Sony VAIO PCG-TR1MP

  • Editors' rating
    8.2 Excellent

Pros

  • Compact case
  • long battery life
  • integrated DVD/CD-RW drive
  • built-in digital camera
  • extra-bright display.

Cons

  • Internal bay isn't swappable
  • keyboard and mouse may be too small for some users.

Ultralight yin and yang blend perfectly in Sony’s VAIO TR1MP. This 1.45kg ultraportable is small enough to take a permanent place inside your briefcase, yet large enough to include all of the features that frequent travellers need. For example, it has an integrated 56Kbps modem and a wired Ethernet connection for sending email and surfing the Web; two USB 2.0 ports for connecting external peripherals such as keyboards and printers; and a relatively big battery. Sony has even squeezed in extras such as a slimline DVD/CD-RW drive, 802.11b wireless networking, Bluetooth and a tiny digital camera. Considering all that the VAIO TR1MP offers, even for £1,531.06 (ex. VAT; £1,799 inc. VAT), it’s one of the coolest ultraportables to ship this year.

Design
The VAIO TR1MP sports the most impressive notebook design we've seen from Sony in a while. The system's 27cm wide by 18.8cm deep by 3.47-3.58cm high case is reminiscent of the old VAIO C1, although the TR1MP's slightly larger footprint allows for a bigger and more comfortable keyboard. The keyboard, touchpad and two mouse buttons are still too small for hours of intense typing, but they won't cause your fingers to cramp when used on short stints. The keys themselves feature a futuristic font that gives the whole notebook a slick look. Considering it includes an integrated DVD/CD-RW drive, the VAIO TR1MP weighs a reasonable 1.45kg. We'd be even happier if you could swap the drive out for other modules, such as a second battery, but unfortunately, the bay is fixed. At least the primary battery lasted an exceptionally long time in our labs’ tests. The AC adapter is also easy to slip into your bag, thanks to its very slim footprint. The VAIO TR1MP uses Sony's proprietary Onyx-black LCD technology, which makes its 10.6in. display appear especially bright and clear. The screen’s 1,280 by 768 native resolution lets you see fine graphic detail in the shots you take with the integrated digital camera, but the resolution also makes text frustratingly small on such a petite screen. The extra-cool camera -- a holdover from the C1 -- is built into the edge above the screen. Its 180-degree rotation lets you snap pictures in front, above or behind the system. Two convenient buttons to the right of the display help you capture and zoom, while two additional volume buttons control the average-sounding speakers located above the screen. The system comes with all the requisite ports and slots. The left edge contains VGA, i.LINK (FireWire) and one USB port, along with a slot for Memory Stick media cards. On the opposite edge there are headphone, microphone, 56K modem and Ethernet ports, along with one Type II PC Card slot. The front edge features an on/off switch for the built-in wireless functionality -- an internal 802.11b (Wi-Fi) Mini-PCI card and a Bluetooth module.

Features
The VAIO TR1MP includes the three essential Centrino parts: Intel's ultra-low-voltage 900MHz Pentium M processor, the 855GM chipset with integrated Extreme 2 graphics, and the PRO/Wireless 2100 802.11b Mini-PCI card. As well as wireless networking, wireless cable replacement is supported by a built-in Bluetooth 1.1 module. The VAIO TR1MP also ships with a decent-size 30GB hard drive, an integrated DVD/CD-RW drive, a 10.6in. display and 256MB of 266MHz SDRAM. The device supports up to 1GB of memory, but you'll have to add it on your own, since you can't customise your system when you buy. Note that the integrated graphics module can use between 8 and 64MB of system memory for its own purposes. The VAIO TR1MP comes preloaded with the Windows XP Professional, and, as always, Sony piles on the cool multimedia software. The company's own DVGate handles movie-making responsibilities. SonicStage is on hand for music-related tasks, while PictureGear Studio helps with photo editing. Adobe’s Premiere LE and Photoshop Elements lend a hand with video and photo work.

Performance & battery life
The VAIO TR1MP is based on Intel’s ultra-low-voltage Pentium M processor, supported by 256MB of RAM, and has a well-specified 4,300mAh battery. Therefore, you’d expect reasonable but not stellar performance, and good battery life -- and that’s pretty much what you get. Under Business Winstone 2001, which runs a suite of mainstream business applications, the TR1MP returns a score of 37.8. Performance is on a par with slower Pentium M systems such as Dell’s 1.3GHz Latitude D400, but is perfectly adequate for everyday tasks. We couldn’t get the high-end application-based Content Creation Winstone 2002 benchmark to complete, and it’s fair to say that this system has neither the processing power, memory or screen space to run seriously demanding applications. In the past, Sony notebooks have generally disappointed when it comes to battery life, but we’re pleased to report that the TR1MP is an honourable exception. The combination of an ultra-low-voltage 900MHz Pentium M chip and a decent-capacity 4,300mAh Li-ion battery deliver an impressive 3 hours and 46 minutes under BatteryMark 4.01 in desktop mode. If you were to tweak the power management settings (lower screen brightness, in particular), you might even approach the 5.5 hours that Sony claims for the system.

Service & support
Sony offers adequate service and support. The VAIO TR1MP comes with a one-year, parts-and-labour warranty, but you must send your system to a Sony repair centres for fixes. If you want to extend the warranty period, you’ll have to pay.

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