Like the TT, the Z11's keyboard is of the lozenge type, but here the keys are larger and space further apart. They're also higher, which, with the spacing, will require some speed-typists take a short time to adjust to it. There's a little bit of flex to the board.
The lip at the front impedes access to the memory card slots
Above the main key array are two pairs of slots that sit about the Z11's voluminous speakers. Next to these, on the left, are two user-definable shortcut keys and, on the right, an eject button for the Z11's multi-format DVD writer, itself position on the right side of the machine. The LEDs usually found above the keyboard are here below it, tucked into the incline the rises from the plain of the keyboard to the plateau that is the wrist rest. So the lights are between the spacebar and the touchpad where, unless you have the screen angled at about 45° downward, you can't see what they represent.
Design over practicality? You betcha!
Not so the rubber blocks placed at either side of the keyboard to support the lid when it's closed. They do, but there's nothing to stop the screen bending in to touch the keys.
The touchpad is nice and large, covered with a pattern of dots that make look like a designer's cutting mat. It's otherwise a plain model that's sole nod toward the cutting edge of touch control are (unmarked) edge-of-pad scroll zones.
The front of the Z11 is home to power, hard drive and wireless LEDs, the latter above a cut-off switch, itself alongside the laptop's MemoryStick Pro and SDHC memory card slots. Unfortunately, Sony has placed these under a jutting lip which, while not making them impossible to reach when the Z11's flat on a desk, doesn't make them as accessible as they could or should be.
See how skinny the screen is?
On the left side of the laptop you'll find an ExpressCard slot plus 3.5mm audio, four-pin Firewire, USB, 56Kb/s and Ethernet ports, the last two under flaps. Sony doesn't believe you'll use these much - hence the flaps and hence the fact they're disabled by default. Use the handy Vaio Smart Network utility to activate them, or any of three radios - Bluetooth, 802.11n Wi-Fi and HSDPA 3G - the Z11 can come with.
How much does that keyboard remind you of the ZX Spectrum? Slap a few weird symbols on them and three different shift modes and you would be right there.
As for the size - the larger the keyboard is, the easier it is to type on, so the fact that the MacBook Air is larger is surely a positive? Particularly since it does so while remaining lighter than this, and cheaper as well?
The trackpad scrolling areas are hardware related as the special areas of the pad have extra links and controls wired to them if you have a look at the underside. I would guess that is how you can scroll as you click on a selection similar to if the trackpad was a multitouch one, though that would be a very limited kind of multitouch!
Surely the trackpad scrolling is software, not hardware.
And the scale on that graph sucks, give us some more detail!
Targeting Mac customers?
True, I was considering a Mac when I got the (very similar) SZ a year ago, but the sony won because it was far more powerful and had the 3d chip. It's targeting people who want a smalll, light, powerful, pretty laptop and don't care about MacOS.
A year ago apple weren't producing anything that small with a decent GFX chip. Now? Well I'd probably go for the cheaper macbook option, if I could overcome my revulsion at the keyboard. I'd say it's apple that have moved into Sony's territory here.
Also I got mine for 700 quid less than the UK list price because I bought it in the US. We are still being *hugely* ripped off here in the UK. From 1400 quid the reg article says. Sony.com has them starting at $1650.
That makes me sick.
Good point - hadn't thought of it that way. I've been looking at Lenovos recently and they definitely seem to like producing the same machine with both integrated and discrete GPU, and giving it the same model number but different suffix. Doesn't really fit in with Apple's minimalist line offerings I guess so they differentiate by including this as standard, and allows everyone to run with or without discrete GPU. I'd like to see what savings Apple gets for economy of scale in having so few variants of machine on offer...
@Alastair (and also the review): I'm surprised to hear that the thin screen flexes so much! What is it made of? I would have thought it'd be Carbon Fibre which shouldn't flex much at all. The TT gets the same comments as well about bendy screens, but I noticed that both the older SZ and TZ have rigid screens, so much so that I have a bad habit of picking up machines by the corner of the screen. My work HP doesn't like it much, with a big green stripe that occasionally appears...
AC as I'm meant to be ensuring a certain tax doober changes as it should do for our customers...