Above the display, built into the bezel, is a 0.3-megapixel (640x480-pixel) webcam that's suitable for videoconferencing. Unfortunately, this is a fixed-position camera, rather than a more convenient swivel-mounted unit. Still, the bundled ArcSoft WebCam companion software helps you capture stills and video, and includes motion detection. The automatic brightness adjustment is reasonably good too.
Our review sample had a 250GB hard drive with a rotation speed of 5,400rpm. 'G-Sensor' shock protection helps to prevent hard-disk damage when the system is being used on the move. The optical drive is a slimline multi-format DVD rewriter.
Ports and connectors are ranged around three sides. The front carries a hardware switch for Wi-Fi connectivity (there's also an on-screen controller for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, modem and 3G) and stacked flash-card readers for Memory Stick and SD-compatible formats. These are quite hard to reach, as they're located beneath a protruding lip on the chassis. We found we had to raise the front of the system off the desk to locate the required slot accurately.
The left side houses microphone and headphone jacks, a FireWire port and a single USB 2.0 connector. Next to this, under a protective cover, is the modem connector and, behind this, an ExpressCard slot. Right at the back, again behind a protective cover, is the Ethernet port.
On the right side, behind the optical drive caddy, are an HDMI port, a second USB 2.0 port and a VGA-out port. The Z11WN/B supports external monitors at up to a 1,920x1,200-pixel resolution.
Because the Z11WN/B supports stamina (integrated graphics) and speed (discrete graphics) modes, we ran the Windows Experience Index twice. In both modes 'processor' (calculations per second) and 'primary hard disk' (disk data-transfer rate) scored 5.3, while 'RAM' (memory operations per second) scored 5.9. All Windows Experience Index scores are out of 5.9.
In speed mode, 'gaming graphics' (3D business and gaming graphics performance) scored 5.1, and 'graphics' (desktop performance for Windows Aero) 4.4. In stamina mode, gaming graphics dropped to 3.8 and graphics to 4.1. Overall, performance -- especially in speed mode -- is excellent.
Sony rates the system's li-ion battery life at 4.5 hours in speed mode and just under 5.5 hours in stamina mode. We ran two battery tests, in each case asking the laptop to play a DVD movie continuously from a full battery charge under the Vaio Optimized power scheme.
In stamina mode we got just under 2.5 hours, while in speed mode the system managed just over 2 hours.
Although these are reasonable battery-life figures, you're not going to get a day's work done on battery power, especially if you're a heavy user of Wi-Fi or HSDPA when on the move. You may, therefore, want to consider buying the optional extended battery, which costs roughly an extra £160.
The Sony Vaio VGN-Z11WN/B is beautifully designed and reassuringly robust. It marries a decently sized 13.1-inch screen with good portability, and has the advantage of integrated 3G/HSDPA support. There are some downsides, though, including a meagre two USB ports. It's also packed with pre-installed software, such as Skype and Google Earth, much of which is eminently removable.
Despite these niggles, however, this is a superb ultra-portable laptop. If you can afford it, you won't be disappointed.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet