Review: Sony Vaio VGN-Z890, VGN-Z850, VGN-Z820
Last Updated on Monday, 8 March 2010 12:49 Written by Naota Sunday, 22 November 2009 08:31
NOTE: You can view our review of the Sony Vaio VGN-Z790 here. The VGN-Z790 is the older version of this laptop.
Product: Sony Vaio VGN-Z890
Product Alias: VGN-Z820
Price: $1799 and up (depending customizations) [See Amazon]
OS Used in Review: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit Edition
Pros: High quality construction. Attractive, Successful Patented Hybrid Graphics System (requires no reboot), lightweight and slim design. DDR3 Memory, great battery life, HDMI Connectivity with Audio Transmission, Windows 7, Very Portable.
Cons: Same outdated video card as previous VGN-Z790 model, highly priced. Lots of bloatware, slightly fragile design, quiet speakers.
Key Takeaway: The VGN-Z890 does not offer any substantial changes from its predecessor, the VGN-Z790, but when a laptop is already this good, it is understandable. This laptop is still one of the most powerful ones in his weight class.
Model: VAIO VGN-Z890
Processor: P9700 2.8GHz – 1066Mhz FSB – 6 MB L2 Cache
Color: Premium Carbon Fiber (Other colors available – see miscellaneous section at the bottom of the page)
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 (Requires no reboot to switch between both)
Hard Drive: 320 GB 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(audio/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.
The packaging of this product is within the same standard as the previous model. Depending on where you get it, it can be wrapped in a cardboard box, containing another cardboard box, and so forth. Like the previous model, there is not really anything of interest here… The laptop comes wrapped up, there is warranty/operating information, the rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and the AC Adapter.
Here I will again reiterate what the connections are. For being so small, the VGN-Z890 sure has a lot of useful connections.
2-USB 2.0, VGA, HDMI (audio/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 VGN-Z890 has all the connections you would ever need. These connections feel solid and are fit well into the laptop. On the positive side, we have an HDMI connection that delivers both audio and video, which is just excellent. On the negative side, there were only two USB ports. We would like to see three USB ports instead, and an ESATA connection would have been appreciated as well. But then again, you can only fit so many ports on such a small laptop.
SD Memory Card Slot
Memory Stick Duo media slot (MagicGate Functionality)
HDMI Connection Output (transmits audio/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)
The cord to recharge the battery is located on the side hinge of the laptop. We found this to be a bit of a pain, as you waste a lot of cord if your nearest outlet is located the opposite direction of your port.
Due to its small size of the screen, this laptop is easy to open up anywhere, including in airplanes (see how it caters to executives?) The VGN-Z890 has a 13.1” widescreen LED display with a resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels and has carbon fiber housing. This display runs at a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, which is perfect for watching movies. The LED backlighting keeps power consumption and weight at an all-time low, and the screen using XBRITE-DuraView technology. This technology provides additional scratch protection on your LCD screen – something very needed for such a small and slim laptop.
- Our opinion about the display:
We were very satisfied with the colors of the screen, and the LED backlighting as well. Just like the previous version, the DuraView technology gave the screen a glossy feel and gives the appearance to protect against low-pressure scratches. We still think this display is scratch-prone though. The colors were right-on and Windows 7 gives a nice feature to adjust the colors to your liking. According to Sony, one of the most common parts the break on their laptops are the screens, so be careful.
The Intel P9700 is one of the best, energy efficient processors for a laptop this size, costing an additional $150 to upgrade from the P8800. TheP9700 features 6mb of L2 Cache, and runs at 2.8GHz. It uses the 45nm architecture and runs at 28w, with a 1066 MHz FSB. We had the option to opt for the T9900 but to be honest, the difference is very minimal and the additional $400 jump is not worth it, especially considering the T9900 gets worse battery life, running at 35w.
- Our opinion about the processor:
This processor really is one of my favorites, when it comes to mobility and battery life. It runs games really well, and stays at a very reasonable temperature. There are really not many bad things to say about this processor. It consumed a little more battery than its predecessor, the P8800, but it was not noticeable.
Once again, Sony opts to use the same hybrid video card system as before. The VGN-Z890 uses the 256mb NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS and the Intel GMA 4500MHD with Intel Clear Video Technology. The patented hybrid system that Sony uses, allows you to switch between both video cards without having to restart your computer. The 9300M is able to run more demanding games, and applications, and the 4500MHD can run HD/Blu-Ray, while giving you a lot more battery life. Both cards are DirectX 10 compatible as well.
- Our opinion about the video card:
This card is not a bad one at all. Sony really needs to update their Z-Series with a new card though. All the other models have been getting tremendous upgrades, and are still a lot cheaper than the Z-Series. Okay… moving on.
The video card ran acceptably. The GMA 4500MHD ran the Blu-ray/HD Videos without frequent lag or stuttering. The drivers ran well on the new Windows 7 operating system as well. When we connected to a large HD TV using the HDMI connector, we found that it was necessary to use the GeForce video card. We could run many games on this laptop, but not at full settings. Seeing as how this card is getting outdated, there isn’t much more to say about it.
Benchmarks (GeForce 9300M GS Only)
3DMark 05 (1024×768): Min: 3311, Average: 3501, Max: 4019 points
3dMark 06 (1024×768): Min: 1615, Average: 1989, Max: 2357 points
Cinebench R10 (Shading): Min: 2270, Average: 2555, Max: 2870 points
Low Settings (640×480) No AA, low graphics: 308 FPS
Medium Settings (1024×768) no AA, medium graphics: 31 FPS
Higher Settings (1280×800) no AA, high graphics: 13 FPS
Low Settings (800×600) No AA, low graphics: 27 FPS
Medium Settings (1024×768) No AA, medium graphics: 15 FPS
Higher Settings (1024×768) no AA, high graphics: 3.5 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: 6 FPS
World in Conflict Benchmark:
Low Settings (800×600) No AA, low graphics: 70
Medium Settings (1024×768) No AA, medium graphics: 20
Higher Settings (1024×768) no AA, high graphics: 8
Speakers and Sound Card:
The VGN-Z890 is stocked with a standard Intel High Definition Audio Card and standard speakers. Not really much to say here…
- Our opinion about the speakers and sound card:
This laptop is pretty quiet. Even at full volume, we found it hard to hear for many movies and YouTube videos if there was any other noise is the room such as a fan. Additionally, the bass was almost non-existent. These audio complains are mainly due to the small size of the speakers and the laptop, but when you pay such a premium, the audio should at least be louder.
Wireless and Networking:
Sony offers many wireless and networking features. The VGN-Z890 comes equipped with a Gigabit Ethernet connection – offering blazing Ethernet speeds. The laptop features wireless N connectivity, and is able to connect to 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4 GHz frequencies using the Intel WiFi Link 5100AGN card. This laptop also supports Verizon Mobile Broadband as an option and supports Bluetooth technology with A2DP (stereo Bluetooth.)
- Our opinion about the wireless and networking:
We were very happy with what Sony did by electing for Intel technology. Intel’s WiFi Link cards get stunning wireless reception and transmission speed. The Bluetooth was standard, and so was the A2DP.
Keyboard and Mouse:
The keyboard on the VGN-Z890 is unique to most laptop keyboards. The keys are not flushed together, and are spaced out. There are 82 keys, all of which are coated. The keyboard uses aluminum backing, which keeps the laptop light and durable. Although it is not indicated, the touchpad allows side scrolling as well.
- Our opinion about the keyboard and mouse:
This is perhaps one of my favorite features on the entire laptop. This is one of the best keyboards I have ever used, so I am glad Sony has kept it throughout all their models. All taps of the keys give you a satisfying response. My only request would be to add back-lighting to the keyboard, as this is becoming a standard feature. 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 touchpad and buttons worked well too.
The VGN-Z890 stays at a manageable temperature, even when under heavy load. As long as you are wearing jeans, you can keep it on your lap without worrying about burning yourself. The processor and the video card do a good job at staying at manageable temperatures. Remember to regularly clean out the dust in your fan with compressed air to keep temperatures low and to help your laptop to live longer.
When running the Mobile Mark 2007 Battery Test on the standard battery we received very acceptable scores. We were able to reach a battery life of 4 hours and 2 minutes with the GeForce card enabled. With the Intel integrated graphics, we achieved a battery life 4 hours and 55 minutes.
Sony also offers an extended battery which weighs significantly more. On the positive side, the extended battery angles the laptop in a way that is great for typing, and airflow. We suspect that the battery will boost your life by approximately two hours.
It is important to note that in this test we used the P9000 series. You can expect lower battery life using the T9000 series, and slightly more using the P8000 series.
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.
The VGN-Z890 model we used today performed very well. We were slightly worried about the LED screen, as they can break and feel a little flimsy. Additionally the premium carbon color offering does not improve the laptop’s protection against scratches and damage and is purely visual. I would also like to reiterate that one of the biggest problems with these laptops is the screens cracking. The bloatware (additional third party applications added by Sony) also slows down the operating system as well. Windows 7 was designed to stop companies like Sony from putting too much bloatware on the systems, so it is more minimal.
Sony has now allowed VM support on many of their laptops. This can be done by updating the Bios or performing a hack to unlock VM Support on Sony Vaios. I was not really sure why they didn’t add them originally.
This laptop is available in three colors – Black, Bordeaux Red, Premium Carbon Fiber ($50 extra dollars). They use to have a “Dot matrix black” color, but they have now taken it off their website.
This laptop uses Centrino 2 technology, giving it power and great battery life.
Although we did not opt for a solid state drive here, the laptop uses a raid setup and runs two solid state drives at once. These drives are highly regarded, Samsung drives and are said to have great performance. They are also not the typical solid state drive size, so if you are interested in them, you may want to purchase them while configuring the laptop.
Overall we were very pleased the Sony Vaio VGN-Z890. It is one of the fastest mobile laptops for its weight-class and size. We were extremely pleased with the keyboard and design. This laptop was very similar to its predecessor, and we had to dock points for that. Due to the fact that this laptop is still an excellent choice for executive, and travelers, I rate it a 4.25/5.
We have concluded that this laptops is the same as the Z790 series except it has Windows 7. We still wanted to review it because we had the pleasure of testing out a new processor.
We will be offering a comparison article between the vgn-z790 and vgn-z890 very soon! Look out for it!
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