Review: Sony Vaio VPC Z11

Our score: 5/5
Reviewed: June 10, 2010 11:00 PM
3 want this Me too!
 
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Published: June 10, 2010 11:00 PM
By Fabien Pionneau
The Sony Vaio VPCZ11 is currently available in two versions. They are similar but the configuration differs on a few points.
  • VPCZ11Z9E : this is the version that we tested.
  • VPCZ11X9E : Intel Core i5-520M processor, 4 GB of RAM, 128 GB SSD (2 x 64 GB in RAID 0). Performances are naturally down slightly, but this laptop remains very powerful overall, which justifies an identical overall rating.

Note that we will also be testing the new Sony Vaio VPCZ12s in the course of June.



"Incredibly fast and powerful on the move". This is how Sony sums up the qualities of its new high end ultra, the Vaio VPCZ11! With the Z11, nothing is left to chance. In spite of its size, it has the sort of configuration you'd expect to find on a much larger machine.

Handling, design and build: carbon fibre and aluminium, a luxury finish

The first thing you notice about the Z11 is how slim it is. Both screen and chassis are ultra thin. This has been made possible by a hybrid carbon fibre casing according to Sony. This material allows you to reduce thickness without losing rigidity. It's also supposed to increase solidity to better stand up to bangs, with aluminium added in certain areas to provide reinforcement, such as with the wrist rest which gives off a real air of quality.
Overall, it's sober and very well finished, giving an appearance of luxury.

Sony Vaio VPC Z11 keyboard 

The keyboard is equipped with small separated keys, very supple and soft to the touch. The proportions are right and keying is excellent. The backlighting is practical for use in a dark environment.

The touchpad is wide and corresponds well to the screen format. The glide is very good thanks to the matte surface and very responsive indeed. It's a real pleasure to use this touchpad, to the point where you can easily do without a mouse. To activate multi-touch, you need to make sure your drivers are updated and set it in the touchpad parameters.

Sony Vaio VPC Z11 webcamThe webcam image is decent. Colours are accurate and contrast good. Nor does fluidity disappoint.

Relatively discreet with office doc processing, the fan becomes much more audible with heavier tasks (video editing/encoding, gaming and so on). It doesn't however ever become unacceptable and you couldn't call the Z11 a noisy machine.

Connectiviity is relatively complete with 3 USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI, a VGA, an RJ45 (Ethernet Gigabit), a headphones and a mic socket, a memory card reader and a DVD rewriter. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both included. Sony has also built in a 3G module (SIM card to be inserted in the battery cavity areas).

Under the PC, a panel gives access to the 2 modules of RAM pre-installed (4 + 2 GB).

Sony Vaio VPC Z11 Sony Vaio VPC Z11
Sony Vaio VPCZ11 from above

Headphones, microphone, USB 2.0, DVD burner, VGA

Sony Vaio VPC Z11 Sony Vaio VPC Z11
Antitheft, RJ45, HDMI, 2 USBs 2.0, card reader

Touchpad, clicks and fingerprint reader


Processing: a very powerful machine!
Windows 7 index: 6.4. Detail: CPU 6.9 - Memory 6.9 - Graphics 6.4 - Gaming graphics 6.4 - Main hard drive 7.6.

The Sony Vaio VPCZ11 is full of surprises. In spite of its size, the components are very high-performance. You get an Intel Core i7-620M processor, the highest dual-core Intel currently on the market (with the exception of the "Extreme" model) and with 6 GB of RAM, it has a CPU index of 129. This puts the Z11 high up in our classification. Our reference machine, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400) scores 100 on the index.

That said, the most impressive thing is the storage system. No simple hard drive here but rather two SSDs (based on flash memory) mounted in RAID 0 (256 GB total capacity). As a result, responsiveness is excellent and the system is very fluid and rapid overall. This is a great improvement from the slow drives that you often get on laptops. You notice this in your daily use and it gives real ease-of-use.

An ultra like the Z11 outdoes a good number of much larger laptops in our product survey. It can handle any task, whether this be video, photo, office documents or gaming.

Of course, Full HD video playback (1080p, Blu-Ray equivalent) is a simple formality for such a configuration. The processor can handle any of these tasks but we do advise you to use the excellent capacities of the internal graphics card for video decoding. Here, you'll need to activate hardware accelleration on your PowerDVD 9 or Media Play Classic HC type software.


3D gaming: recent games, but note that the Full HD screen drains plenty of power

With its NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics card (mid-end model), the Sony Vaio VPCZ11 can handle recent titles with satisfactory fluidity. As long as you're reasonable when it comes to the graphics settings, in particular if you want to remain at native resolution (1920 x 1080). This is very resource hungry and the GT 330M also rapidly shows its limits. No point for example playing Crysis at these settings as it is too demanding in terms of graphics resources. Best to make do with less demanding titles which can run at average/high settings. Here you can count those games that use the Source engine (Half-Life 2, L4D, TF2 and so on) or racing games such as Race Driver GRID.

Audio: headphones recommended, speakers just about ok

As usual, especially on smaller laptops, the audio leaves something to be desired. The sound you get from the speakers isn't too bad and is improved with the Dolby processing activated. Of course, you can still expect the treble to dominate and there's a lack of bass.
No doubt about it, best to use the headphones out where possible. It gives quite clean output.

Mobility, battery life: 3h25 with the NVIDIA graphics

The Z11's battery gives 3h25 video playback (Wi-Fi disactivated, headphones plugged in and brightness at 100 cd/m²) in spite of what is not necessarily a very economical configuration in terms of energy. With the NVIDIA graphics card disactivated you should get a bit more out of it, though we weren't able to check this on the Z11 before sending it back. That said, according to the results obtained on other laptops that are based on the same principle (Asus UL30Vt), we can expect to get around 4 hours out of the Z11 using just the integrated graphics.

In terms of portability, it only weighs 1.43 Kg with a 5400 mAh battery.


5/5 Sony Vaio VPC Z11 DigitalVersus 2010-06-11 00:00:00

Pros

  • Impressive performance for an ultra laptop
  • Matt screen, good default calibration
  • Compact and light
  • Good battery life in spite of high performance components
  • Well made with excellent finish

Cons

  • Contrast could have been better
  • Average audio

Conclusion

In spite of its size and weight (just 1.43 Kg), the Sony Vaio VPC Z11 has some big guns it can wheel out! Its high-end configuration offers top flight performance without reducing battery life too much. If you're looking for an uncompromising ultra, this is your ideal machine... as long as you don't mind shelling out!

OUR SCORE 5/5
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