Notebooks Guide

Sony Vaio Z 2011 (Core i7, SSD RAID, Power Media Dock) review

Sony Vaio Z (2011) - Z For Luxury

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Overall rating 9/10
Good design
Extremely light
Has a Power Media Dock
Full HD screen
Build quality - very bad flexing

Performance and Benchmarking

Performance and Benchmarking

While the Sony Vaio Z raises some questions regarding its build quality, its performance however is something that actually lives up to its “no compromises” slogan. Here, its quad-core Core i7 processor, 8GB integrated RAM on the Vaio Z simply leaves all its competitors in the dust. Compared with several other slim and light business notebooks, in terms of pure performance, with or even without its powerful Power Media Dock, the Vaio Z manages to trump every machine we've tested (there were nine in this category), including the highly rated MacBook Air.

For comparison’s sake, we took the next lightest ultra-portable, the MacBook Air, and also the one of our favourite business notebooks, the Lenovo X1 - which also features a full powered processor (albeit it's only a dual-core model). Now we need to remind readers that the Vaio Z sports a Core i7 processor, and also an SSD drive, thus it’s performance numbers should be higher overall.

Thin and Light Notebooks Compared
Specifications/Notebook Sony Vaio Z (2011) Apple MacBook Air (2011) Lenovo ThinkPad X1
Processor Intel Core i7-2620M (2.70GHz) Intel Core i5-2557M (1.7GHz)  Intel Core i5-2520M (2.5GHz)
Chipset   Intel HM65 Intel QS67  Intel HM65
Memory  8GB DDR3 (Integrated) 4GB DDR3  4GB DDR3
HDD  256GB SSD (RAID 0) 256GB SSD  160GB SSD
Video  Intel HD 3000 / AMD Radeon 6650M (PMD) Intel HD 3000  Intel HD 3000


PCMark Vantage

As you can tell from the very slight lead that the Vaio Z has, its full-powered Core i7 processor and 8GB of RAM doesn’t grant it much of an advantage here over the other two machines sporting Core i5 processors. The PCMark benchmarks is more of a general purpose benchmark than a detailed and taxing benchmark to show the Core i7's advantages. Professionals running engineering programs will greatly benefit from the Core i7 processors and the difference would clearly distinguishable. Also if you take into account that it has a Power Media Dock (with a much more capable GPU) to support, you can also understand why Sony chose a much more powerful processor as the brains for the Vaio Z.

Focusing on the hard drive test suite, its scores were the result of the second generation SSD RAID 0 that is included with the Vaio Z. Conventional wisdom tells us that the Vaio Z's RAID 0 array is supposed to perform much better than the singular SSDs on the MBA and the X1. However instead of outperforming the two in the hard drive tests, its scores were actually slightly lower. Since SSD performance are dictated by a wide variety of factors, ranging from chip, controllers, cache, it's not possible to tell unless we open up the machines to do an in-depth analysis. All we need to know now however is that the Vaio Z is running on two (embedded) 128GB SSD arrays in a RAID 0 configuration, and this is as fast as they get.


3Dmark 06

By itself, the Sony Vaio Z doesn’t really have scores out of the ordinary. WIth its integrated graphics, it only manages to perform marginally better than the MBA, and the ThinkPad X1, thanks to its processor that has a higher clock speed. Throw the PMD into the mix (which you should because the Vaio Z ships with it), and its scores are almost doubled. What this means is that Sony recognises the fact that when you need to travel, you need your machine to be extremely portable. But when you need to utilise some extra firepower, the PMD will be there to beef your machine up exponentially. The scores that we see the PMD achieve aren't necessarily on par with the best gaming machines out there, but they are pretty outstanding by any means. Scores like this typically enable you to play all sorts of the latest PC games, and also allows you to do semi-serious photo and video editing or rendering work.


Far Cry

If you are hankering for some real-life numbers to wrap your mind around how much power the PMD adds on to the Vaio Z, take a look at these Far Cry frame-rates. While it’s on integrated power, its average scores of 33.33 frames per second (fps) for Medium settings and 19.12 fps for Very High settings already give it pretty good standing when compared with its competitors. Here, the Core i7 rises to give the Sony Vaio Z a slight lead initially, but when the PMD steps in, its scores are almost doubled as expected. Of course we don't expect you to get one of these little beauties just to play PC games, but rather it is an indicator of what the PMD is able to do for you in addition to its base configuration.