There's a good reason that Sony's 11.1in VAIO VGNTT15GNR has a red lid — it's to highlight just how good its screen is. Not only that, it gives this ultraportable unit an undeniable appeal. But there is more to the VGNTT15GNR than good looks and a well-performing screen — it is easy to use, and it is equipped with plenty of features.
It's only 28cm wide and 20cm deep, and it weighs 1.3kg without its power supply. It's very easy to carry around in a small bag and equally easy to operate while using public transport. It has an 82-key keyboard with raised keys that feel a little sponge-like to the touch. Coupled with the slightly cramped nature of the keyboard it can be a little uncomfortable to type on this unit, but eventually you get used to it. Typing for long periods of time can get a little tiring, but it's not as bad as typing on a netbook.
The laptop is based on an Intel Core 2 Duo SU9300 CPU, which runs at 1.2GHz and has a thermal design rating of 10 Watts. Coupled with 2GB of DDR2 RAM, a 120GB 1.8in (mini Serial ATA) hard drive and integrated graphics, it forms the basis of a system that can be used for running everyday office, e-mail and Web applications. It is effective at multitasking, and it can also be used for watching movies and listening to music while you're on the go.
In our benchmarks, the VGNTT15GNR returned the results we were expecting. It scored 53 in WorldBench 6, which is about twice as fast as what a netbook with an Intel Atom CPU can achieve; it recorded times of 2min 32sec and 2min 24sec in the Blender 3-D rendering and iTunes MP3 encoding tests, respectively. These two tests maximise the CPU processor load and the results show that it is about three times faster than an Atom-based netbook.
But there really is no point comparing this VAIO to a netbook, because it just isn't in the same league. It costs approximately four times as much as a new-release netbook, and it has a lot more connectivity options and design features.
Along the edges of the laptop you will find one four-pin FireWire 400 port, two USB 2.0 ports, SD and MemoryStick slots, and a D-Sub port. If you look closer, you will also find concealed Gigabit Ethernet and 56Kbps modem ports, a concealed ExpressCard/34 slot, as well as a built-in DVD burner. There are shortcut buttons located on the front lip of the laptop that allow you to manipulate the volume, eject the DVD tray (which is just as well as the tray itself has a very small button) and also one shortcut button.
The shortcut button is set up to invoke the VAIO Control Centre by default; this is a Control Panel–like interface that lets you adjust the power, screen, network and security features of the laptop. The most interesting feature that you'll find in here is the automatic brightness feature, which is hooked up to a sensor on the chassis of the laptop. It dynamically adjusts the brightness of the laptop's screen depending on the amount of light hitting the sensor. It worked very well during our tests, as the screen reached maximum brightness while outdoors, and dimmed down as we moved inside. It's a good idea to leave this feature enabled, as it can prolong the life of the battery (unless you always use your laptop at the lowest brightness setting).
In our DVD rundown test (with maximum brightness and with the wireless card enabled), the laptop lasted 2hr 45min, which is a good result for a small unit with a DVD drive. You can expect more from it if you employ a sensible power management scheme.
Watching movies on the laptop's screen was a joy; its contrast and colour reproduction is the best we have seen from a notebook for a while. Blacks were dark, and dark scenes in photos and movies were rendered accurately; colours were vibrant. The screen isn't overly glossy, so it doesn't suffer from reflections, and its horizontal viewing angles are wide (approximately 170 degrees). This meant we could see what was on the screen while we were almost side-on to it. Our only quibble is that the screen feels a little flimsy. Its hinges are a little loose and its frame isn't solidly bonded to the lid. However, the notebook we tested was only a demo unit.
While using it on your lap, the right side of the base will get warm. This will be noticeable, especially in warm weather. There is a fan that spits warm air out of the left side of the laptop, but it's not too loud. Additionally, you can select the Silent profile in the power options, which is perfect for when you use the laptop at night to type documents. (The soft keys help with this, too, as they don't make any noise.)
Other features of this red VAIO include an Intel WiFi Link 5100 wireless adapter, which can run on 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks at 802.11a/b/g and draft-n speeds. You also get Bluetooth and a built-in webcam.
There's not much to dislike about this ultraportable laptop, which looks great and is generally easy to use once you get accustomed to it. Its small size and large array of built-in features make it a desirable laptop, especially if you want something that will also stand out from the crowd or match your handbag.