Writing a love poem for a laptop isn't normal behaviour, but then the Vaio TX series aren't normal laptops. These 11-inch wonders have looks to die for and their petite dimensions give you a legitimate reason never to venture outdoors without them. If you're looking for a laptop that's genuinely designed for life on the move, is attractive, and you have about £1,500 burning a hole in your pocket, the TX3XP could be the one.
Like the virtually identical TX2, the Vaio TX3XP is significantly smaller than an A4 sheet of paper. Its petite 1.25kg chassis is built around an 11.1-inch display, which makes it perfectly practical for taking on the move, yet almost intolerable as an every-day office machine.
Lift the lid of the Vaio TX3XP and you'll be amazed at how thin the screen is -- less than 5mm. Also impressive is the keyboard section. The keys and the palm rest have an attractive slate-blue finish, while the mouse touchpad has a dotted grid pattern that's almost reminiscent of Braille. Unfortunately, the mouse section is slightly cramped. Sony doesn't have much space to work in, so the ultra-thin selector buttons sit too far towards the front lip of the laptop, making them difficult to press.
Above the keyboard, along the hinge of the laptop is a set of shortcut keys -- which are accessible whether the screen is open or closed. One, labelled AV Mode, can be programmed to launch an application of your choice, including Windows Media Player, or programmed to activate a feature such as maximum screen brightness, standby mode or multiple monitor support.
Unlike the Vaio TX2, the TX3XP features an integrated fingerprint reader tucked to the far right-hand side of the keyboard section. Just below this are headphone and mic ports, volume adjuster buttons, and a switch for enabling or disabling the wireless capabilities -- which could come in handy during a flight.
To the left front section of the laptop there's an SD memory card reader and Memory Stick Pro slot, but no sign of readers for other popular card types. On the left there's an exposed USB port and another hidden behind a plastic flap next to a modem port. At the rear are LAN and four-pin FireWire ports. Finally, there's an implausibly thin DVD rewriter drive on the right hand side, just in front of a D-Sub VGA monitor port.
The TX3XP's predecessor was built around an ageing single-core Pentium M processor, so we were glad to see this laptop benefit from more modern components. Sony has opted not to use a dual-core CPU, but you get an ultra-low voltage (ULV) Intel U1400 processor clocked at a very modest 1.2GHz and 1GB of RAM. It's not exactly geared for high-speed number crunching, but gives it the potential for extremely long battery life.
Given the size of the TX3XP, it's hardly a surprise to find it isn't capable of running many games. The cooling systems on advanced 3D graphics cards take up a large amount of internal space -- which isn't a luxury here.
Despite its small size, the TX3XP is a two-spindle machine, meaning it has both a hard drive and an integrated optical drive. You might find yourself filling the 80GB Toshiba hard drive fairly quickly, but the Matshita UJ-832D DVD rewriter drive writes to DVD-R media at up to 4x and is dual-layer-compatible, so you can write up to 8.5GB of data to a single disc.