As part of the update to its notebook portfolio, Sony has launched the 13.1-inch Z-range flagship Vaio VPCZ23 – ‘the ultimate workstation’ according to the makers. The Z23 subnotebook weighs under 1.2kg yet sports a matte full HD 1920 x 1080p display. The included Power Media Dock brings a Blu-ray rewriter and AMD Radeon HD 6650M dedicated graphics card to the mix, as well as numerous additional ports. That swappable integrated GPU solution was present in the predecessor, the Vaio VPC-Z21, but driver problems limited its effectiveness.
The Vaio Z23 follows an elegant, black design, unchanged from the old VPC-Z21. Carbon shell, aluminum wrist rest, all in lightweight material, and sturdy hinges assure longevity.
Ultra-portability doesn’t mean stinting on the port selection, however – VGA and HDMI sockets are present, LAN interface, and Sony’s proprietorial memory solution, MagicGate, is featured, next to the SD card slot. WiFi and Bluetooth 3 are both installed. The included Power Media Dock connects via the USB-3 port and adds Blu-ray and dedicated GPU functionality, plus another USB-3 socket, a pair of USB-2s, another LAN socket, and extra VGA and HDMI sockets. Then there’s the Vaio Everywair 3G module, which enables mobile internet day or night, anywhere.
That price tag led Sony to include a fingerprint scanner for added security. The Z23 also features inbuilt Trusted Platform Module. Z23 includes a 24-month manufacturer’s warranty, extendable and customizable for extra outlay. Extra 12 months for 100 euros sounds a good deal on a notebook this expensive.
Input devices are unchanged from the Z21 – the backlit chiclet keyboard responds to an ambient-light sensor, though key travel is short and the pressure point is soft. The touchpad is slightly small, but the overall dimensions of the Z23 aren’t to blame; there seems to be room for a larger mousepad here. The actual mousepad has a rough honeycomb texture for added accuracy, but unfortunately the mousepad buttons and similarly short-travelling and spongey.
Satisfyingly deep blacks at 0.35 candelas mean a respectable contrast ratio of 694:1, though the predecessor Z21 came in with a marvellous 1146:1 ratio. With such a premium machine, we should mention the reproducible color spectrum, and the Vaio VPC-Z23 very nearly covers the entire sRGB space. The AdobeRGB spectrum is a much more difficult criteria to meet, but even that much larger color space is almost completely covered. Decent brightness and matte screen translate to excellent outdoor credentials, though viewing angles are surprisingly average. Take a look at some of these close up Sony Vaio Z23 pictures:
An Intel Core i7-2640M is zipping along inside with a base clock speed of 2.8GHz, boost-able to 3.5GHz. There is 8GB RAM bringing up the rear. Intel’s HD3000 integrated graphics will have to do for when the subnotebook is away from the dock, supporting DirectX 10 and Shader 5.0. That means it’s more geared towards bureaucracy than out-and-out gaming when undocked. With the 1GB Radeon card hooked up, DirectX 11 is supported. For storage Sony have provided a brace of 256GB SSDs, arranged in RAID 0 configuration for maximum performance. Without the dock attached Vaio Z23 is amongst the front-runners for any portable device, with 4200+ on PCMark 7, but with the Media Dock (GPU-enabled) the score falls back to 3689 points. That’s a scenario where every component is taxed to the max, though, so any advantage to the rest of the system is not seen in such benchmarks. Dock-enabled gaming using the mid-range card is limited to current games at medium settings which is the Z23′s weakest point. Other machines running the same card deliver better frame rates, suggesting the driver problem has not been completely resolved.
Data transfer speeds with those parallel hard drives is a blockbusting 845MB/s (read) and 743MB/s (write) – the write speed is the highest we’ve seen on any notebook.
The two stereo speakers produce only low volume and unimpressive audio – external speakers are recommended. Moderate usage battery tests gave 6 hrs battery life – or 58 minutes flat-out. Very acceptable for moderate use, and Sony do offer a larger battery upgrade. Cinebench R10 benchmarks indicate the Z23 is the best i7 2640M notebook for multimedia use. Overall, gaming aside, Sony Vaio Z23 notebook is one of the the best machines out there.
Sony Vaio Z23 price ? Z23 starts at 3000 euros.
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