In the past, Sony's F Series hasn't lived up to the expectations or build quality of Sony's more expensive, and ultraportable, VAIOs. However, that is all about to change with the introduction of the Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11Z (£1,399 inc. VAT).
The chassis has had a complete overall and, while the two-tone design still looks distinctly like a VAIO, the build quality has been improved and now feels far more solid to the touch.
The design is nice and clean and the inclusion of media buttons above the keyboard helpfully reinforce the idea this is a multimedia laptop. The 15.4-inch Super-TFT screen is stunning, as Sony has increased the brightness of the panel. So, even when running on battery power, images are sharp and clear. Despite this, battery life remains reasonable, lasting 235 minutes under test.
The keyboard uses Sony's new square key approach, so you'll find the keys well mounted and firm to the touch. There is plenty of space around them and even the secondary keys are of a good size. We found this an incredibly comfortable keyboard to use.
At this price point you'll be wanting something a little different, so you'll be more than satisfied with the inclusion of a Blu-ray drive. Sony is billing this machine as Full HD, so while you can watch movies on the Super-TFT panel, we're a little surprised to find the panel supports a maximum resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, which isn't Full HD.
To make the most of Full HD, you'll find a HDMI port that allows you to send high-definition content to an external display for the higher resolution output. Graphics are supplied by an Nvidia GeForce 8400M GT, which is a powerful card that allows you to play the latest DirectX 10 content. This is a 256MB card and gives a Windows Experience Rating of 4.2, which means you can run Windows Aero easily.
The use of an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 2GHz is more than quick enough to handle Windows Vista Home Premium and the addition of 2048MB of memory means that we had no problems loading and running applications with ease. The 200GB of hard drive space means you can store plenty of HD content without worrying too much about space.
The Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11Z is a great example of a laptop designed with a specific user in mind. The only problem is the confusion over high-res output, but as long as you can use the laptop as a source and output it to a larger screen, this shouldn't be a concern.
If you're looking for a fast and fully specified machine for editing media, or simply watching it, this laptop is highly recommended.