The laptops in Sony's TX series are not only impossibly small, but super-stylish, too. The 11-inch widescreen display is enough for use while out and about and its titchy dimensions and lightweight chassis won't slow you down while you're on the move.
Despite its small size, the TX5XN is usable, with a decent keyboard and even an internal DVD writer. It's fully Vista capable, so you don't miss out on the fancy extras in Microsoft's new OS, and at around £1,500 it's not exorbitantly priced.
The TX5XN hasn't changed much on the outside compared to its predecessors -- the TX2 and TX3 -- but when the design is this good, that's no bad thing. Crucially, its footprint is still smaller than a sheet of A4 paper, and even when closed it's less than 30mm thick.
The laptop lid is finished with a stylish black metallic effect, while the rest of the body is decked out in an attractive silver. The lid itself is only a mere 4mm thick, which seems impossibly thin, but thankfully it's protected by carbon fibre to help prevent damage. You'll still want to exercise some care when opening and closing it, though, as the screen can flex a fair bit.
11-inches of screen estate is enough for working on the move, although if you're planning on using the laptop for prolonged sessions in the office, you'll want to hook it up to a larger external display to prevent eye strain.
Despite the small chassis, the keys are decently sized and comfortable to type on, and the keyboard is stable and not prone to the flexing we've seen on some ultraportables. The touchpad does feel like it's been squeezed in though, with the top almost touching the space bar -- you may find you accidentally brush against it when typing. The mouse buttons are a little awkward to press right at the bottom of the unit.
There's a fingerprint reader tucked away on the right-hand side, so you can use a single swipe of your finger to replace passwords.
The right of the unit is mostly taken up by the internal DVD writer, with a D-Sub VGA port towards the back. Over the other side there are two USB ports -- one of which is hidden behind a flap along with the modem connector -- and a PC Card slot. At the back there's a four-pin FireWire socket, network port and power connector. Along the front edge Sony has included an SD card slot as well as MemoryStick reader, volume buttons, headphone and microphone sockets, plus a wireless on/off switch.
There's a panel of shortcut buttons at the top edge of the machine, above the keyboard, which by default are set to launch the DVD playback software and provide play, stop, fast forward, rewind and eject.
This laptop is built with portability and long battery life in mind, so it's no surprise that it's a little lacking in the Gigahertz department. The Intel Core Solo U1500 ultra-low voltage chip -- running at 1.33GHz -- and 1GB RAM are sufficient for everyday tasks but lack the oomph for anything more intensive.