTunes MP3 encoding test, the Sony VAIO VGN-Z17GN/B’s CPU recorded a time of 1min 07sec, which is identical to the Dell Studio XPS 13 and spot-on for a 2.53GHz CPU. What all this means is that the Sony VAIO VGN-Z17GN/B will be a swift performer when running everyday office applications, Web and communications software, as well as when multitasking.
Besides giving you more battery life while on the road, the integrated graphics also make the Sony VAIO VGN-Z17GN/B run cooler. Its heat production is noticeably less when using the Intel GMA 4500HD integrated graphics than when using the NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS. When employing the NVIDIA graphics card an area on the left of the laptop towards the rear gets warm enough to be uncomfortable when using it on your lap.
The Sony VAIO VGN-Z17GN/B feels like it has a solid enough chassis. It also looks quite good, tapering from the back to the front. Its keyboard has isolated keys that sit on an aluminium plate and they take a little getting used to; it feels like you have to aim before you attempt to hit each key. Furthermore, the keys have a sponge-like feel.
We wish that Sony would look into providing some illumination for the keys, similar to what Dell has done with the Studio XPS 13. We like the fact that the unit has a built-in DVD burner and an eject button just above the function keys on the keyboard; we’re also fans of the dim status LEDs.
Only two USB 2.0 ports and an ExpressCard/34 slot — instead of an ExpressCard/54 slot — are provided, limiting the Sony VAIO VGN-Z17GN/B’s expandability. You do get FireWire, too, and you can always plug in a USB 2.0 hub or use the optional port replicator or docking station. You get an HDMI port, so you can hook up the notebook to a big-screen TV or high-definition monitor, and there’s also a D-Sub port. It has a concealed Gigabit Ethernet port and also supports dual-band 802.11n wireless networking and Bluetooth. Card slots for MemoryStick and SD media can be found at the front of the laptop.
In the end, there’s certainly a lot to the Sony VAIO VGN-Z17GN/B, especially when it comes to screen resolution, speed, and weight, and it looks good to boot. If you can afford it, it’s definitely worth splurging on. However, it would be nice to see a 7200rpm hard drive installed given the notebook's price, and some further refinement of the design to include backlit keys or a keyboard light for typing at night.
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Gadgets & Things
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Star Wars Death Star Bluetooth levitating rotating speaker review
- 2 Finally! LG OLED TV 2016 range review
- 3 Fetch TV Mighty review: Better than Foxtel
- 4 Fetch TV Mini review: Make your TV a smart TV
- 5 Panasonic Viera DX900U UHD 4K smart TV review
Latest News Articles
- Dell: Mainstream laptops with wireless charging are still years away
- SSD adoption in laptops exceeds expectations
- Apple will refund you for your iMac hinge repair costs
- MacBook Pro teardown reveals pointless speaker grilles and hard-to-replace Touch Bar
- Apple leads tablet sales, but the iPad Pro is not its best seller
GGG Evaluation Team
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.
The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.
My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.
- The top 10 best and worst tech gadgets and products of 2016
- Best phone of the year 2016
- TV of the year award 2016
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- FTBrand Marketing Manager - Premium Entertainment BrandNSW
- TPSOA DeveloperNSW
- CCProcess Specialist - short contract, asap start!VIC
- FTInformation Security ManagerNSW
- CCProject DirectorVIC
- TPSenior Business Analyst - Risk & ComplianceNSW
- TPChange ManagerNSW
- TPProject Manager - SAPQLD
- CCMigration OfficerQLD
- FTSDLC CoordinatorACT
- FTSenior Learning Specialist - Global OrganisationQLD
- FTFront End DeveloperVIC
- FTTechnical Consultant/Systems AnalystQLD
- CCAutomation Test Analyst - Geospatial and Industrial EnterpriseVIC
- FTMicrosoft Dynamics AX Finance ConsultantQLD
- CCVirtualization ArchitectACT
- CCSenior Business AnalystNSW
- FTFunctional ConsultantNSW
- FTAutomation Test Analyst - APS 6 non-ongoingACT
- CCSenior IT Domain Specialist - Integration - CloudVIC
- CCTechnical lead (Informatica MDM)Other
- FTFull Stack Web Developer - UI/UX - .NET or JAVANSW
- FTSalesforce Technical Business AnalystQLD
- FTJunior-Mid Level Implementation CoordinatorQLD
- FTSAP Business Objects ConsultantACT