Review: Sony Vaio VGN-Z790, VGN-Z750
Last Updated on Wednesday, 8 December 2010 12:42 Written by Naota Wednesday, 11 November 2009 09:02
NOTE: You can view our review of the Sony Vaio VGN-Z890 here. The VGN-Z890 is the newer version of this laptop.
Product: Sony Vaio VGN-Z790
Product Alias: VGN-Z750
Price: $1700 and up (depending customizations) [Amazon]
OS Used in Review: Windows Vista Home Premium 64-Bit Edition
Pros: Extremely light weight, attractive design, ddr3, decent video card, reasonably priced upgrades, wonderful keyboard, good battery life, HDMI Connectivity With Audio, Hybrid Graphics(Without Reboot) Eligible for the Windows 7 Upgrade
Cons: Extremely HIGH price to start with, expensive upgrades, no option to upgrade video card, Sony puts loads of 3rd party applications on Operating System, a little fragile, Weak Video card. No VM support (see miscellaneous section).
Key Takeaway: The VGN-Z790 earns its stripes as the executive laptop. This laptop is great for business trips but comes at an executive price as well.
Today I will be reviewing the VGN-Z790. This product has been advertised by Sony as their executive laptop. We will be seeing if that statement holds true today. Let’s begin…
Model: VAIO VGN-Z790
Processor: P8800 2.66GHz – 1066Mhz FSB – 3 MB L2 Cache
Color: Premium Carbon Fiber
Display: 13.1” widescreen XBRITE-DuraView LED Backlight (1600 x 900 resolution – 16:9 aspect ratio)
Memory: 4GB (2GBx2) DDR3-SDRAM-1066
Camera: Motion Eye camera/microphone
Wireless: Intel WiFi Link 5100AGN 802.11a/b/g/n 2.4 GHz; A2DP Bluetooth
Video Card: Hybrid: 256mb NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS / Intel GMA 4500MHD with Intel Clear Video Technology
Hard Drive: 320GB SATA Hard Disk Drive (7200RPM) G-Sensor Shock Protection
Optical Drive: CD-R/RW DVD-R/RW+- (DL) Plays/Burns CDs/DVDs
Battery: Standard and Extended
Connections: 2-USB 2.0, VGA, HDMI (Transmits Both Audio and Video), SD/Memory Stick Duo, Gigabit Ethernet Port 10/100/1000, modem jack, Firewire/IEEE/i.Link Connector (4pin), Headphone Jack, Microphone Jack, Express Card/34 slot
Sound: Intel High Definition audio
Weight: 3.3 pounds
Dimensions: 8.3” x 12.4” x 1.3” (Length x Width x Height – Inches)
Warranty: 1-Year Sony Warranty
Miscellaneous: Built in Biometric Fingerprint Sensor. Windows XP downgrade offered.
Now let’s take a look at the outside before we power this baby on.
Like all Vaios, the packaging is a cardboard container… need I say more? There you will find your laptop wrapped, some warranty/operating information, your laptop, the rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the AC adapter. Sony does not offer a recovery disk for their laptops so there is not one in this box. There isn’t anything that stands out in this package.
As we stated earlier, the product has several connections, despite its small size. You can view the photos to see them yourself and refer to the connections specification. We will also reiterate it right here for you.
2-USB 2.0, VGA, HDMI (Transmits Both Audio and Video), SD/Memory Stick Duo, Gigabit Ethernet Port 10/100/1000, modem jack, Firewire/IEEE/i.Link Connector (4pin), Headphone Jack, Microphone Jack, Express Card/34 slot.
- Our opinion about the connections:
The Z790 really has some solid connections. It feels like it was constructed very well and that they will not break. We would have liked one more USB port but, given the small laptop size, we know we cannot be too greedy.
The AC input can cause problems for some users because its located on the left side of the laptop. If your nearest outlet is to the right of you, much of you AC cord is wasted.
SD Memory Card Slot
Memory Stick Duo media slot (MagicGate Functionality)
HDMI Connection Output (Transmits Both Audio and Video)
USB 2.0 Port
Gigabit Ethernet Port 10/100/1000
Express Card/34 Slot
USB 2.0 Port
Firewire/IEEE/i.Link Connector (4pin)
As you can see, the VGN-Z790 has a beautiful design. Now let’s turn this bad boy on.
The VGN-Z790 has an easy to travel with, 13.1” screen enclosed in carbon fiber housing. This screen has a resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels and runs at a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio and has LED backlighting which is a welcomed feature, as it lowers power consumption, as well as the weight of the laptop. The XBRITE-DuraView technology protects the LCD screen from scratching and keeps it intact.
- Our opinion about the display:
The screen performed slightly above average and provided good LED backlighting. The DuraView technology gives a slight glossy feel to the LED screen but we are still worried about scratches. The screen provided substantial coloring as well. All in all we were very satisfied with the screen, especially considering how thin it is.
The Intel P8800 is a wonderful processor that Intel introduced Q2’09. Sony even offers the T9xxx and P9xxx series as well. The P8800 features 3MB of L2 Cache and runs at 2.66GHz and has a 1066 MHz FSB. It uses 45nm architecture and runs at 25w. It uses less wattage than the T series and promises more battery life (and delivers.) This processor has become a standard for mid-range and upper-range laptops. Sony also allows users to upgrade to the P9xxx series, and the T9xxx series, but the difference in performance is minimal.
- Our opinion about the processor:
This processor works like a charm with all laptops. The low power consumption gave us a longer battery life and even helped the laptop run cooler. This is one of the best processors you can get for a laptop.
Like previous models, that VGN-Z790 utilizes the same video card hybrid system. The system runs both the 256mb NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS and the Intel GMA 4500MHD with Intel Clear Video Technology. Sony’s patented hybrid system allows users to switch between video cards Without requiring a reboot like most hybrid systems do. Users can switch between the GeForce 9300M (to run games and more demanding applications) and the 4500MHD (to save a lot of power.) The 9300M is DirectX 10 compatible. The GMA 4500MHD is still a great card for general purposes and is rated to play Blu-ray.
- Our opinion about the video card:
The video card ran fine for being a laptop. We found that the GMA 4500MHD was able to run all the videos, and Windows Vista without a problem. When we ran high-definition video, and connected to a TV with the HDMI connector, we found that the GeForce 9300M GS was necessary. The GeForce card was able to run some games, but definitely not at full settings. We would have liked a newer video card in this laptop. We do understand that the video card is sacrificed when you build a laptop as small and light as this one. See how much battery life is saved by switching between the video cards,in the battery section below!
Benchmarks (GeForce 9300M GS Only)
3DMark 05 (1024×768): Min: 3198, Average: 3435, Max: 3896 points
3dMark 06 (1024×768): Min: 1465, Average: 1899, Max: 2227 points
Cinebench R10 (Shading): Min: 2200, Average: 2607, Max: 2921 points
Low Settings (640×480) No AA, low graphics: 305 FPS
Medium Settings (1024×768) no AA, medium graphics: 32 FPS
Higher Settings (1280×800) no AA, high graphics: 12 FPS
Low Settings (800×600) No AA, low graphics: 26 FPS
Medium Settings (1024×768) No AA, medium graphics: 15 FPS
Higher Settings (1024×768) no AA, high graphics: 3 FPS
Crysis Warhead Benchmark:
Low Settings (800×600) No AA, low graphics: 35 FPS
Medium Settings (1024×768) No AA, medium graphics: 16 FPS
Higher Settings (1024×768) no AA, high graphics: 5 FPS
World in Conflict Benchmark:
Low Settings (800×600) No AA, low graphics: 70
Medium Settings (1024×768) No AA, medium graphics: 21
Higher Settings (1024×768) no AA, high graphics: 9
Speakers and Sound Card:
The laptop uses a High Definition Intel audio card. That basically means you have a standard card. Also the speakers were standard as well.
- Our opinion about the speakers and sound card:
The audio was not very loud. This seems to be common with several of Sony’s cards. We found that even at max volume, it was hard to hear some things. Additionally the speakers did not have as much bass as we would have liked. With that said, the two issues are common among small laptops such as this so it is understandable.
Wireless and Networking:
The Gigabit Ethernet connection offers stunning connectivity speeds. Sony offers an optional EV-DO service for those of you who want internet access everywhere. The Intel WiFi Link 5100AGN card offers connectivity with 802.11a/b/g/n 2.4 GHz frequencies. The laptop also features Bluetooth technology and supports A2DP (stereo Bluetooth.) Sony also offers built in Sprint Wireless EV-DO and/or built in Verizon Wireless Mobile Broadband, depending on where you purchase it.
- Our opinion about the wireless and networking:
The wireless connectivity was stunning. Intel really does a good job here. We found that we were able to get wireless stronger and further on many wireless 802.11g devices, and were able to pick up new networks that didn’t exist before. This is really because of the Intel card, as I have had the same experience with other laptops using this wireless card. Good choice Sony. The Bluetooth ran normally as well, and the A2DP broadcasted well.
Keyboard and Mouse:
The VGN-Z790 uses a standard laptop keyboard with 82 keys. The keys are not flushed together, but are instead spread apart and coated as well. The touchpad is lightly coated and allows page scrolling as well (although there is no marking of this on the touchpad.) Below the touch pad are the finger sensor and the left and right click. This keyboard uses aluminum backing, making it a solid and light weight keyboard.
- Our opinion about the keyboard and mouse:
The keyboard was absolutely stunning. The keys are very responsive, and are easy to type on. They give you that satisfying feeling each time you press a button. This is probably the best keyboard I have ever typed on. The touchpad and buttons were standard and performed fine. If I could request one feature, it would be to add back-lighting to the keyboard. People also may not like that there is not a standalone “page down” or “page up” button. You can still perform this function, but you must click additional keys.
We found that the VGN-Z790 never seemed to have gotten at too hot of a temperature. Even when maxing -out video card/processor, we found that the laptop stayed at a manageable temperature and can still comfortably sit on your lap.
We ran the Mobile Mark 2007 Battery Test on the standard battery. With this test, we were able to achieve a battery life of 4 hours and 14 minutes with the GeForce card enabled. Using the Intel integrated graphics; we were able to achieve a battery life of 5 hours and 8 minutes. These are amazing scores.
Keep in mind that Sony offers an extended battery as well. This battery will make your laptop sit at an upward angle, which is a plus because it puts your laptop at a good typing angle and gives it more air underneath to cool. The downside is that it weighs significantly more and will not allow your laptop to have the streamline look. This battery will however, boost the battery life by approximately two hours.
Additionally, we used the most efficient processor option (P8800) in our Sony configuration. The P9000 Series consumes a little more power and T9000 series consumes a fair amount more of power. Additionally, if you choose to run Solid State drives, you will have an even longer battery life. We were extremely impressed with the battery results.
Note: In our Mobile Mark test, we use 50% Brightness and leave the Wireless/Bluetooth on. Typically companies conduct this test with Wireless/Bluetooth off and at 20-30% brightness. We find that those settings give a more accurate representation of battery life.
Our model worked very well. Sony offers “Premium Carbon Fiber” as one of their designs for this laptop. This is very misleading, as it visually looks like carbon fiber, but in no way is it tough like carbon fiber is. After doing some research, we found that Sony’s biggest problem seems to be cracked LED screens. With that be warned. We also think the bloat-ware slows down the operating system. This device also will survive a fall, but will likely receive some noticeable damage.
Unfortunately Sony decided not to support VM on their laptops. We are still unsure why they chose to do this. Keep this in mind while you are shopping for laptops. VM Support has been unlocked for various models VIA bios update. You may goto Sony’s website to check if one is released for you. Alternatively there has been a hack to unlock VM Support on the Sony Vaio.
Just to make things clear, this laptop as Centrino 2 technology, which gives it great battery life with little sacrifice to power.
I recommend making a recovery disk for your laptop when getting it. Sony does not offer them, and your computer is set up with a “recovery partition” on your hard drive. If your hard drive crashes, you will be left without your copy of Windows.
Sony offers high quality Samsung Solid State drives for this laptop. We highly recommend them if you are planning to get a solid state drive. These drives are smaller in size and run in a raid setup.
This laptop is available in three colors – Black, Bordeaux Red, and Premium Carbon Fiber ($50 extra dollars). Once again, the Carbon Fiber does not give you any added protection whatsoever, as it is just a visual thing.
This Sony Vaio VGN-Z790 is a powerhouse. It is one of the fastest laptops that I have ever seen for its size. There are many 13” laptops such as the Dell XPS13, but it is not nearly as light as this product. All in all we are extremely pleased. This laptop definitely lived up to its name, as the executive laptop. We would have liked a better video card as this card is a little out of date now.
In conclusion the Sony Vaio VGN-Z790 is a great laptop that gives executive performance and an executive price tag. We rate it a 4.5/5.0
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