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It's not a machine that's suitable for long-term work, but if you're after a great-looking truly portable laptop, then the VAIO T27 fits the bill nicely.

The T27 is undeniably one of the cutest little ultraportables on the market today. In fact, if you've got the opportunity, it's hard to resist the urge just to pick it up and look at it, as it's something of a marvel of design in that it matches so much functionality in PC terms up to a case that's still attractive to look at, not to mention tiny.

If your prime criteria for notebook purchases is that you have a laptop that doesn't look like the run of the mill, then we'd suggest you need a broader outlook -- but still, the T27 fits the bill nicely. It weighs in at a scant 1.38kg including battery, and measures only 272 by 34 by 205 millimetres, with a silver finish that Sony refers to as "Frosty Silver". The flipside of cramming as much functionality into the T27 as Sony has done is that there's virtually no surface that isn't crammed with ports, buttons or plugs -- there are a combined fifteen buttons, ports or interfaces around the main body of the notebook. That's more of an aesthetic issue when you've got other peripherals plugged in, however; when not in use the common ports don't stand out that much. It's clear that Sony intends the T27 to be something of a flagship for the VAIO line, and, as such, they haven't skimped on the essentials, or, for that matter, the little luxuries, although that's rather amply reflected in the notebook's hefty $3,999 asking price. For that much money, though, you get an ultraportable with integrated dual-format DVD burner, an Ultra Low Voltage Intel Pentium M 753 Processor (running at 1.20GHz), 512MB of memory, 60GB of hard drive space split across a primary 15GB partition and a 45GB data partition and integrated wireless in both Bluetooth and 802.11g flavours.

About the only arguable weak point in the T27's arsenal is that it only uses the onboard Intel 855GME chipset, rather than a dedicated graphics processor. Then again, at this size and with this size keyboard, the T27 was never much of a gaming/3D rendering machine anyway. It does make quite a good portable DVD player, thanks to the 10.6" display's widescreen aspect and sharp 1280x768 pixel display. The T27 resolutely resisted all of our efforts to benchmark it, failing repeatedly to run Bapco MobileMark 2002 in either its performance or battery testing reader modes, so it's a little hard to definitively compare it to other ultraportables in a strict numerical sense. Still, in terms of PC performance, we found little to be concerned about. The T27 swiftly installed applications, surfed the Net and copied discs without complaint. The arrangement of hard drive partitions may not be entirely to your liking, as while it does allow for system restores without impinging on user data, if you've got applications that will only run from the primary partition, you may find it a little cramped within a 15GB environment that has to house Windows XP, Norton AntiVirus and the usual run of Sony-branded applications already.

In the absence of hard battery life benchmarking data it's likewise hard to assess the T27. Sony claims that it's capable of up to 8.5 hours of battery life -- that's presumably with the screen resolution turned right down, no wireless and little to no optical disc activity. The interesting thing about that claimed battery life, even if it's only half accurate in real world conditions, is that while it indicates a unit with plenty of staying power, whether you'll have staying power with the T27 is debateable. It's no real fault of the design of the notebook, but the combination of a very small, high resolution screen and a shrunken keyboard make for a unit that is quite physically and optically challenging after only a very short period of work. However, this effect can be mitigated somewhat by fiddling with things like font size settings.

If you regularly need to take small trips -- like, say, a train or bus to work -- then the T27 would make an excellent portable notebook solution, as long as you then have the capability to plug in an external keyboard and monitor once you hit the office. If you're looking for something to use for longer stretches than this, however, we'd suggest a long trial of a T27 in-store before plunking down your cash, as the physical obstacles this notebook presents aren't tiny ones, and ergonomics is something that nobody should play fast and loose with.

Company: Sony
Price: AU$3999
Phone: 1300 720 071