In the netherworld between handheld ultra-mobile PCs and clunky full-featured laptops, there lies the niche market for the ultraportable notebook. Like cyclists stripping every last ounce off their racing bikes, manufacturers take the familiar notebook, trim the fat, and make everything remaining smaller and lighter. Sony clearly took this extreme cyclist-minded approach – right down to the carbon fiber – with their latest ultraportable, the Vaio TZ. At a feather-light 2.6 pounds, it’s an ultraportable notebook that will barely even register on your bathroom scale, much less slow you down when you have places to be.

The first thing to note about the Vaio TZ is that it’s composed of that pricy and popular composite that’s now synonymous with high performance – carbon fiber. The TZ’s case is constructed of gel-coated carbon fiber, which Sony says lends the laptop a “rustic yet urbane sophistication.” Translation: it looks really nice. Whether or not a laptop needs the same material used in everything from Formula 1 cars to Boeing’s new 787 is ultimately irrelevant – Sony chose carbon fiber to make a say two things: light and fast.

Image Courtesy of Sony

On the first, it most certainly delivers. While high-power laptops can bloat up to well over 10 pounds and portables struggle to get that number under four, the Vaio TZ manages to slim down to just 2.6 pounds. Forget about stiff shoulders induced by brick-like laptops that practically tip you over sideways as you lug them through the airport. This thing should practically float by your side.

The notebook’s demure size is crucial in keeping its weight so low. At 10.9” wide, 7.8” deep and 1.2” tall, the TZ might may look a lot more like a book than a laptop computer. To get some idea of how small that is, consider that a standard sheet of paper is measures 8.5” by 11”. You could set the TZ down on a stack of copier paper with room to spare around the edges.

On the issue of speed, the TZ is no Lance Armstrong, but for the purposes this computer is built for, it should be more than sufficient. An Intel Core 2 Duo running at 1.2GHz should provide both computational grunt and power efficiency – although you might not want to get any illusions about playing Supreme Commander in your off time. Graphics are provided by an Intel 950 Media Accelerator, which is probably much happier anti-aliasing spreadsheets than trying to render 3D environments in real time.

That said, Sony did their best to pack big-computer functionality into a tiny package. The screen measures just 11.1” Inches diagonally, but with a resolution of 1366×768, there’s plenty of pixel real-estate if you have good eyesight. That tiny screen combined with an efficient processor also leaves the TZ’s battery relatively untaxed: Sony says their micro laptop will run for four to seven and a half hours (although with manufacturer battery life estimates, we would definitely stick to the more conservative guess).

If your life is a blur of airports, taxi cabs and conference rooms, the Vaio TZ should be right up your alley. Unfortunately, like a lot of the ultra-portables it competes with, the Sony doesn’t come cheap: it will set you back $2,199 to $3,299 USD depending on which model you go with. Then again, any model you choose will be cheaper than the carbon-fiber race bikes you see sprinting through the hills of France every summer, so we’d call it a comparative bargain if you’re willing to set aside your Tour De France aspirations and get your carbon fiber fix elsewhere. You can find out more at

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