Sony launches updated Centrino 2 Vaios

New Sony Vaio Centrino 2 range for the first time includes models designed specially for business users.

Sony has launched four new VAIO laptops, three of which are aimed specifically at business.

These business models are the VAIO BZ-Series, SR-Series, and Z-Series. At the launch, Sony said that they were designed for robustness to withstand the rigours of mobile usage. The business range also comes with dedicated accessories and extended warranties.

Explaining the move, Chris Trewhitt, business product manager, Sony, said that, "past perception was that we offered consumer chassis' with a business spin. We needed to provide more credible business offerings."

A key design point is that the displays are now placed at the back of the hinge, rather than on top, which the benefit of a larger screen in a smaller footprint.

Each of the new models also features LED backlit screens for increased brightness and reduced battery consumption. The standard RAM complement is now 4GB, even though only 32-bit Vista is supplied. As such, while the laptops can see all 4GB, only 3.5GB can be addressed by the operating system. Sony told IT PRO that supplying 4GB of RAM rather than 2GB was that so two DIMMS could be used, providing performance enhancing dual-channel support.

The BZ-Series is intended as a desktop replacement. The all-black machine is powered by a Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 running at 2.4GHz offers a 15.4in X-Black display, with a widescreen 1,400 x 900 resolution, with a 1.3-megapixel webcam in the rim. It also sports a splash-resistant keyboard, Trusted Platform Module hardware with fingerprint recognition, and hard drive drop protection. Intel's vPro technology for remote manageability is also included.

The SR Series is designed for mobility and weighs in at less than 2kg. Sony claimed it offers up to five hours of battery life. The CPU is a 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo P8400 while the 1,280 x 800 display is 13.3in in diameter. Highlights include multiple programmable shortcut switches.

The Z-series is the most eye-catching thanks to its small size, and weighs in at less than 1.5kg. Despite this it packs a punch, thanks to a 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo P9500, a 320GB hard disk and switchable grapics than enables the user to choose between higher performance from an Nvidia graphics chip or longer battery life from the integrated Intel graphics. On the latter, Sony claimed up to 5.5 hours staying power.

The Z-series is constructed of a mixture of carbon fibre for the lid and base, and brushed aluminium for the rest, and includes an integrated HSDPA modem is present.

Sony made much of the isolated keyboard' with keys spread far apart from each other to aid accurate typing.

The display has been shrunk from 13.3in of the older SZ to a 13.1in unit, which reduces the overall size of the machine. Sony has also bestowed it with a true 16:9 widescreen display with a 1,600 x 900 resolution.

IT PRO asked Trewhitt if Sony felt threatened by the rise of low-cost netbooks such as the Asus Eee PC and rivals. "Clearly it's an aggressive growing area but we're observing the market right now," he said. "If it remains low end we won't go into the market. We're happy with our business offerings that we have."

On the warranty side, Sony is offering two years as standard for the SR and and BZ and three years for the Z-series.

The laptops are available now from the Sony Style store from 850 excluding VAT for the SR and from 645 excluding VAT for the BZ. Pricing for the Z-series has yet to be announced but availability was said to be in two weeks.

On the consumer side, Sony also launched the VAIO FW, featuring a unique 16.4 inch size display, also with true 16:9 aspect ratio resolution of 1,600 x 900. This makes it very suitable for movie watching and has a Blu-ray drive.

Robbie Duncan, consumer laptop product manager at Sony, said that the dual lamp equipped top end FW-series offered, 2the ultimate screen experience", due to it being Sony's first display to recreate 100 per cent of the NTSC colour scale.

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