Sony Vaio SZ series

Notebook computers

Vaio is a brand that has served Sony well, and has propelled the company to notebook fame. True to form, the company has released two new models under the Vaio name, the unbelievably boring-sounding VGN-SZ58GN/C and VGN-SZ55GN/B, from here on known as the SZ58 and SZ55.

Both notebooks have a 13.3 inch screen, share the same graphics card, and have an integrated card reader compatible with Memory Stick, SD/MMC and xD cards. Both models also weigh in at just under two kilograms, making them great travel partners. But despite a very similar look, that is where the likeness ends.

SZ55

The SZ55 is the cheaper of the two, and primarily targeted towards road warriors and basic home users. It sports a very slim design and is encased in a silver finish. The 13.3-inch LCD screen features a 1280 x 800 widescreen format, and has a built in web camera on the top edge. As we’ve come to expect in new notebooks, it also has a biometric fingerprint sensor and switches for wireless.

In addition to the wireless switch, Sony has incorporated a switch that toggles between speed and performance. The most noticeable difference between these settings is the enabling or disabling of the graphics card.

The SZ55 is driven by Intel’s T7100 Core 2 Duo processor and has 1GB of RAM, upgradeable to 2GB. It has a 120GB SATA hard drive, of which Sony has partitioned about 8GB for recovery.

Unfortunately, the SZ55 has only a single Firewire port and two USB2.0 ports, which in today’s environment simply isn’t enough. For added connectivity, Sony has implemented both Bluetooth and Wireless LAN covering 802.11a/b/g.

SZ58

Even though the SZ58 looks like an identical, black version of the SZ55, it hides some impressive secrets that set it a few steps above its little brother. First off, it features a 160GB hybrid hard drive. Hybrid hard drives differ from standard ones by adding up to 1GB of flash memory to be used as a buffer. This has several theoretical advantages, such as improved performance, better power consumption and decreased heat generation.

Second, the SZ58 uses Intel’s T7700 Core 2 Duo processor, which certainly helped it gain the very impressive World Bench score of 86, a score normally reserved for desktops. The cheaper SZ55 scored 68. Both models come with Nvidia’s 8400 Mobile GS GPU, as well as the standard onboard VGA GPU.

Impressive World Bench scores aside, both notebooks disappointed us a little in battery life. The SZ55 managed one hour and 38 minutes playing a DVD on the most power-hungry setting, while the SZ58 lasted three minutes longer. In comparison, Toshiba’s 13.3-inch Satellite managed two hours and 11 minutes in the same test.

The Vaios come with a landslide of Sony’s own software preinstalled, and this caused some problems installing and uninstalling certain other software. As with other vendors, Sony seems to put in software that already exists within the operating system, making it that little bit harder to customise.

Overall, both models offer good value for money, but if we had to pick a favourite we’d recommend the SZ58.

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Jan Birkeland

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