Sony VAIO VGN-TZ17GN Notebook PC - Review

Sony VAIO VGN-TZ17GN Notebook PC - Review

Sony VAIO VGN-TZ17GN Notebook PC - ReviewCore 2 Duo U7600 Processor 1.2GHz, 1GB RAM

The ultraportable range is always fun to poke around--the form factor itself is always an exercise in compromise. Bits get left out either to reduce heat, battery drain, or simply because the notebook doesn't have the room to take it. It certainly keeps things interesting at the very small end of the scale, where one extra feature can mean make or break.

Design of the Sony VAIO VGN-TZ17GN Notebook PC

The 11.1-inch TZ impresses with its 1.2kg weight and impressive LED backlit screen--but the 1,366 x 768 screen itself is flimsy. While it probably would take a large amount of stress to actually break something, it is disconcerting. Despite this, a basic Webcam is still thrown in for good measure.

The power button sits on the right hand side on the hinge, glowing a pleasing green colour. The hinge itself is smaller than you'd think, with the battery taking up the bulk of the space.

The keys on the keyboard are matte black, raised from the base and separated, and easy enough to type on at a respectable speed. The piano black surface behind it makes it look trashy however, as does the silver-dust bezel of the screen and the plastic used for the monitor hinge--it's a bit odd to see a Sony notebook that isn't the epitome of style, and in fact goes the other way.

Sony's own blurb for the TZ is hilarious: "In many ways, the VAIO TZ is a notebook inspired by nature. Its sleek, dark looks and brooding inner strength reflect the compact power of a crouching puma. But lift the razor-thin screen from the slimline body and the VAIO TZ adopts the delicate characteristics of a pearlescent black butterfly." Translation: small, flimsy, black, somewhat shiny.

The modem, Gigabit Ethernet and FireWire ports are hidden underneath a cover that will probably break off far too easily--we'd almost prefer that they be left open to the outside world, as it's clear it's going to end up that way anyway just through everyday use.

A smattering of multimedia buttons are along the front, however they are quite difficult to press, making their usefulness questionable. The wireless LAN switch is situated beneath these, capable of turning off the 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth connections.

Features of the Sony VAIO VGN-TZ17GN Notebook PC

Here Sony wins many brownie points, almost making up for the dull industrial design. An excellent touchpad has been crammed in, with a fingerprint scanner nestled between the two mouse buttons to boot. This is always significantly better than the little tracksticks that certain brands tend to include, and allows for infinitely greater accuracy.

Surprisingly an optical drive is included, which can be turned off completely to save battery power--although the eject button is far, far too small for human fingers to comfortably find. An ExpressCard/34 slot makes sure the most recent pluggables can be used.

Only two USB ports are included, and a VGA port sits behind the optical drive--which is disappointing, as we'd have at least hoped for some sort of digital output.

Sony continue to separate the Memory Stick card reader from the SD card reader at the front of the notebook, taking up more space than a multi-card reader would for the sake of glorifying its own brand. To be fair though, this separated slot supports Sony's MagicGate DRM--so if you're unlucky enough to be using the technology, at least your options are open here. Next to this is the requisite headphone and microphone jack.

Performance And Battery Life of the Sony VAIO VGN-TZ17GN Notebook PC

Not surprisingly, performance at the ultraportable end of the scale is usually pretty naff, and this is confirmed by the 3DMark06 score of 112 and the inability to do the SM3.0 tests, thanks to the Intel GMA 950 graphics. PCMark05 followed with a not so bad 2127, showing that this notebook is really only meant for productivity apps, and not so much gaming or high powered graphics applications. This is no surprise being an ultraportable, and the inclusion of Windows Vista Business cements its purpose as a word processing and Internet browsing machine.

Pleasingly it will also keep those on long trips entertained, as after turning all the power saving features off, the screen brightness to full and everything else to maximum, the unit lasted a good 3 hours 3 minutes when running a DVD on loop.

The Sony VAIO VGN-TZ17GN/N is a little more fragile than we'd like, especially at S$3,699 (US$2,433.18)--but the feature set is quite impressive for an ultraportable. If you plan to keep it well protected while travelling, this might be the one for you.

After-Sales Service And Support for the Sony VAIO VGN-TZ17GN Notebook PC

Sony VAIO notebooks have a one-year local warranty. At Sony's support Web site, VAIO owners can download the latest drivers. For simple problems, the company offers an online knowledge database for troubleshooting. Should the unit require further diagnosis or repair, the customer will have to send the unit to the service center. For an additional S$94.50 (US$62.17), consumers can purchase the VAIO Overseas Service package which provides a 24-hour call center for repair requests and international warranty coverage at designated countries.