GCN Lab Review: Sony Vaio VGN-SZ180PC

Pros: Good performance, very light

Cons: Small screen, expensive

Price: $2,499

Performance: B+

Battery life: C+

Features: A-

Value: C

Why on earth does the Vaio VGN-SZ180PC cost $2,499? Aside from the fact that Vaios, like ThinkPads, always cost more money, the VGN-SZ180PC, among other features, also has two graphics controllers.

Sony calls it a Hybrid Graphics System. Basically, through a hardware control, a user can switch between the integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator and an add-in Nvidia GeForce Go 7400 controller.

The former is slightly sluggish (despite the name) but could help conserve power; the latter would be ideal for graphically intense applications.

We tested the Vaio in its out-of-the-box configuration, which called on the Intel GMA 950 chip. Though smaller than the rest of the group, the Vaio held its own, often out-performing notebooks weighing much more than its 3 pounds, 13 ounces.

It scored 7,464 in our benchmark tests, which was about average. Its battery time of two hours 20 minutes, however, was less than average and more a function of its six-cell battery than the video chip.

As for features, this particular Vaio is all over the map. We liked its cellular broadband adapter, fingerprint reader, Bluetooth radio, and FireWire and Memory Stick slots.

But it has only two USB ports and no PC Card slot, which makes it less versatile than we'd like. What's more, its 13.3-inch screen might be too small for some users, and the built-in camera and microphone, while cool in the commercial world, would definitely be no-no's in many agencies.

The Vaio VGN-SZ180PC is the type of machine we'd love to own if we could find it for less online, but it probably doesn't fit most government missions. That said, there may be special situations (video surveillance? conferencing?) where its perks could serve well.

Sony Electronics, San Diego, (877) 865-7669, www.sonystyle.com

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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