Sony VAIO Z Series (VPCZ217GG) laptop
Would you pay $3999 for a laptop?
- Light weight
- Excellent screen
- Keyboard and touchpad
- Can get very noisy
While the Sony Z Series definitely has a 'wow' factor, it's a 'wow' factor that is mostly a reaction to: "so how much does it cost?". But hey, if you can afford it, then you'll end up with a 1.15kg, super-slim laptop that also features high-end processing performance and very fast drive speeds.
Price$ 3,999.00 (AUD)
When it comes to performance, the VAIO Z has lots of it and it can be used for reasonably intense multimedia work in addition to basic office tasks and Web browsing. It recorded 40sec in our Blender 3D rendering test, 48sec in our iTunes MP3 encoding test and 52min in our DVD-to-Xvid video transcoding test. These results are on par with what the Sony VAIO SA Series laptop recorded with the same CPU, but they aren't as fast as what Fujitsu's LifeBook S761 produced. The Fujitsu was also slightly faster in 3DMark06, where it recorded 5014 compared to the VAIO Z Series' 4588. That (and all the other) tests were undertaken using the integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics adapter.
A powerful graphics adapter is usually something that can't be found in a laptop this small, and Sony's engineers haven't been able to figure out how to cram a discrete graphics adapter into such a small space yet. That hasn't stopped them offering a powerful graphics solution for the VAIO Z Series though. When you're on the road, you can use the integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics, but when you're at home, you can plug in the supplied docking station, which has an integrated AMD Radeon HD 6650M graphics adapter with 1GB of its own memory. It almost doubles the graphics performance of the laptop (7989 in 3DMark06), allowing it to be used for more taxing tasks than just viewing photos and editing video. Other results were improved, too, when the graphics processing was taken away from the CPU: Blender recorded 37sec and iTunes 45sec.
This docking station isn't optional — it's a standard piece of kit. Sony supplies it with every VAIO Z Series and its function is not only to provide a faster graphics solution, but also to supply a Blu-ray/DVD-RW combo drive and a selection of expansion ports. It has Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI and VGA ports. The dock is connected through the laptop's USB 3.0 and power ports on the right side, but you have to be careful with it. If you unplug it before pressing the 'undock' button, then the laptop will possibly show you a blue screen of death.
As for storage, the VAIO Z Series' 256GB may not be much by today's mainstream standards, but it's perhaps as fast as you can get in any laptop at the moment. The two 128GB solid state drives are combined in a RAID 0 array that produced exceptional performance in our tests. In CrystalDiskMark, a read speed of 478 megabytes per second (MBps) was achieved, along with a write speed of 301.5MBps. In the ATTO Disk Benchmark, the read speed peaked at 504MBps and the write speed at 349MBps. Even our own real-world file copy tests produced an average rate of 92.17MBps, which is excellent.
The battery life in our tests was a little below the average for a 13in laptop in our rundown test (in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video), but that was to be expected considering the small dimensions available for a battery. The battery has a 45 Watt-hour rating and it lasted 3hr 27min. You can get more out of it if you implement a power saving scheme, or you can opt to purchase a second battery pack, which can be plugged in to the base of the laptop. We didn't run a battery test with the AMD graphics attached because if you're using those graphics, you are either at home or in the office.
The laptop runs cool when you're just using it on your lap to browse Web pages, write documents or look at photos. It has vent holes in the middle of the bottom panel, as well vents for the cooling fan, which is located on the left side. This fan will be a source of much frustration for many users. Whenever the CPU is under a heavy load, this fan will spin up mightily and it will become very loud. This is something that could become bothersome in a quiet room, and especially if giving a presentation in a boardroom.
The cooling of the innards isn't only through the fan and the bottom panel's vent holes though. In case the bottom vents are blocked, little vent holes around the keyboard area are designed to allow warm air to escape through the top. We're not sure how well this would work under a heavy load, but we do know that if you do use this laptop for heavy work while it's on your lap, it will get noticeably hot and you'll have to get it onto a desk anyway.
So basically, the VAIO Z Series has many good points, such as its performance, screen, solid state drives and backlit keyboard. However, it has flaws when it comes to user comfort: the keyboard and touchpad could be better, the power button is awful, its fan gets very noisy, the base's edges are very hard and pointy.
With a laptop like this, the biggest selling point is the weight-to-power ratio. It's no doubt one of the fastest (if not the fastest) laptop in its weight class, but ultimately, that's not all we look for in a laptop and we think the Z Series is let down by some key user comfort issues. We don't think it's worth anywhere near the $3999 asking price, especially when there are so many decent ultraportable offerings at half, and even a third of the cost.
Join the PC World newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Samsung Galaxy S8 phone: full, in-depth review
- 2 Ryzen 5 vs Intel Core i5 CPU Australian review
- 3 Mass Effect Andromeda review: One for the fans
- 4 LG G6 phone: full, in-depth review
- 5 Samsung Galaxy A5 2017 phone: Full, in-depth review
Latest News Articles
- Samsung ready to make chips faster than the ones in Galaxy S8
- Rumor suggests the Note8 will be a bigger S8+ that adds a missing feature
- Samsung's Bixby won’t support voice commands when it debuts on the Galaxy S8
- Fear not, early adopters: The Galaxy S8 might not be running Android 7.0 for very long
- Samsung made an even better Galaxy S8+, but you can’t have it
PCW Evaluation Team
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
- Samsung Galaxy S8 phone: full, in-depth review
- Ryzen 5 vs Intel Core i5 CPU Australian review
- Mass Effect Andromeda review: One for the fans
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
- FTSolution Architect - SecurityVIC
- TPSenior Business Project ManagerNSW
- FTHelpdesk AnalystNSW
- CCLead SAP SRM DeveloperACT
- CCTest Capability LeadNSW
- CCOracle CCB DesignerVIC
- FTSystem AnalystsACT
- TPMaster Portfolio SchedulerVIC
- FTCapacity ManagerACT
- CCSenior Domain ArchitectVIC
- CCIntegration ArchitectACT
- CCA/V OfficerNSW
- FTBI BA Consultant l Microstrategy, Business ObjectsNSW
- TPProject Support AnalystNSW
- CCSAP ISU Technical ConsultantVIC
- FTBusiness AnalystNSW
- FTTechnical Business AnalystACT
- FTTechnical ConsultantACT
- FTSenior .NET DeveloperVIC
- CCTechnical Requirements Architect - NV1ACT
- FTFinance Analyst with Accounting | 8 Month ContractVIC
- CCSystems AdminNSW
- FTSolution ArchitectVIC
- FTWindows Dev Ops EngineerNSW
- FTFull Stack Web Developer .NET or JAVANSW