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Sony Z Series Review (i7, Bluray, 1080p, Raid SSD, AMD HD6650, dual battery)

The customised Sony Z Series laptop we reviewed today is without a doubt one of the most impressive computers we have tested since we opened Kitguru. The build quality is fantastic, and the use of Carbon Fibre has ensured the Z series weighs as little as possible … even less than the Macbook Air.

While the Z Series starts at a very reasonable £1,454 inc vat, by the time you add the upgraded Core i7 processor, 4GB of extra memory, uprated 1080p screen, backlit keyboard and extended battery, the cost is around £2,000 inc vat. This is a lot of cash, especially for a 13 inch superportable computer … almost twice the price of the excellent Lenovo ThinkPad X1.

If you want the benefits of the Power Media Dock, there are three options to choose from. All have onboard AMD HD6650m graphics with identical connectivity, however you can select either a DVD version for £369, a BluRay player version for £419, or a BluRay burner model for £469. If you have been keeping track of the price, the system now costs around £2,400 inc vat.

The software install could be better because I don’t expect to receive a £2k system for review with preinstalled applications such as Bing Bar and McAfee Security suite. They aren’t critical concerns but I normally end up de-installing a handful of applications then cleaning out the windows registry before initial backup.

The Z Series ‘semi gloss’ 1080p screen is absolutely fantastic, and surprisingly clear, especially considering Sony have to cram all those pixels into a 13 inch panel. It didn’t quite scale as bright as I would have expected however, and might cause problems if you frequently use the machine in bright, sunny conditions, outdoors. Otherwise, it is as close to perfect as you are likely to see. With the added media dock, you can also power several 1080p external LCD screens in the office, or at home.

The Intel Core i7 2620m is an extremely capable mobile processor, although in the confined physical space of this chassis, the fans have to work rather hard to maintain mid 80c temperatures under load. Performance however is not a concern and it is easily capable of handling video encoding or even modest 3D rendering duties on the move.

One of the standout points with this machine is the absolutely blinding Raid SSD performance, scoring over 1000 MB/s in the sequential read tests of both CrystalDiskMark and ATTO Disk Benchmark. In real world terms this helps ensure the Z series laptop also feels lightning quick, responding to most tasks almost instantly. Booting into Windows takes around 20 seconds, and loading Adobe Photoshop CS5 64 bit only takes a few seconds.

Drive performance is a critical system aspect, which many people still overlook. We experienced this recently when reviewing the Asus G74SX, a machine crammed with powerful components, hindered only by the use of mechanical hard drives. The Sony Z Series may have a slower processor, and inferior discrete graphics, but outside of gaming it feels significantly faster than the Asus G74SX thanks to the class leading solid state performance.

If you are able to overlook the cost, then there isn’t a better superportable on the market today. If you are already looking at buying one of these machines then we would assume you can already afford it. Just be sure to buy the extra battery for the 10 hour+ life.

Pros:

  • Beautiful styling.
  • Very light.
  • Strong.
  • 1920×1080 13 inch screen.
  • Solid State Performance is class leading.
  • Battery life is fantastic. Over 10 hours with the optional external unit.
  • Keyboard is good.
  • Power Media Dock really enhances the appeal of the machine.

Cons:

  • Expensive.
  • Onboard sound is dire.
  • Can get loud under load.
  • Touchpad is small.
  • Can’t use the bluray drive and discrete AMD graphics without a plug socket.

Kitguru says: If money is not a concern then you can’t get any better than this in the ultraportable sector.

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Rating: 9.0.

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