Sony VAIO VGN-TX5XN/B

  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good

Pros

  • Very small and light
  • Built in fingerprint recognition
  • Integrated optical drive

Cons

  • Only two USB ports
  • Ridged sides to chassis make it hard to access some slots
  • Slender lid section offers little screen protection

Nobody could accuse Sony’s ultraportable VAIO VGN-TX5XN/B of drabness; nor could they deny that it has plenty of features, which include a fingerprint reader, an integrated optical drive, Windows Vista Business and a massive 100GB hard drive. But, as ever, this desirable Sony notebook comes at a hefty price. So is it worth the outlay?

Design

The best ultraportables manage to combine a super-slim, lightweight design with a wide-screen display, and that's precisely what Sony achieves here, building both into a compact notebook weighing just 1.25kg. With a footprint of 19.51cm by 27.24cm, the VAIO VGN-TX5XN/B does not take up a lot of space on the desk. It's a slim device, too, measuring just 2.1cm high.

The general design is typically VAIO, by which we mean very stylish indeed. The lid section and underside of the main body are black, the remainder (including the keyboard) is coloured in silver with a subtle purple tint.

The build might look stunning, but we do have some issues. One of these relates to the lid section which is extremely thin. This provides minimal protection for the display, which we were able to bend to an alarming degree when the lid is open.

The screen is hinged so that it opens around a raised, rounded section that houses a series of status indicators and control buttons; these are visible when the system is both open and closed. The buttons are AV controls, and can be used to control a CD or DVD in the integrated optical drive.

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There is an eject button for the optical drive tray here, which is a good thing as the button on the tray itself is difficult to access. Here we hit our second design issue. The drive eject button is tiny and hidden under a ridge that runs along the left, right and front edges of the casing. This ridge provides a few extra millimetres of width for the keyboard, but it does mean that you have to lift the system or lean down to see the various buttons and connectors on its sides. To find the optical drive eject button, you need to bring your eyes to the level of the tray, which is inconvenient.

The screen measures 11.1in. from corner to corner and has a native resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels. It's wide enough for you to have two working windows opened at once. This notebook runs Windows Vista Business, and a wide-screen display is essential if you want to adequately display any Sidebar Gadgets and maintain a working window simultaneously. The screen is not quite wide enough for two open documents and a column of Gadgets, though.

The TFT display sports Sony’s X-black layer which enhances visual clarity, although its glossy, reflective nature does mean that working with a light source behind you can be a little challenging.

The QWERTY keyboard includes a full-sized number row and a row of two-thirds-sized function keys. The return key is large, there's an 'inverted-T’ cluster of cursor control keys under the right-hand shift key (which is itself very large), while the spacebar is a full 84cm long, making it easy to hit with either thumb when touch-typing. The touchpad is quite large, and there are two very wide mouse buttons sitting beneath it.

Our only reservations about the keyboard concern the smooth feel of the silver keys, which sometimes makes them a touch slippery under the fingers. The wrist-rest area is also necessarily rather shallow, and we found it slightly uncomfortable for protracted use. Above the keyboard, a grilled area hides a pair of stereo speakers.

The VAIO VGN-TX5XN/B has a fingerprint reader, on the far right side of the wrist-rest area. This is not as well integrated into the overall system design as some we've seen, but it's commendably easy to use. When you first swipe it, the system reminds you that you’ve not yet enrolled any fingerprints, whereupon you are walked through the process.

Features

As noted above, the VAIO VGN-TX5XN/B runs Windows Vista Business. It comes with 1GB of DDR2 RAM in the form of 512MB on-board and 512MB in the single DIMM slot. This means that the maximum RAM complement is just 1.5GB, achieved by replacing the slot's 512MB module with a 1GB unit. Ideally, we would have liked to see a higher maximum RAM capacity. The Intel Core Solo Ultra Low Voltage U1500 processor runs at 1.33GHz and has 2MB of Level 2 cache. Intel’s 945GM Express chipset also handles the graphics via the integrated GMA 950 module, which can dynamically use up to 224MB of system memory for its purposes.

This notebook falls into the rare breed that comes with a 100GB hard drive. Although it has a large capacity, especially for an ultrportable, it spins at a relatively stately 4,200rpm. Wi-Fi is handled by Intel’s PRO/Wireless 3945ABG adapter and Intel also provides the Ethernet connector. Bluetooth (2.0+EDR) is also present.

We have already noted the presence of an optical drive in the VGN-TX5XN/B. This occupies almost all of the right edge of the casing, leaving room for just a VGA port towards the back edge. On the left side there are two USB 2.0 connectors, one at the back and one at the front. The latter is protected by a cover, under which you’ll also find the RJ-11 modem connector. The left-hand side also houses a single PC Card slot, which is extremely difficult to access with the VGN-TX5XN/B sitting on your desk. The ridge in the casing noted earlier also comes into play here as the PC Card slot is close to the bottom, and we found it impossible to access without first lifting the notebook off the desk. This is likely to prove irritating to anyone who needs to use a PC Card slot regularly.

The back edge is largely occupied by the Li-ion battery, but it's flanked on one side by the RJ-45 Ethernet connector and on the other by the mains power input and a four-pin FireWire (IEEE 1394) port.

The VGN-TX5XN/B's fascia is well populated. To the left are two vertically stacked flash card slots: at the top is a Memory Stick slot and beneath it is an SD card reader. Again, we found that the ridged chasis made accessing the SD card slot, in particular, a little fiddly. To the right of the front edge are microphone and headphone slots, plus there volume control buttons — two for manual adjustment and one for muting. There's also an on/off switch for the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios. Three lights on the wrist rest area tell you when the wireless components are on or off, and when the audio subsystem is muted.

Performance & battery life

Sony claims that the VGN-TX5XN/B's battery will power the system for up to 460 minutes (7h 40m). Unfortunately we were unable to test either battery life or performance as the industry-standard Vista-compatible benchmarks MobileMark 2007 and SysMark 2007 are not yet available in their final form. However, in our experience, Sony's battery life claims are not unreasonable. As far as performance is concerned, we're a little wary of the system's moderate Core Solo processor and 1.5GB RAM limit: 1GB as fitted on our review sample is the minimum you should accept when running Vista, even for mainstream business tasks, and you really want 2GB, which isn't possible with this machine.

Service & support

Sony's support offering includes online information on drivers and updates, manuals, specifications, memory upgrades, backup and restore, and accessories. You can contact the company via email, fax or phone, with telephone support available at National Rate for in-warranty products and at 35p a minute if your notebook is out of warranty. The standard warranty is only 12 months, which is on the short side for a business notebook.

Conclusions

The VAIO VGN-TX5XN/B will undoubtedly turn heads, as it looks absolutely stunning. It's also lightweight and very portable, and Sony is to be congratulated for finding room for an optical drive in such a small chassis without compromising either its weight or bulk.

However, the lid section does not afford a great deal of protection for the screen, and we feel that the ridged left, right and front edges are a serious design error. They make accessing some of the slots extremely tedious. We would have also liked separate on/off controls for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in the interests of battery conservation, and more USB ports.

This is an expensive ultraportable notebook, and given the hefty price tag we find it difficult to forgive the shortcomings.

 

Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Platform Technology Intel Centrino
Embedded Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 1.2) Security Chip
Operating System Microsoft Windows Vista Business
Processor / Chipset
CPU Intel Core Solo U1500 / 1.33 GHz
Cache L2 - 2 MB
Power Efficiency Ultra Low Voltage (ULV)
Data Bus Speed 533 MHz
Chipset Type Mobile Intel 945GMS Express
Features Enhanced SpeedStep technology, Execute Disable Bit capability, power-optimized processor system bus
Cache Memory
Type L2 cache
Installed Size 2 MB
RAM
Memory Speed 533 MHz
Configuration Features 1 x 512 MB + 512 MB (soldered)
Technology DDR2 SDRAM
Installed Size 1 GB
Memory
Max Supported Size 1.5 GB
Technology DDR2 SDRAM
Speed 533 MHz
Slots Qty 1
Empty Slots 0
Storage
Optical Drive DVD±RW (±R DL) / DVD-RAM fixed
Type none
Read Speed 24x (CD) / 8x (DVD)
Write Speed 24x (CD) / 8x (DVD±R) / 4x (DVD+R DL)
Rewrite Speed 16x (CD) / 6x (DVD-RW) / 8x (DVD+RW) / 5x (DVD-RAM)
Type portable
Display
Resolution 1366 x 768 (HD)
Widescreen Display Yes
Monitor Features X-black
Diagonal Size (metric) 28.2 cm
Display Resolution Abbreviation HD
Hard Drive
Spindle Speed 4200 rpm
Type HDD
Capacity 100 GB
Audio & Video
Graphics Processor Intel GMA 950
Memory Allocation Technology Dynamic Video Memory Technology 3.0
Sound Stereo speakers
Input
Type keyboard, touchpad
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11a/b/g, Bluetooth 2.0 EDR
Wired Protocol 10/100 Ethernet
Optical Storage
Drive Type DVD SuperMulti DL
Type DVD±RW (±R DL) / DVD-RAM
Form Factor fixed
Processor
CPU Type Core Solo
Processor Number U1500
Manufacturer Intel
Clock Speed 1.33 GHz
Floppy Drive
Type none
Battery
Technology Lithium ion
Technology lithium ion
Card Reader
Type card reader
Supported Flash Memory Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO, SD Memory Card
Connections & Expansion
Slots 1 x memory (0 free)
1 x PC Card (1 free)
Interfaces 1 x IEEE 1394 (FireWire) 4 pin FireWire
1 x headphones - output - mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm
1 x microphone - input - mini-phone mono 3.5 mm
1 x modem - phone line - RJ-11
1 x network - Ethernet 10Base-T/100Base-TX - RJ-45
2 x USB 2.0 4 pin USB Type A
1 x docking / port replicator
1 x display / video - VGA - 15 pin HD D-Sub (HD-15)
Memory Card Reader Yes (SD Card, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, Memory Stick Duo)
Header
Brand Sony
Product Line Sony VAIO
Model VGN-TX5XN/B
Localization German
Country Kits Germany
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC
Miscellaneous
Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 1.2) Security Chip, fingerprint reader
Features security lock slot (cable lock sold separately)
System
Platform Technology Intel Centrino
Notebook Type thin and light
Platform Windows
Hard Drive Capacity 100 GB
Embedded Security Trusted Platform Module (TPM 1.2) Security Chip
Security Devices fingerprint reader
Monitor
Diagonal Size 11.1 in
Networking
Max Transfer Rate 56 Kbps
Data Link Protocol Bluetooth 2.0 EDR, Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g
Wireless LAN Supported Yes
Dimensions & Weight
Width 10.7 in
Depth 7.7 in
Height 0.8 in
Audio Output
Compliant Standards Microsoft WSS 1.0/2.0
Manufacturer Warranty
Type 2 years warranty
Mainboard
Data Bus Speed 533 MHz
Chipset Type Mobile Intel 945GMS Express
Physical Characteristics
Weight 2.87 lbs
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Microsoft Windows Vista Business
Type Adobe Acrobat Standard 8.0, Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0, Sony SonicStage CP 4.2, VAIO Recovery Utility 2.6, WinDVD for VAIO 8.0, Adobe Reader 8.0, Microsoft Office 2003 Small Business Edition (Trial), Microsoft Works 8.5, Norton Internet Security 2007 (90 days subscription), Protector Suite QL 5, Roxio Easy Media Creator 9, Sony Click to DVD 2.6, Sony DVgate Plus 2.3
Video Output
Graphics Processor Intel GMA 950
Graphics Processor Series Intel GMA
Video Memory
Memory Allocation Technology Dynamic Video Memory Technology 3.0
Service & Support
Type 2 years warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty
Full Contract Period 2 years

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