Sony VAIO Z Series review

Incredible performance from Sony's latest ultraportable laptop

TODO alt text

Our Verdict

The best ultra-portable laptop of recent times, but it'll cost you

Product features

  • Screen Resolution : 1600 x 900
  • Processor Core : Dual-core (2 Core)

View full specification


  • Intel Core i7 power
  • Sharp and vibrant screen
  • Long battery life
  • Slim and light
  • Docking station adds more value


  • Shallow keyboard
  • Cramped touchpad
  • Plain design
  • Flimsy lid

The old cliché states that good things come in small packages, which means that chicken nuggets, dead hedgehogs and Peter Andre's head are all apparently 'good things'. However, we have to agree with this logic when it's applied to Sony's latest VAIO Z Series ultra-portable laptop, the Sony VAIO VPC-Z21V9E.

Despite being cursed by a name that's less catchy than an N-Dubz tune, this is an excellent little 13.1-inch PC laptop that we'd happily use as our everyday computer.

That is, if we happened to have a spare couple of grand knocking around, priced as it is at £2,699.

We've seen a lot of ultra-portables lately, from the sleek and sexy Samsung 900XSA to the business-oriented Lenovo ThinkPad X1. It's impressive how much power you can now cram into a tiny frame, ably demonstrated by the new Apple MacBook Air 2011, which squeezes Intel's Sandy Bridge technology into something as thin as your finger.

The 13.1-inch Sony VAIO VPC-Z21V9E also manages this feat. It's a little chunkier than the Apple MacBook Air 2011 and Samsung 9 Series, but at 20mm it's still a slender machine. Best of all, it weighs just 1.18kg – less than most netbooks we've used.

Sony vaio vpc z21v9e

Sony has stuck with its traditional all-black design, which is a shame. We definitely prefer the brushed chrome body of the Samsung 900XSA, and the glossy white design of the Apple MacBook Air. The carbon fibre build is solid at least, although the lid does feel rather fragile, a problem we've noticed with a few VAIOs lately. We wouldn't recommend placing anything on top of the VAIO VPC-Z21V9E, just in case.

We initially had mixed feelings over the keyboard, which has the shallowest travel we've ever experienced. When the keys are hit they barely move, akin to typing on a virtual keyboard on a tablet. However, we were used to it after just a few minutes. The board is tilted slightly when the lid is lifted, as the rear is pushed upwards. This makes typing comfortable, even over prolonged periods.

Each key protrudes through its own hole cut in the chassis, isolation-style. The distance between keys makes it easier to touch type, but there are no open gaps for crumbs to infiltrate the VAIO Z Series laptop's precious innards. A subtle backlighting effect makes the keys glow in the dark, so you can bash out that novel at 3am when inspiration strikes without having to turn on the lights.

Despite the compact body, the keys are generally well sized. Even the arrow keys (often the first casualties) haven't suffered, although the Shift keys are rather thin. This didn't bother us too much, because we have tiny girl fingers anyway.

However, the VAIO VPC-Z21V9E's touchpad is cramped, meaning you'll be lifting your finger often when sweeping the cursor across the screen. We like the textured surface, and the mouse buttons are firm.

Above the keyboard, you'll find a wireless networking on/off switch, as well as the usual Assist, VAIO and Web shortcut buttons. These allow you to surf the web, diagnose issues and fiddle with power settings in an instant.

Tech Specs

Product TypeNotebook
Green CompliantYes
Processor ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ModelHD 3000
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeYes
Graphics Memory AccessibilityShared
Maximum Battery Run Time7 Hour
Finger Print ReaderYes
Solid State Drive Capacity256 GB
Backlight TechnologyLED
Product FamilyVAIO Z
Operating System Architecture64-bit
Keyboard BacklightYes
Processor Modeli7-2620M
ColourCarbon Black
Operating SystemWindows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Professional with SP1
Brand NameSony
Processor Speed2.70 GHz
Processor TypeCore i7
Screen Size33.3 cm (13.1")
Screen Resolution1600 x 900
Standard Memory8 GB
Weight (Approximate)1.18 kg
Cache4 MB
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityENERGY STAR
64-bit ProcessingYes
Chipset ManufacturerIntel
Chipset ModelHM67 Express
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
WWAN SupportedYes
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 2.1
Gobi SupportedYes
Ethernet TechnologyGigabit Ethernet
Total Number of USB Ports1
Memory StandardDDR3-1333/PC3-10600
Height16.7 mm
Width330 mm
Depth210 mm
Screen ModeWSXGA
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
Product SeriesZ
ManufacturerSony Corporation
Product ModelVPCZ21V9E
Product NameVAIO VPCZ21V9E Notebook
Pointing Device TypeTouchPad
Product LineVAIO
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberVPCZ21V9E
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing Information

Designed to impress

Take all the stress out of business travel. Carry around your Z Series with its ultra thin profile and full flat design, with no bulge from the battery weighing less than 1.2 kilos.

Enjoy solid Japanese craftsmanship in light but strong carbon fibre, with a new hexa-shell housing. Exclusively styled to complement your professional image.

Faster and more efficient

Store data and access files faster with the latest SSD RAID Flash drive. The light and robust drive transfers data around 6.2 times faster than a standard HDD and features low power consumption to preserve battery life.

Battery ChemistryLithium Polymer (Li-Polymer)
Package Contents
  • VAIO VPCZ21V9E Notebook
  • Lithium Polymer Battery
  • AC Adaptor
  • Power Cord
  • Documentation Pack
  • VAIO International Repair Service Guide
  • Docking Station / Port Replicator with Optical Drive
Limited Warranty2 Year