When the Sony SZ series was first launched, it broke new ground as being the only notebook in the market to incorporate both an integrated and discrete graphics solution (GPU) in one package. There are two ranges available: The cheaper magnesium-alloy models and the more costly carbon-fibre units. With its slim design and strong performance, it is more than a match for the Fujitsu LifeBook S6410 premium, a magnesium-clad notebook which costs almost as much as the VAIO SZ carbon-fiber laptops. However, if you can do without the integrated GPU module, then the Dell XPS M1330 is a much cheaper alternative (not to mention that the XPS has a choice of colors as well).
For a 13.3-inch portable, the Sony VAIO VGN-SZ483N gives many a 12.1-inch model a run for their money when it comes to sleekness and heft. Thanks to its carbon-fibre body, this machine weighs just a hair under 1.7kg. What's more amazing is it manages to squeeze an optical drive and discrete GPU under the hood.
Speaking of the graphics system, the SZ series is possibly the only one to use the hybrid graphic system that offers an interesting compromise between the energy-saving integrated solution and the power of a discrete GPU. The integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 GPU is more than adequate for simple computing tasks without consuming excessive power, thereby giving a battery life of around 6.5 hours. But when it comes to intensive graphics rendering, a flick of a switch and a reboot allow the dedicated Nvidia GeForce Go 7400 processor to kick in and utilise 335MB of TurboCache VRAM to boost performance at the cost of increased power consumption.
Truth be told, the integrated graphics is not wholly responsible for the long uptime. Utilising an LED-backlit display, the 13.3-inch LCD provides a more even lighting and uses less power compared to conventional monitors. Sitting above the display is a built in Webcam, a feature that is present in almost all VAIO models.
We like that there is a fingerprint sensor/TPM security chip combo which gives peace of mind when it comes to data security. There are even ExpressCard and Type II PC card slots for hooking up to external devices. In a departure from its previous Memory Stick only stance, the flash card reader on this VAIO not only accepts the aforementioned format but includes SD/MMC and xD-Picture Card standards. It even takes to SDHC with ease, allowing the use of 4GB and above SD cards.
Possibly because the hybrid graphics system was built specifically with the Intel GMA 950 and Nvidia GeForce Go 7400 components in mind, the VAIO VGN-SZ483N is not in step with the Santa Rosa beat. This is a pity since the latest Intel GMA X3100 integrated solution is supposed to offer a significant performance boost with a new set of drivers while maintaining a low power signature. There is no news from Sony when, or if, a Santa Rosa VAIO SZ model will make it out of the door before the next platform upgrade.
Unlike Fujitsu models, which match the premium pricing with a three-year warranty, Sony offers only a one-year local coverage. If you have a bad track record for breaking your electronic toys, you may want a unit with more comprehensive coverage like the Dell XPS M1330.
With a strong security suite, hybrid graphics system and sleek design, the VAIO VGN-SZ483G is a product which sells itself. The only beef we have is its last-generation platform and rather miserly warranty terms.