The TZ is the spiritual successor to the much-loved TX series. It's marginally bigger than its predecessor, but it is lighter and so promises to be more portable.
More importantly, it's Sony's first laptop to ship with an ultra-low voltage Core 2 Duo processor -- it therefore promises plenty of substance to go with its style. The TZ series, more specifically known as the TZ11XN, is available in several guises, but we've reviewed the £1,799 version, which revels in the product code VGNTZ11XN/B.CEK.
The TZ is utterly gorgeous -- almost eliciting feelings of lust. But whereas the TX5 was sexy in a Christina Aguilera sort of way, the TZ is sleek, and much more sophisticated. If it wasn't for the fact it's Japanese-built, we'd think of it as the Kylie Minogue of laptops.
It's arguably as tiny as the diminutive antipodean, too, occupying the same approximate footprint as a tabloid newspaper folded in half. It's 4.6mm longer and 3.3mm deeper than the TX5, but weighs 1.19kg to the TX5's 1.25kg, so it's slightly more portable.
Sony has bucked the trend of caking laptops in a glossy, piano-black coating. The TZ is mostly finished in matte black, which makes it easier to keep clean than the smudge magnet that is the Asus U1. The only trace of glossy plastic is around the keyboard section, although the 11-inch screen is far worse for collecting smears.
Kudos to Sony for the clever placement of the power button. This sits at the right side of the laptop's hinge -- towards the rear. The button is translucent and glows green when powered up, or amber when the laptop is idle, which is a nice touch. The AC adaptor plug connects to the opposite side of the hinge, but we think the exposed AC port looks rather naff without its plug connected.
The keyboard on the TZ is different to those on the TX series. It looks like a miniature version of those found on an Apple MacBook Pro. Each key is flat and perfectly rectangular, not tapered, as is traditional. They're also slightly smaller than those found on most laptops. Despite this, we achieved a typing speed close to what we'd manage on a full-size keyboard.
The mouse trackpad is as responsive as it should be, although it could do with being slightly larger. The mouse selector buttons are within easy reach below it. Both are easy to press with your thumb, and the area between them isn't wasted -- Sony has installed a fingerprint reader for secure logins.
Around the left edge of the laptop there are modem and Ethernet ports (hidden behind a flap, so they don't collect dust or spoil the laptop's lines) plus two USB ports. At the front edge there's a Memory Stick reader and an SD card slot, alongside mic and headphone ports. At the right side there's a D-Sub port and, miraculously, a DVD rewriter drive. How Sony managed to fit all this in is beyond us.
Once you've gotten over the TZ's style, you'll be impressed by its substance. One of its best assets is the awesome 11.1-inch LED display, which has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. It looks superb in everyday use, and provided you don't venture into direct sunlight, its gloss-coated X-Black screen is great for everything from spreadsheets to DVD playback. Don't expect it to play games though -- its graphics card is powered by the ageing Intel 945GM chipset, which is, for want of a better word, rubbish.