Sony Vaio VGN-TX5XN laptop
Small, but perfectly formed...
Review If you like the idea of a laptop that you can cart about with you, but want something with a bigger screen and keyboard than the tiny Sony UX1XN, then the TX5XN could be just what you're looking for. It's small enough to accompany you most places you go, but still has a decent sized screen and keyboard so you can get some proper work done.
The TX5 is the latest incarnation of the TX range although it's more of a slight iteration compared to its predecessor - the TX3. The TX5 runs Windows Vista Business rather than XP Pro and on some models the processor is a bit faster and the hard drive is a little bigger, but other than that there's not that much that sets it apart from its sibling.
The TX5 range comprises of three models - the cheapest is the TX5MN at £1,499, followed by the TX5XN at £1,699 (reviewed here) and finally the top of the range TX5VN at a whopping £1,999.
Both the XN and VN models feature an Intel U1500 Core Solo ULV (Ultra Low Voltage) processor running at 1.3GHz and a 100GB hard drive. The cheaper MN version only features the U1400 Core Solo ULV processor clocked at 1.2GHz and 80GB hard drive - the same as the TX3XP model.
The main difference between the XN and VN versions is the amount of DDR2 RAM - the VN comes with 2GB as standard, while the XN only has 1GB. It's also not possible to upgrade the XN to 2GB as it only has a single memory slot - 512MB is attached to the motherboard so the maximum possible memory configuration is 1.5GB. The MN also features 1GB and can only be upgraded to a maximum of 1.5GB.
The TX5 is capable of running Vista's glass Aero interface, but it only just ticks all the boxes of Vista capability. Its Windows Experience Index only notches up a score of 2.0 - held back by poor graphics performance, as the lowest sub-score determines the overall score. Looking at the individual categories it achieved 2.9 for processor, 4.2 for memory, 2.0 for graphics, 2.7 for gaming graphics and 3.9 for hard disk. PCMark05 performance was also fairly disappointing, with it only managing to achieve a score of 1,508.
However, a machine like this is more about portability than raw power - an area in which it excels. It measures just 27.2cm wide by 19.5cm deep and when closed is a mere 2.1cm high. With that kind of footprint, it's the sort of machine you can carry with you in your bag wherever you go. It's also light at only 1.25kg so it shouldn't weigh you down to much while you're out and about.
Despite its diminutive dimensions it's an incredibly usable machine. The 11.1in screen has a widescreen resolution of 1,366x768 giving you a decent amount of screen real estate to work with. The screen uses Sony's X-black LED technology, which is slightly reflective but does create fantastic results.
The screen is also only a mere 4mm thick, but it's thankfully shielded by a carbon fibre lid which should protect it against damage. The hard drive is also protected by a motion sensor that can park the head if the laptop is dropped to avoid damage.
Open it up and the keyboard fills the bulk of the unit. The keys are a decent size - letter keys measure 16x16mm - so typing at a decent rate isn't a problem. The touchpad sits at the bottom of unit, quite close to the space bar so if you're the sort of person that is prone to accidentally brushing the touchpad when you're typing and inadvertently moving the cursor then you may want to avoid the TX5.
The right hand side of the unit houses a VGA out connector and the internal dual layer DVD writer, which Sony has somehow managed to cram inside. The eject button on the drive is very small and hard to locate - but there is an addition eject button on the spine of the machine below the screen. Here you'll also find buttons to launch DVD playback software plus play/pause, stop, fast forward and rewind.
The bulk of the back is occupied by the battery, with an ethernet port on one side and four-pin Firewire socket and power connector on the other. Down the left hand side you'll find a USB port and PC Card slot, plus modem and an additional USB port hidden behind a flap.
At the front there's an SD card slot in addition to Sony's own MemoryStick, wireless on/off switch, buttons for volume control and headphone and microphone sockets. Over on the right hand side below the arrow keys is a fingerprint reader so you can simply swipe your finger instead of having to remember pesky passwords.
What the TX5 lacks in raw performance, it makes up for in battery with a claimed seven and half hours available from a single charge. Depending on your power settings, at least six hours should be easily achievable.
The TX5 is a solid, if a little unexciting, addition to the TX range. The increases in processor speed and hard drive capacity are welcome, but hardly ground breaking.
However, if you need a small, lightweight machine to use on the go it ticks all the boxes and strikes the right balance, offering a decent amount of power in a small but usable machine with reasonable battery life.
The TX5XN is a little on the pricey side, but it is a remarkably small laptop for what it contains. The screen and keyboard are usable and it even has a built in dual layer DVD writer. If you're after raw power, then you'll have to look elsewhere but if you want something with enough oomph to get things done that you can also carry with you everywhere you go then it's a great travel companion.