By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2006-05-22 Print this article Print

When money is no object, Sonys Vaio laptops are hard to beat, and the Vaio SZ160 is no exception. Armed with Intels Core Duo dual-core processors, the Vaio SZ160 offers business users what theyre looking for: a high level of mobility and performance, at an optimal size and weight.

The recently released Vaio SZ160 weighs 3.8 pounds and measures 12.5 by 9.3 by 0.9 inches (1.3 inches thick in the back). The Vaio SZ160 is larger than competitors such as Lenovos ultraportable ThinkPad X60 because it features a 13.3-inch wide-aspect display.

Click here to read reviews of HP Compaq Nc6320, Latitude D620, and Thinkpad X60s.
The Sony laptop we tested featured an Nvidia GeForce Go 7400 graphics card with 128MB of memory and had a 1,280-by-800-pixel native resolution. We particularly liked the Vaio SZ160s screen for its brightness, a result of Sonys XBrite technology.

Indeed, the new Vaio is packed with great features, but it also comes with a hefty price: The Vaio SZ160 is priced starting at $1,400, and the premium model, which includes a slimmer carbon fiber casing, starts at $2,299. The fully loaded premium unit we tested is priced at $2,499, featuring Intels 1.83GHz Core Duo T2400 processor and 1GB of DDR2 (double data rate 2) SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM). Our unit also came with a beefy 100GB hard drive.

In comparison, the ThinkPad X60s we recently tested was priced at $2,299 with an extended battery and a wireless broadband modem.

Our Vaio SZ160 test unit did come with a built-in optical drive, while the ThinkPad X60s optical drive is located in its docking station (although thats included in the $2,299 price).

Battery Boon

The Vaio SZ160 will give mobile users plenty of work time between charges.

During tests, we used Business Applications Performance Corp.s MobileMark 2005 benchmark suite to gauge the battery life of our Vaio SZ160 test unit. BAPCOs MobileMark measures a systems battery life and performance with a core office productivity test that models a mobile professionals workload.

Our unit turned in a MobileMark score of 325, or 5.4 hours. The ThinkPad X60s we tested turned in 7 hours of battery life with its extended battery, but the Vaio SZ160s performance is definitely competitive.

The Vaio SZ160 we tested came equipped with 802.11a/b/g, Gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as with a 56K-bps modem. The unit has a hard switch above the keyboard that allows a user to turn the laptops wireless antenna on and off.

Other laptops weve recently reviewed—including the ThinkPad X60s, Dells Latitude D620 and the HP Compaq nc6320—have included cellular high-speed network radios, providing broadband-like speeds wirelessly. The Vaio SZ160 has no such radio, although a Sony spokesperson told us that one will be available for Vaio systems starting this summer.

We can live with that, but we were disappointed by the Vaio SZ160s dearth of USB ports. We like to see at least three USB ports on a laptop system, but the SZ160 came equipped with only two. The laptop does have one four-pin FireWire port, as well as an integrated card reader, although—not surprisingly for a Sony device—the card reader supports only Sonys Memory Stick format. An ExpressCard SD (Secure Digital) memory card reader was also included with our test unit.

The Vaio SZ160 comes with a fingerprint scanner for security. The unit also has an integrated microphone and a Web cam for videoconferencing. During tests with the Web cam, images were impres-sively clear.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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