The Sony VAIO VGN-CS11Z/R (£899 inc. VAT) builds on the success of the older CR Series, but introduces a number of new features into the range.

The styling has been refined and you'll still find a wide variety of colours on offer, including the ruby red of our test machine.

It's a pleasing laptop to look at and feels good in the hand. The styling is rather rounded with a slight curve to the body that works well, but throws up a couple of odd design decisions.

For instance, while it's tricky to locate the optical drive on the right-hand side, the VGA-out port on the left-hand side protrudes from the chassis.

Solid build

The laptop is made from plastic and, while there is a degree of flex to the body, it feels solid and good value for money. Media buttons above the keyboard allow you to manage your multimedia files and there is also a Capture button that works in conjunction with the built-in webcam.

The keyboard consists of square keys poking through individual holes. This gives a solid feel to the keyboard with plenty of space between the keys. The overall result is of a comfortable and usable keyboard. The touchpad is of a good size and while the mouse buttons are small, they responded well.

This machine weighs a semi-lightweight 2.5kg which, coupled with a battery life of 264 minutes, made this machine great to use out and about. Less impressive for mobile users is the 14.1-inch screen. It has a Super-TFT panel and when using it at your desk it looks stunning.

Sadly, on the move the screen proved less reliable with the panel having a very narrow viewing-angle that only worked well when sat directly facing the screen. Add to this a rather dull panel when running on battery and usability is limited to desktop use.

Blu-ray drive

The screen is bright and clear when plugged in and this wouldn't be a multimedia Sony laptop without the inclusion of a Blu-ray drive for watching and creating high-definition (HD) content.

While screen resolution is only suitable for HD Ready content, movies looked more than acceptable. Oddly, there's no HDMI port, so you won't be able to watch HD content on an external display.

The nVidia GeForce 9300 GS graphics card offers a fair degree of multimedia use, as it will allow you to play mainstream games with ease. Extras include an ExpressCard slot, separate SD and MS card slots, as well as a dedicated Wi-Fi switch. There are also three USB ports and a mini-Firewire connection.

The Sony VAIO VGN-CS11Z/R isn't without its flaws; namely, the less than perfect screen when on battery. However, performance is great for the price and the keyboard is a pleasure to use.