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Review: Sony Vaio VGN-Z890, VGN-Z850, VGN-Z820

NOTE: You can view our review of the Sony Vaio VGN-Z790 here. The VGN-Z790 is the older version of this laptop.

Author: Naota
Product: Sony Vaio VGN-Z890
Product Alias: VGN-Z820
Price: $1799 and up (depending customizations) [See Amazon]
Date: 11/22/2009
Rating: 4.25/5
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Cons: Same outdated video card as previous VGN-Z790 model, highly priced.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.

VGN-Z890 Review

VGN-Z890 Review

Notebook Specifications:

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.

VGN-Z890 Review: Connections

VGN-Z890 Review: Connections

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.

VGN-Z890 Review: Connections

VGN-Z890 Review: Connections

In Front:
SD Memory Card Slot
Memory Stick Duo media slot (MagicGate Functionality)

Left Side:
Disc Drive
HDMI Connection Output (transmits audio/video)
USB 2.0 Port
VGA Output

Right Side:
Gigabit Ethernet Port 10/100/1000
Express Card/34 Slot
Modem Jack
USB 2.0 Port
Firewire/IEEE/i.Link Connector (4pin)
Headphone Jack
Microphone Jack

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.

VGN-Z890 Review: Display

VGN-Z890 Review: Display

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.

Video Card:
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

VGN-Z890 Review: 3dmark 05 Benchmark

VGN-Z890 Review: 3dmark 05 Benchmark

3dMark 06 (1024×768): Min: 1615, Average: 1989, Max: 2357 points

VGN-Z890 Review: 3dmark 06 Benchmark

VGN-Z890 Review: 3dmark 06 Benchmark

Cinebench R10
(Shading): Min: 2270, Average: 2555, Max: 2870 points

VGN-Z890 Review: Cinebench R10 (Shader) Benchmark

VGN-Z890 Review: Cinebench R10 (Shader) Benchmark

F.E.A.R. Benchmark:
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

VGN-Z890 Review: F.E.A.R. FPS Benchmark

VGN-Z890 Review: F.E.A.R. FPS Benchmark

Crysis Benchmark:
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

VGN-Z890 Review: Crysis FPS Benchmark

VGN-Z890 Review: Crysis FPS Benchmark

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

VGN-Z890 Review: Crysis Warhead FPS Benchmark

VGN-Z890 Review: Crysis Warhead FPS Benchmark

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

VGN-Z890 Review: World in Conflict FPS Benchmark

VGN-Z890 Review: World in Conflict FPS Benchmark

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.

VGN-Z890 Review: Keyboard and Touchpad

VGN-Z890 Review: Keyboard and Touchpad

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.

VGN-Z890 Review: Touchpad

VGN-Z890 Review: Touchpad

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.

Quality Control:
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.

VGN-Z890 Review: Laptop Colors

VGN-Z890 Review: Laptop Colors

Miscellaneous Information:
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.

VGN-Z890 Review: Sideview

VGN-Z890 Review: Sideview

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!


  1. Comments  Review of the Sony Vaio VGN-Z890 | Geek Montage   |  Sunday, 22 November 2009 at 8:47 PM

    […] have finally put up my review of the Sony Vaio VGN-Z890. This is an amazing laptop, and I know you all will be interested to hear about it.The wait is […]

  2. Comments  Vaio Vgn-Z890 Vgn-Z790 and Vgn-SR590 reviews available | Geek Montage   |  Sunday, 22 November 2009 at 8:49 PM

    […] You can view the review of the VGN-Z790 here. NOTE: You can view the review of the VGN-Z890 […]

  3. Comments  rw   |  Monday, 23 November 2009 at 4:25 PM

    Thanks so much for reviewing this laptop.

  4. Comments  Naota   |  Monday, 23 November 2009 at 5:35 PM

    No problem! Comments like this really help motivate me to write additional reviews and tell me that people actually care/want to read them. =)

  5. Comments  MC   |  Monday, 23 November 2009 at 6:30 PM

    I also found this really helpful – just wish there were a “takeaway” summary comparing this particular series/model to similar laptops in its weightclass, to help me make a decision. thanks!

  6. Comments  Naota   |  Monday, 23 November 2009 at 6:38 PM

    Thanks for the input! I am in the process of getting that information together. Since we are a relatively new site it’ll take a little time. But if you have any questions on which laptops you are debating between, I am more than glad to be of help to you.

  7. Comments  Diana   |  Saturday, 28 November 2009 at 3:04 AM

    Thanks for the review. The test on the battery life, was that with wireless connectivity and bluetooth on?

  8. Comments  Naota   |  Saturday, 28 November 2009 at 6:12 PM

    Great question Diana. I have just updated the article to include that information. We keep wireless and bluetooth on. We have the display at 50% brightness as well.

  9. Comments  Sony Vaio VGN-Z890 Review, VGN-SR590 Review | Geek Montage   |  Sunday, 29 November 2009 at 9:18 PM

    […] like it but things have been quite busy at GM! We have several notebook reviews coming up (vaio vgn-z890, vaio vgn-sr590, HP Envy and more!) We have also added a “Top Posts” widget on the […]

  10. Comments  CindyLea   |  Thursday, 10 December 2009 at 2:16 PM

    Thank you VERY much. Quite helpful.

  11. Comments  Oliver   |  Thursday, 10 December 2009 at 11:46 PM

    Good job, Naota. It’s quite a detailed review. I really love your work!

    I’m making my decision to buy this model but I just happened to see another similar model Z850 on Best Buy’s below link. Do you think I should buy that model since it’s quite cheaper though the HDD is just 5000 rpm.

    Another question, I’m a little worried about the screen cracking. Is it that fragile? If that’s the case, I might reconsider.

    Thanks a lot! 🙂||536f6e79~~nf518||2431323030202d202431373939&list=y&nrp=15&sc=abComputerSP&ks=960&usc=abcat0500000&sp=%2Bcurrentprice+skuid&list=y&iht=n&st=processingtime%3A%3E1900-01-01

  12. Comments  Naota   |  Saturday, 12 December 2009 at 7:37 AM

    Thank you for the wonderful comments Cindy, I appreciate it!

    Hi Oliver. I can tell you that the bottleneck for your laptop will be the hard drive and you will get some performance decreases. This laptop isn’t all that fragile and has a carbon fiber housing but it’s always good to be cautious.

    If you are a student, you can get a discount on this laptop, thus making it cost $1673.99 starting, and then you can do a few minor upgrades. Sony has a Student Discount program here:

    I would like to say that if you got it at BestBuy, their service plans are amazing and include replacing the battery each year and you wouldn’t have to worry about the screen. It is a great price too.

    What are you trying to do with this laptop? If you let me know I can give you a better answer. As of right now, if you aren’t a student I would most likely go with BestBuy’s just because it already comes with 4gb of RAM and cause I would get the service plan… I would be sad that I wouldn’t get to choose a different color option though. =)

  13. Comments  Anonymous   |  Thursday, 24 December 2009 at 3:04 AM

    hi the testing Was in the Ideal situation or what?

  14. Comments  Naota   |  Monday, 28 December 2009 at 10:05 PM

    Hi Anonymous. Can you be a little more specific in your question? Thanks!

  15. Comments  mojo man   |  Thursday, 07 January 2010 at 8:13 PM

    Great review. I am torn between this and the Fujitsu 8120 which is simialr in price but maybe lighter and screen is 12 inches..your thoughts ?

    Thnaks for doing this..just a great source of info


  16. Comments  Naota   |  Friday, 08 January 2010 at 7:47 AM

    Hi Mojo. I would love to give you further insight, but I have never had the pleasure of handling a single Fujitsu laptop. Currently, Fujitsu laptops are few in numbers so there is not much information about them either. (I just tried to find out user opinions on the Fujitsu so that I could give you a better answer!) With Sony, you know what you are getting. With Fujitsu, I wouldn’t be so sure. That is not to say the laptop is bad. It just doesn’t have nearly as much information about itself.

    Anyways, I am sorry I couldn’t answer your question. Please let me know what you decide either way. Thanks for reading the article!

  17. Comments  The Sony Vaio VGN-Z51XG/B, VPCZ11X9E/B and VGN-Z51WG/B | Geek Montage   |  Sunday, 21 February 2010 at 3:23 AM

    […] will all benchmark equally against the Vaio VGN-Z790 (P8800 Processor) and the Vaio VGN-Z890 (P9700 Processor). […]

  18. Comments  vaio series z   |  Friday, 02 April 2010 at 12:45 AM

    […] Information and Images Need more information? You can view the full Sony Vaio VGN-Z890 Review here. I highly recommend visiting it if you would like deeper detail, photos, and more benchmarks. […]

  19. Comments  Felix Fu   |  Thursday, 01 July 2010 at 7:10 AM

    Your review is very helpful and I love it. Thanks a lot.

  20. Comments  ras   |  Saturday, 16 October 2010 at 1:44 PM

    I used the review to set a max bid price for this laptop on eBay. The concerns expressed in this column kept me from overpaying. Thanks!

  21. Comments  Review of the Sony VAIO VGN-Z890   |  Wednesday, 11 May 2011 at 3:55 PM

    […] Information and Images Need more information? You can view the full Sony Vaio VGN-Z890 Review here. I highly recommend visiting it if you would like deeper detail, photos, and more benchmarks. […]

  22. Comments  Review of the Sony VAIO VGN-Z890 | Ddr3 Sdram 1066 Mhz   |  Monday, 10 October 2011 at 2:42 AM

    […] Information and Images Need more information? You can view the full Sony Vaio VGN-Z890 Review here. I highly recommend visiting it if you would like deeper detail, photos, and more benchmarks. […]

  23. Comments  Review of the Sony VAIO VGN-Z890 « 64 Gb Ipod Touch   |  Tuesday, 13 December 2011 at 6:05 PM

    […] Information and Images Need more information? You can view the full Sony Vaio VGN-Z890 Review here. I highly recommend visiting it if you would like deeper detail, photos, and more […]

  24. Comments  Houshmand Ataei   |  Saturday, 31 March 2012 at 10:08 AM

    I have a laptop computer (Sony VGN-Z820D vaio). I life in Isfahan city ,Iran and need Drivers for Win 7 32 bit .Please help me.

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