Review Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Notebook

Entertainment Notebook with blu ray drive

Sony's Vaio VGN-FZ31Z is equipped with a built-in blu ray drive, an HDMI port, and a very bright 15.4 inch X-black display. It is designed as entertainment centre and supports watching HD videos from its Blu-ray drive. The T8300, an Intel Core2 Duo CPU, the fast GeForce T8300M GS graphics card, and 4 GB RAM ensure high performance. These powerful components are inside a stylish high-quality case which is made of magnesium parts.

Review Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Notebook

The Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z is designed to provide powerful mobile performance. It is a 15.4 inch multimedia middle-class notebook, a general-purpose computer with recognizable thin case. Being a successor of the FZ21 series Sony hardly changed the look. This notebook also has an elegant, black and silver finish.

We reviewed the predecessor models a while ago. Details are available in the user review of SonyVaio VGN-FZ11M and the review of the Sony Vaio FZ21E. This article covers whether and how much the Sony notebook was changed  within the  upgrade of the models.

Case

Alike the predecessor model, also the Vaio VGN-FZ31Z has one dominating colour: silver. Due to its tapered front edge, this notebook, which is actually 35.5 cm x 25.4 cm x 3.5 cm big and weighs 2.8 kg, appears to be smaller and lighter. Nevertheless, the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z does not belong to the heaviest 15.4 inch notebooks. It's rather a compact multimedia notebook with 15.4 inch display.

The square-edged lid is supported by self-locking hinges. This locking system works flawless. However, the opening angles is limited to 140° - this is a disadvantage if you want to work with a notebook stand. Overall, the lid of the reviewed notebook appeared to be rather solid. The workmanship is also good. Only the silver finish seems to be rather sensitive.

Otherwise, the case of the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z is very flexural rigid and creaks only a little bit if you pick the notebook up. The workmanship is good and precise. Alike in the reviews of predecessor notebooks the haptics of the case is again good and strikes the high-quality impression. Unfortunately the battery is rather loose and, therefore, clatters, which is a rather frequent problem.

Interface Equipment

We review - case

The interface equipment of the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z is as we are used to. It is out of all reason that a fast Gigabit-LAN interface is still missing. However, a really fast wireless LAN is available: Because it supports Draft-n standard transfer rates of up to 300 MBit/s are possible. Fast Bluetooth v2.0 EDR also belongs to the standard equipment. The HDMI port and the blu ray drive allow watching HD films. Furthermore, there are three USB ports, FireWire, VGA, S-Video, the usual audio ports, a memory stick reader, and an SD card reader built-in.

Front Side: Indicator LEDs, Wireless Switch, Memory Stick Readerchalter, Memory Stick slot, SD card slot
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Front Side: Indicator LEDs, Wireless Switch, Memory Stick Readerchalter, Memory Stick slot, SD card slot
Back Side: 100-MBit-LAN, Modem, Battery
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Back Side: 100-MBit-LAN, Modem, Battery
Left Side: Kensington Lock, Vent holes, HDMI, S-Video-Out, VGA, 1x USB-2.0, i.LINK (IEEE1394, FireWire) S400 interface, ExpressCard/34
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Left Side: Kensington Lock, Vent holes, HDMI, S-Video-Out, VGA, 1x USB-2.0, i.LINK (IEEE1394, FireWire) S400 interface, ExpressCard/34
Right Side: Headphones, Microphone, 2x USB-2.0, Blu-ray Drive, Power Connector
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Right Side: Headphones, Microphone, 2x USB-2.0, Blu-ray Drive, Power Connector

Input Devices

Right above the keyboard the Sony Vaio VGN provides a number of hotkeys. These are an AV-mode, a play, pause, stop, previous, and next key. Together with the keys for media control the audio video interface is very complete. It is possible to play CDs, DVDs, and multimedia files stored on memory stick and SD cards.

The keyboard with 87 keys is one which is already well-known, because it is also used in other Sony models. The haptics of this input device is a matter of taste. An advantage is the standard keyboard layout, which allows even unexperienced user to type without problems. However, we didn't like the clattering, especially of the big keys (enter, space bar). Furthermore, the right area clearly gives and the area of the fan is about 1 mm higher.

Due to a slightly roughened surface, the 7.0 cm x 4.2 cm touchpad is user-friendly and reacts precisely. Compared to other touch pads of the same category, the small touch pad buttons emit a clear and rather loud noise when clicked. A marked scroll are is also missing.

Keyooard
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Keyboard
Touchpad
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Touchpad

Display

Colour Diagram Mains Operation
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z: Colour Diagram Mains Operation

Although this 15.4 inch X-black display with 16:10 aspect ratio in wide-screen format has a resolution of just 1280x800, which is already standard in this notebook category today, it scores points by a very high luminance of 337.7 cd/m² in average. This gives a rating of 96.3%, which is very good. A black value of 0.6 cd/m² and the maximum brightness give a contrast of 643:1, which is also very good. This is not a surprise, because the X-black-LCD of the VGN-FZ31Z is not only lighted by one lamp as standard displays, but with two especially powerful lamps.

But, this X-black display has also some disadvantages: It is not evenly illuminated and if you display dark or completely black backgrounds, the background lightening is still visible. Especially if the background is black, the display is due to the dual lamp lightening clearly brighter close to the lower display frame. So, the illumination is just 80.2%, which is just good. But, this X-black display has technically speaking a very linear colour representation and a very big colour space.

311.1
cd/m²
317.1
cd/m²
309.6
cd/m²
316.4
cd/m²
375.3
cd/m²
320.1
cd/m²
351.1
cd/m²
386.0
cd/m²
352.4
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Maximum: 386.0 cd/m²
Average: 337.7 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 80 %
Black: 0.6 cd/m²
Contrast: 626:1

Directly compared to our high-quality reference screen, a 20 inch MVA-LCD Viewsonic VP2030b, by looking at reference pictures, we were not pleased that the tint changed with the brightness level. At maximum brightness we felt that the picture is too red. When we turned the brightness level down, the picture appeared to have a green tint. So, skin colour in demanding portraits is neither realistic nor reproducible. The X-black panel of the Vaio VGN-FZ31Z is therefore not ideal for demanding photo editing, but, can be recommended for watching films, multimedia applications and games. Here it is less obvious that there is a tint and we liked the vivid and brilliant colours.

Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Viewing Angles
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Viewing Angles
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Viewing Angles
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Viewing Angles
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Viewing Angles
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Viewing Angles
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Viewing Angles
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Viewing Angles

Performance

Being equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T8300 CPU (2,4 GHz, 3 MByte L2-Cache, and FSB800) and an nVidia GeForce 8600M GS the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z is indeed a good notebook for multimedia and office work. 5590 points in the PCMark05 benchmark are sufficient to call its application performance very good. In Maxon's Cinebench R10 the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z achieves a CB-CPU value of 4905 in 'Rendering Multiple CPUs'.

CPU-Z-Information of the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z
CPU-Z-Information of the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z
CPU-Z-Information of the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z
CPU-Z-Information of the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z
CPU-Z-Information of the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z

CPU-Z-Information of the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Notebook.

The pre-installed operating system is a 32-bit version of Vista Home Premium. Despite 4 GB RAM, provided by two fast DDRII-667 (PC5300) modules with a capacity of 2 GB each, only about 3 GB can be utilized with this operating system. Due to the big RAM capacity and the powerful processor also graphically demanding applications and multimedia are no problem. The rather low rating in the Vista performance index of 4.5 is caused by the slow 300 GB hard disk (HDD).

GPU-Z
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z: GPU-Z
Cinebench R10
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z: Cinebench R10
Vista Performance Index
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z: Vista Performance Index

The reviewed VGN-FZ31Z is equipped with a GeForce 8600M GS graphics card by nVidia. The GeForce 8600M GS has 256 MB fast GDDR3 video memory and is regarding performance a little less powerful than the GeForce 8600M GT, the Go 7600 GT, and ATI's counterparts, the HD2700 respectively the HD 2600. The VGN-FZ31Z achieves 2830 points in the 3DMark06 benchmark. In the 'shading' test of Cinebench's R10 OpenGL benchmark it achieves 2880 points. So, the FZ31Z achieved a rating of 80% in our rating of the gaming performance, which is good.

Disk Management Console
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z: Disk Management Console
HD Tune
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z: HD Tune
DVD Info
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z: DVD Info

As already mentioned above the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z is equipped with a big 300 GB SATA hard disk by Fujitsu. The MHX2300BT comes with 8MB Cache, which is typical for this category, but, its revolution speed is only 4200 rpm, which is rather slow. Therefore, also the average transfer rate, measured with HDTune, of 32.5 MB/s is rather low for a current 2.5 inch notebook hard disk. So, the MHX2300BT is too slow and therewith unfortunately not an ideal choice for multimedia, games, and videos. According to Sony the built-in Blu-ray drive, a Matshita BD-MLT UJ-200S should be able to burn single-layer BD-Rs and BD-REs with double speed and dual-layer media with single speed.

Cinebench R10
 SettingsValue
 Rendering Single 32Bit2704 Points
 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit4905 Points
 Shading 32Bit2888 Points
Windows Vista Experience Index
 SettingsValue
 Processor5.3 Points
 Memory5.1 Points
 Graphics5.9 Points
 Gaming graphics5.3 Points
 Primary hard disk4.5 Points
PC Mark
PCMark 055590 points
Help
300 GB - 4200 rpm
Transfer Rate Minimum: 17.8 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 42.2 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 32.5 MB/s
Access Time: 19.7 ms
Burst Rate: 76.3 MB/s
CPU Usage: 2.2 %

Gaming Performance

The GeForce 8600M GS by nVidia is only limited fit for current demanding PC games. But, older games like, e.g., Battlefield 2, Doom 3, and F.E.A.R are up to the native resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels and high picture quality no problem for the GeForce 8600M GS. New games, like Crysis, and World in Conflict (WiC) run only smoothly with low details.

In the Futuremark 3DMark06 this notebook achieves an average of 2830 points with the nVidia ForceWare 101.28 (7.15.11.0128) driver. So, the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z is only appropriate for those who only play sporadically. Due to the GeForce 8600M GS the video performance is sufficient for multimedia and video applications. The same is true for demanding HD media. However, also here the slow hard disk is a disadvantage.

3D Mark
3DMark 2001SE17705 points
3DMark 037499 points
3DMark 054732 points
3DMark 06
 1280x800
2830 points
Help
Doom 3
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1024x768Ultra, 0xAA, 0xAF66.7 fps
 800x600High, 0xAA, 0xAF101.1 fps
 640x480Medium, 0xAA, 0xAF102.5 fps
 640x480Low, 0xAA, 0xAF131.6 fps
Crysis - CPU Benchmark
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1280x800High, 0xAA, 0xAF4.21 fps
 1280x800Medium, 0xAA, 0xAF8.09 fps
 1280x800Low, 0xAA, 0xAF25.01 fps
 800x600Med, 0xAA, 0xAF13.57 fps
 800x600Low, 0xAA, 0xAF40.29 fps
 800x600High7.38 fps
Crysis - GPU Benchmark
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1280x800High3.71 fps
 1280x800Medium, 0xAA, 0xAF10.76 fps
 1280x800Low, 0xAA, 0xAF27.7 fps
 800x600High6.38 fps
 800x600Med, 0xAA, 0xAF17.47 fps
 800x600Low, 0xAA, 0xAF44.1 fps
World in Conflict - Benchmark
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1280x800High, 2xAA, 2xAF3 fps
 1280x800Medium, 0xAA, 0xAF9 fps
 800x600Medium, 0xAA, 0xAF14 fps

Emissions

System Noise

Alike the Sony Vaio FZ21E also the Vaio FZ31Z is considering the noise level only a rather quiet notebook. Neither with office load nor under load the fan gets especially loud. In idle mode we measure low 32.5 db(A) and with average load clearly audible, but, regarding noise level not yet annoying 34.8 dB(A).

But, there's still a disadvantage: The rotation speed of the fan varies frequently. The raising and falling noise is not that obvious in idle mode, but, sensitive ears can already be annoyed by this fan behaviour if the load is only average (34.8 dB(A)). Under full load this notebook looses points, because the noise level is 42.5 dB(A) which are accompanied by a high-frequency noise. A 15.4 inch multimedia notebook should be more user-friendly in this aspect.

Noise Level

Idle 31.1 / 31.3 / 32.5 dB(A)
HDD 31.3 dB(A)
DVD 35.5 / 44.7 dB(A)
Load 34.8 / 42.5 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:     (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Compared to its predecessors, the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z also gets clearly warmer. At the top side and at the bottom side we measure up to 39° Celsius a little bit below the vent holes. Nevertheless, the average temperature is below 34° Celsius at the bottom side and at the top side, which is absolutely alright.

Max. Load
 34.6 °C32.7 °C31.2 °C 
 39.3 °C35.5 °C30.3 °C 
 33.8 °C35.4 °C32.0 °C 
Maximum: 39.3 °C
Average: 33.9 °C
31.8 °C33.7 °C33.7 °C
31.5 °C34.1 °C39.0 °C
31.0 °C32.6 °C33.0 °C
Maximum: 39.0 °C
Average: 33.4 °C
Room Temperature 22 °C

Speakers

The speakers of the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z are behind the perforated cover at the top side above the keyboard. Being a big music company too, we expected a more powerful sound by a Sony notebook. Nevertheless the sound of the two small speakers is rather thin. Although also competitor notebooks of this category do not have real basses, the sound could really be stronger. The sound check via headphones out with our Bose In-Ear headphones reference is alright.

Battery Runtime

Battery Eater Reader's
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z: Battery Eater Reader's
Battery Eater Classic
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z: Battery Eater Classic

Compared to its total performance, the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z demands a lot of energy in mains operation. In idle mode the energy monitor displays between 23.8 (energy saving mode) and 40.3 Watt (highest performance). If you want to run one of these nice 3D text screen savers, this notebook demands even some more Watts. We read 44.3 Watt on the energy monitor - that's much. The energy demand increases to 54.3 Watt with average load (Cinebench R10, one CPU core). We measured a maximum energy demand of 85.1 Watt.

The Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z achieves a runtime of nearly 3 hours with the 6 cells standard battery (57.72 Wh) in the Battery Eater Reader's test. The Classic test demands clearly more and the runtime shrinks to about 1 hour and 20 minutes. To summarize, the mobility of the VGN-FZ31Z is not great. So, this notebook rates only average in this aspect. If you require a longer battery life on the move you should look for a supplement battery. But, supplement batteries for Vaios are expensive. The long-life VGP-BPL8 (86.58 Wh) battery costs nearly 300 Euro.

Power Consumption

Idle 23.8 / 29.4 / 40.4 Watt
Load 54.3 / 85.1 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         
Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
2h 53min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 20min

Verdict

The Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z is a mobile multimedia entertainment notebook which is High Definition (HD) ready. Being equipped with HDMI and blu ray drive which also allows to burn HD material it is ready for this tasks.

In order to be able to enjoy cinema quality also at home, the Vaio VGN-FZ31Z is also equipped with a very bright and outstandingly brilliant wide-screen X-black display. Furthermore, its application performance is due to a fast processor and fast graphics card very good. So, the total rating of the Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z is good.

We didn't find real disadvantages in our test. Alike the predecessor model, the workmanship of the VGN-FZ31Z is alright and the case compact and solid. However, the silver finish is sensitive to scratches. So, take care if you transport it.

The input devices are user-friendly, but their haptics and mechanics are a matter of taste. We didn't like that much that the battery runtime is short and that a lot of advertisement software is pre-installed. Finally, the fan should not emit such a high-frequency noise.

If you want to enjoy the impressing quality of high definition entertainment also on the move, the Sony Vaio is a compact and mobile 15.4 inch notebook with nice look, which is completely HD-ready. At the time of writing it is available for about 1300.- Euro.

Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z

Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Notebook

Many thanks to Easynotebooks.de, who kindly provided us with the reviewed notebook. You can configure and buy this notebook here.

Under Review: Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Notebook - provided by:
Under review: Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Notebook
Test Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Notebook: Gesamtnote „Gut“

Specifications

Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z.G4

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel PM965
:: Memory
4096 MB, Hynix HYMP125S64CP8-Y5, PC2-5300, (CL-RCD-RP-RAS) 5-5-5-15, 2x 2048 MB built-in, second RAM slot occupied
:: Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GS - 256 MB, Core: 500 MHz, Video memory: GDDR3, 700 MHz, 7.15.11.0128 - Nvidia ForceWare 101.28
:: Display
15.4 inch 16:10, 1280x1024 pixel, NVD0300, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
300 GB - 4200 rpm, 300 GB 4200 rpm Fujitsu MHX2300BT
:: Soundcard
SigmaTel STAC9872AK
:: Connections
0 PC-Card, 1 Express Card 34mm, 0 Express Card 54mm, 3 USB 2.0, 1 Firewire, 1 VGA, 0 DVI, 1 HDMI, 1 S-Video, HDAudio SoftV92 Data Fax Modem mit SmartCP Modem, 1 Kensington Lock, 0 Serial Port, Audio Connections: Headphones, microphone, Card Reader: 1 Memory stick reader, 1 SD card reader, TV Card: 0, 1,3-MP-Webcam
:: Networking
Marvell Yukon 88E8036 (10/100MBit), Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN (a b g n ), Bluetooth v2.0 + EDR Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
Matshita BD-MLT UJ-220S
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 35 x 355 x 254
:: Weight
2.8 kg Power Supply: 0.408 kg
:: Battery
57.72 Wh Lithium-Ion, 11.1 Volt, 5200 mAh
:: Price
1399 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium 32 Bit
:: Additional features
Battery: 334 Gramm, Microsoft Works 8.5, 24 Months Warranty

 

The Sony VGN-FZ31Z does not come with recovery media. But, the hard disk is filled with advertisement software.
The Sony VGN-FZ31Z does not come with recovery media. But, the hard disk is filled with advertisement software.
The battery runtime of the 58-Wh battery is not utterly long and supplement batteries are expensive.
The battery runtime of the 58-Wh battery is not utterly long and supplement batteries are expensive.
There are 2x 2048 MB RAM available, but the pre-installed Windows Vista Home Premium can only utilizes about 3 GB RAM.
There are 2x 2048 MB RAM available, but the pre-installed Windows Vista Home Premium can only utilizes about 3 GB RAM.
Disadvantageous: The fan cannot accessed for cleaning from the bottom side.
Disadvantageous: The fan cannot accessed for cleaning from the bottom side.
At the left side there is an HDMI port.
At the left side there is an HDMI port.
The 100 MBit LAN port is no longer up-to-date.
The 100 MBit LAN port is no longer up-to-date.
Bluetooth and fast WLAN with draft-n support is also provided.
Bluetooth and fast WLAN with draft-n support is also provided.
The built-in 1.3 MP web cam is appropriate for live chats with friends.
The built-in 1.3 MP web cam is appropriate for live chats with friends.
... and is still very functional.
... and is still very functional.
The round console for audio and video still attracts attention ...
The round console for audio and video still attracts attention ...
... but the input devices do not seem to be of that high-quality. They are a matter of taste.
... but the input devices do not seem to be of that high-quality. They are a matter of taste.
The chrome look of the Vaio logo appears to be something special, ...
The chrome look of the Vaio logo appears to be something special, ...
The stability of the case is also alright.
The stability of the case is also alright.
... and the chosen materials seem to be robust.
... and the chosen materials seem to be robust.
Even without ornaments this notebook looks good ...
Even without ornaments this notebook looks good ...
... black and silver are the only colours used.
... black and silver are the only colours used.
The look of the FZ series remained unchanged. The VGN-FZ31Z appears angular and slim, ...
The look of the FZ series remained unchanged. The VGN-FZ31Z appears angular and slim, ...
Under full load the VGN-FZ31Z demands up to 85.1 Watt in mains operations.
Under full load the VGN-FZ31Z demands up to 85.1 Watt in mains operations.
The blu ray drive, a Matshita BD-MLT UJ-220S let's you enjoy HD.
The blu ray drive, a Matshita BD-MLT UJ-220S let's you enjoy HD.

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Price Comparison

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Pro

+Nice design
+High-quality impression
+Compact case
+HDMI port
+Good office performance
+Very bright display
+Blu ray drive
 

Cons

-Some parts get very hot
-High-frequency noise of the fan under full load
-No Recovery-CD/-DVD provided
-Windows installation with a lot of pre-installed software
-Unnecessary trial and advertisement software

Rating

Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z.G4
07/11/2008
Ronald Tiefenthäler

Chassis
87%
Keyboard
85%
Pointing Device
85%
Connectivity
85%
Weight
78%
Battery
70%
Display
87%
Games Performance
80%
Application Performance
88%
Temperature
86%
Noise
93%
Add Points
90%
Average
85%
85%
Multimedia *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31Z Notebook
Author: Ronald Tiefenthäler, 2008-08- 3 (Update: 2013-06- 6)