The Sony VAIO VGN-TZ31VN/R (£1499 inc. VAT) is one of the smallest and lightest laptops among the ultraportable competition.

Its usability, battery life and specifications are excellent, and although performance falls short of expectations, this is an outstanding ultraportable.

The 1.2kg chassis is ideal for long-term travel. Build quality is impressive and even the thin screen panel holds up well to the rigours of the road. The 369-minute battery life is impressive and provides outstanding mobility.

Strong and sharp screen

The keyboard has a unique design. All keys extend through individually cut holes. While the keys are small, there is ample space between them, making it easy to type accurately. The touchpad and mouse buttons are equally large and usable.

The 11.1-inch screen's 1366 x 768-pixel resolution is sharp and lets you work with several applications at a time. Colour and contrast are strong, and image quality is excellent.

A panel of hotkeys at the front of the chassis improve multimedia use. An AV Mode button provides instant access to your music and video files via an easy to use interface, and you can play/pause and skip through your files at will.

While many of its rivals use Intel's latest X3100 integrated graphics chip, Sony has used an older variant. The GMA 950 chip provides basic performance for watching DVDs, editing digital photos and creating presentations, but is too underpowered for anything more taxing.

Home and office performance are equally low. The Ultra-Low Voltage processor keeps the chassis cool during use, but runs slowly. Basic office software runs smoothly, but things slowed down dramatically when multi-tasking.

Ample storage

The 100GB hard drive is bettered by some rivals, but still provides ample storage. A dual-format DVD rewriter has also been squeezed into the compact 32mm deep chassis for viewing and writing data to CDs and DVDs.

A great selling point for first-time buyers is the comprehensive software package. Market-leading applications for home office use, entry-level photo-editing and PDF document creation are all included to get you up and running.

In the past we've been highly impressed with Sony's VAIO VGN-TZ31 series, and this model is no exception. This is a highly-recommended ultraportable for the busy business professional.