capsule review

Sony VAIO VGN-TZ150N/B

The preconfigured $2199 (as of 10/9/07) Sony VGN-TZ150N/B is a chic little unit that's made for people who like to travel light. Unfortunately, our test model was slow.

The design is spiffy. The VGN-TZ150N/B has a glossy piano-black keyboard, a sturdy carbon-fiber exterior, and a 2.7-pound minimum weight, one of the lightest weights we've encountered among currently tested ultraportables. The 11.1-inch, LED-backlit, 1366-by-768-pixel screen is very bright, which makes it easy to read despite its small size. The individual keys are slightly raised above the surface of the keyboard for fairly easy touch typing. Another nice feature: two dedicated slots for using an SD Card and Memory Stick simultaneously.

For long flights, the Instant Mode button lets you play DVD movies, music, or photo slide shows without first starting Windows, saving battery life. This mode disables the mouse, but in our tests getting the hang of navigating the instant-on menu by keyboard was simple. Front-mounted A/V controls, a row of tiny silver buttons that look like cupcake sprinkles, let you stop, play, fast-forward, reverse, and eject media with ease.

For complete freedom from wires, the VGN-TZ150N/B comes with the triumvirate of wireless communications options already integrated: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, and wireless wide-area networking in the form of a Sprint Mobile Broadband mini-PCI card. (You'll need to sign up for a monthly Sprint account.)

We found only two design annoyances worth mentioning. The power cord was very loose and never felt completely plugged in. The optical-drive eject button is so small that it's almost useless; pressing the tiny eject button on the front of the unit (one of the A/V controls) is faster.

The VGN-TZ150N/B performs fine for managing e-mail, taking pictures with the built-in Webcam, or watching in-flight DVD movies. Unfortunately, our test unit's 1.06-GHz Core 2 Duo U7500 processor, 1GB of RAM, and 4200-rpm hard drive kept its WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score to a low 38. That's seven points behind the mark of a Gateway E-155C equipped with the same processor and amount of RAM, and also a full 30 percent behind the average score among currently tested ultraportables. If you need more speed, you can check out the company's other, better-equipped TZ Series configurations, although their performance will still be modest. On the bright side, this notebook's stylish bar battery gave us 5.6 hours of life, running 1.4 hours longer than the average of currently tested ultraportables.

If having a superlight notebook with a full keyboard outweighs your need for speed, the VGN-TZ150N/B is for you.

--Carla Thornton

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