Sony Vaio Z1VGP

The new Vaio Z1VGP notebook, while not overly exotic, has just enough shapely curves to make it stand out from the crowd.

You have to hand it to Sony, it likes to do things with style. The new Vaio Z1VGP notebook, while not overly exotic, has just enough shapely curves to make it stand out from the crowd. The Z1 comes pretty well decked out with a 1.6GHz Pentium-M CPU, 512MB DDR SDRAM (it supports a maximum of 1GB thanks to the spare SODIMM slot), a 60GB Ultra ATA100 hard drive plus a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive.

This is a solid base specification for a modern laptop and should provide enough power for anyone except gamers, who will find the 16MB ATI Mobility Radeon graphics chipset a little underwhelming. Understandably, the Z1 struggled somewhat in our Unreal Tournament 2003 benchmarks with frame rates barely scrambling to double figures. But don’t judge the Z1 on poor results from tasks it’s not designed for; instead, look at the excellent PCWB4 application-based benchmark score of 120 that puts it in among the faster notebooks we’ve looked at.

A superb 14.1-inch SXGA+ LCD display has been installed, providing a healthy maximum resolution of 1400x1050. We found the onscreen image impeccable in all circumstances, particularly small point size text which remained clearly legible at all times. Other features include two USB 2.0 ports, FireWire, Ethernet, Memory Stick Pro reader, built-in modem, PC Card Type I/II and, of course, the ever-present 802.11b wireless networking courtesy of the Intel Centrino chipset.

Physically the machine feels great — the screen hinge is sturdy yet smooth in action, the keyboard isn’t springy at all and the touchpad is accurate and responsive. Sony bundles the notebook with some decent applications, too, including Adobe Photoshop Elements 2, WinDVD 4, Norton AntiVirus and a host of other multimedia programs that only add to the appeal of the Z1.

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Scott Bartley

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