By Cisco Cheng  |  Posted 2004-06-04 Print this article Print

It Doesnt Get Thinner Than the Latest Sony VAIO

How thin and light can a notebook get? Ask Sony. Its latest VAIO creation measures just 0.6 by 10.1 by 8.3 inches (HWD), making it one of the thinnest notebooks weve ever seen. At an astonishing system weight of 1.8 pounds, you wont even notice it in your bag; but considering the systems $3,000 price tag, youre likely to feel it in your wallet.

With a little design ingenuity, Sony maximized the small space provided by placing the notebooks tiny motherboard above the keyboard, which is why this system can still hold an ultralow-voltage Pentium M processor, 512MB of RAM, and a 20GB hard drive. We give kudos to Sony for including these relatively beefy components in such a small package. (We did not run our benchmark test suite on the X505ZP because the model we received for testing was a preproduction system.)

The outer shell of the system is made from a unique nickel/carbon fiber, which gives the system a sturdy feel, while the inner layout looks like graphite, maintaining the traditional VAIO elegance. The 10.4-inch screen doesnt use Sonys Xbrite technology, found on other VAIOs, but it is still one of the brighter screens offered on an ultraportable.

The keyboard is small, with each key pitch only measuring 13mm (19mm is the norm). To compensate, Sony adds substantial spacing between the keys. This translates into a keyboard that is 90 percent full-size (equivalent to 17mm), similar to what weve seen on other minis like the Sharp Actius MM20. And actually, the keyboard is quite responsive, as is the pointing stick.

As expected, the systems design leaves little room for connectivity features. There are two USB ports, one FireWire port, one type II PC Card slot, and a DC out port. Sony includes a VGA port and 100Mb Ethernet via a detachable dongle. Since there is no built-in wireless, a Sony 802.11g PC Card specially designed to fit seamlessly with the notebook comes bundled with the system.

Interestingly, Sony also added a Memory Stick slot to the bundled USB mouse. You cant see the speakers, which lie below the right side of the keyboard. We strongly suggest you use the headphone jack, adjacent to the PC Card slot, for listening to music or other audio content.

We are repeatedly impressed with how small and light systems can get: Theres the Toshiba Portégé R100 (0.7 inches thick and 2.3 pounds) and the Sharp Actius MM20 (0.8 inches thick and 2.0 pounds). But nobody does it like Sony. The X505ZP is a gorgeous system wrapped in a beautiful, razor-thin body, proving that Sony continues to forge ahead in innovation and inspiring designs.

Cisco Cheng is PC MagazineÔÇÖs lead analyst for laptops and tablet PCs. He is responsible for benchmarking, reviewing, and evaluating all laptops and tablet PCs. Cisco started with PC Magazine in 1999 as a support technician, testing printers, PC components, networking equipment, and software. He became the lead analyst for the laptop team in 2003 and since has written numerous reviews, buyer guides, and feature stories for both PCMag.com and the print magazine.

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