The Sony Vaio VGN-Z is a high-end laptop released by Sony in mid-2008. It was the second model in their flagship Z series, and also the spiritual successor to the VGN-SZ. It was intended to be a business machine that also offered enough performance to be a businessman's main computer.
The laptop, being one of the first VAIO models released after the brand's repositioning in 2008 , featured Sony's iconic cylinder power button design, and was a major leap compared to Sony's past thin and light laptop, the VGN-SZ. The laptop came in 7 different colours which included 2 patterns, however only 2 for the palmrest (Grey and Black).
The VGN-Z featured an all-new dynamic graphics switching capability which allowed you to switch graphics without having to restart the laptop. Unfortunately, this means that standard drivers will not work on the laptop, and only the official Sony drivers will work. It also featured a 16:9 "X-black" LED display, a shift from the previous 16:10 panel.
The laptop is constructed with a carbon fiber body and lid and an aluminium palmrest. To compensate for the smaller vertical space due to the 16:9 display, the laptop had to use a 12 layer motherboard and separated functionality such as audio and WWAN into daughterboards to compact it as much as possible.
They offered a variety of optional extras, including a Blu-Ray drive, 1600x900 display and 2 64GB SSDs configured in RAID 0 offering a total of 128GB at extremely fast speeds. The SSDs are actually standard microSATA SSDs, so they can be upgraded quite cheaply and are also capable of using mSATA SSDs with an adapter, unlike the later designs which used a proprietary LIF connector. The laptop is also remarkable for being the first VAIO equipped with DDR3 RAM, the latest technology at the time.
The keyboard is a standard chiclet design, and is very good to type on. The speakers were also excellent, and the screen offers wide viewing angles and good colour. The battery life was moderate, lasting 3 hours in Stamina mode and 2 hours in Speed mode (Tested by Japanese review site PC Watch). For its small size, thermals are fairly good as well and the fans are quiet.
Processor: Intel® Core 2 Duo P8400/P8600/P9500/P9600/P9700/T9400/T9600/T9900 (socketed)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS with 128MB (1366x768 models) or 256MB (1600x900 models) VRAM and Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X4500MHD
Chipset: Intel GM45 Express (1066MHz)
Memory: DDR3-1066MHz (8GB maximum)
Display: 13.1" 1600x900 or 1366x768 widescreen "X-Black" TFT LCD
Storage: 200-320GB 2.5" HDD or single/dual RAID 64GB microSATA SSD
Weight: Approximately 1.35kg (lightest model, models equipped with a HDD weigh more)
MSRP: Roughly £1500 or 275,800 yen (base model)
Battery: 5400mAh 6 cell battery (VGP-BPS12), optional 8100mAh extended 9 cell battery (VGP-BPL12),
Ports: 2x USB 2.0, i-Link S400 port, Headphone and Microphone jack, 56k modem, Gigabit Ethernet, ExpressCard slot, SD and Memory Stick slot, DVD drive or optional Blu-Ray drive, HDMI, VGA and docking station port (VGP-PRZ1)
Connectivity: Intel WiFi Link 5100 (802.11 a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.0 and optional 3G WWAN, FeliCa reader (Japan only)
Operating System: Windows Vista Business, later models shipped with Windows 7 Professional
Daily Usage Today
The VGN-Z is still a very capable machine today, allowing light browsing and word processing. Media consumption is also possible on this laptop, as it handles YouTube at 720p with no dropped frames. I would recommend installing h264ify, as this reduces load on the CPU and uses the built in H264 decoder. The 9300M GS graphics also helps with gaming being capable of running older or light games. Windows 10 is usable on this machine, however you must use the Windows 7 GPU driver and install all of the Vaio utilities to get proper GPU switching functionality, you are better off running Windows 7 for full functionality, as Sony released updated drivers designed for the OS. I would recommend upgrading to the maximum 8GB, thankfully it is DDR3 so it is cheap to get (£10 from AliExpress). Be aware that this laptop only accepts DDR3-1066 modules, higher speed modules do not work.
It is usually the cheapest of the Z series and the most common being sold worldwide and being popular enough that it was sold alongside the VPCZ1 until late 2009, however batteries are very hard to come by (there is only 1 listing on AliExpress as of writing this) and are very expensive. The usual spec you would find of this computer is the grey palmrest, 1600x900 display, hard drive and a P9500 or P9600, other models are quite rare (maybe not in Japan?).
In terms of repairability, the RAM is easily accessible behind a cover on the back, however if you want access to the hard drive you will need to remove the palmrest and if you need to repaste you will need to remove the motherboard which is a long and involved process. There aren't any common problems with the hardware, however it is very easy to damage the ribbon cable going from the palmrest assembly to the motherboard, and it is easy for the ZIF connector locking plates to fall off, however it can carefully be placed back into place.