Ads for laptop computers always seem to show smiling people sitting on the grass pecking away on their machines. As enticing as that is , my experience has been that most folks (including me) really treat laptops as portable PCs with the machines merely being easy to carry from one wall outlet to another. Therefore, I was interested to see Sony roll out the VAIO TX series ultraportables which actually have enough battery life to make true mobile laptop use a possibility. As is usual, there are a plethora of model numbers in the TX series, but here are some excerpts from CNET’s review of the Sony VAIO TXN17P/B:
The Sony VAIO TXN17′s biggest plus is its battery life. In our battery-drain test, we got 4 hours and 54 minutes from the system–making this one of the longest-lasting laptops we’ve seen. When we tested the previous model, the TXN15, last year, we got around 9 hours of battery life from it, but that was with an older, less taxing test. The included battery does stick out slightly from the back of the system, but it’s a fair trade-off for the extended running time. Working on tasks less battery intensive than playing a DVD will yield even more uptime, making this a great system for long plane trips or all-day on-the-road use.
(The CNET TXN15P/B review mentioned is here.) No matter how you measure it, it still seems pretty good for a laptop with a Intel Core Solo U1400 / 1.2 GHz processor, 2GB of memory, and a 80GB hard disk. These systems are clearly targeted at business with Windows Vista Business Edition installed and Sprint WWAN access (for the Sprint Mobile Broadband service) built in.
However, there being no such thing as free lunch, you have to pay a price for a 2.9 lbs laptop with good battery life and that is that the screen and keyboard are small:
Measuring 10.8 inches wide, 8 inches deep, and 1.2 inches high, the TXN17 is among the smallest ultraportables we’ve seen. It’s tiny enough to carry around without much hassle, but the small screen and the cramped keyboard will be uncomfortable for extended use. The Sony VAIO TXN17 weighs 2.9 pounds (3.6 pounds with the AC adapter), which is extremely light when you consider the system has a built-in optical drive, something many smaller laptops omit to save on weight and bulk. The Asus S6F features a similar footprint and an optical drive but is noticeably thicker.
The tradeoff with using an ultraportable laptop is the miniaturized keyboard, and the VAIO TXN17 is no exception. The flat-topped keys are an acquired taste, similar to those on a MacBook, and those without nimble fingers will find themselves hitting the backspace key often. The touch pad, by comparison, is plenty ample for every day use, and the media control buttons built into the hinge are accessible, even when the lid is closed.
The 11.1-inch screen has a native resolution of 1,366×768, which translates into small text and images when Web surfing, but not more so than other ultraportable systems. The display is nice and bright, thanks to new LED backlight technology, and displays video and image files nicely.
Finally, there is one other price to pay in that the models in the TX series are rather expensive with the TXN17P/B reviewed above currently running around $2450 at most retailers, although I see there there is a a retailer selling through Amazon that currently has it a couple of hundred bucks cheaper. One reason for that may be that the TXN27 models are now available with a U1500 1.33GHz processor and 100 GB hard drive, although they seem to be selling on Amazon, at least, for the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $2700. As always, you may find a better deal at your favorite on or offline emporium.