Sony VAIO Z Series review

Incredible performance from Sony's latest ultraportable laptop

An excellent little PC laptop with a big price

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Sony vaio vpc-z21v9e

Many of the ultra-portable laptops we've seen lately are powered by Intel's latest Sandy Bridge Core i5 processors. Compared to the low-voltage ultra-portables of yesteryear, these things will last you a long time, which is just what you want when you're splashing out over a grand on a new laptop.

Sony has upped the game with an Intel Core i7 2620M processor, running at 2.7GHz, backed up by a whopping 8GB of RAM. In our benchmark tests, the VAIO VPC-Z21V9E ruled over all of its brethren.

This laptop can run anything you throw at it, and response times are almost instant. We rarely waited more than a couple of seconds for a piece of software to load up, which is perfect for the more impatient user.

As with many ultra-portables, the Sony VAIO VPC-Z21V9E has no built-in dedicated graphics. The Sandy Bridge chipset is used to render images instead.

Thankfully, Intel's latest processors are far more adept at graphical wizardry than the older models, and you can comfortably enjoy HD films, edit your photos and even mess around with home movies using basic video editing software. Of course, the latest games will either struggle a lot or be completely unplayable.

Sony vaio vpc-z21v9e

However, plug the Sony VAIO VPC-Z21V9E into the docking station and you can make full use of the dock's AMD Radeon HD 6650M GPU. With the docking station connected, our benchmark scores using 3D Mark doubled. We found that even the newest computer games ran smoothly, with no frame rate issues at all.

Unfortunately, we did notice that the cooling fans went into overdrive when we started playing. A constant blast of hot air shoots out of the left side, and the noise is intrusive if you're in a quiet environment.

Using these high-powered Intel processors has killed the battery life of recent ultra-portables, with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 surviving for just 107 minutes in our tests, and the HP ProBook 5330m managing a slightly more respectable 139 minutes.

We ran the Sony VAIO VPC-Z21V9E through the same process, firing up an HD video and seeing how long it could last on a single charge. Our expectations were low, yet the VAIO lasted an impressive 225 minutes before dying. Stick to word processing and you get almost five hours.

Cinebench – 11457
3D Mark '06 – 8626 / 4958
Battery Eater '05 – 225 minutes