And now for the good stuff: the Sony Z1A. Granted that I’ve only had this notebook for just about two days, but I’ve already dubbed this machine as the Best Notebook that I’ve ever owned. As much as I liked the PowerBook, I had had a couple of complaints with it, even after just one day with it. Granted my biggest complaint was caused by a defective part, but even so; I had issues with it within the first twelve hours. After 48 hours with the Z1A, I still find the machine to be flawless.
What’s so good about it? It’s sort of like a PowerBook for the Windows XP world. Honestly, it is, even if it doesn’t have a glowing Apple or under lit keybaord! The pBook got my attention because of the features that Apple had packed into it for the price they offered it at which also what Sony has done. In short, Sony has made a PowerBook killer, for the Windows world. I guess the best way to look at this is to first look at what attracted me to the pBook and then compare the Sony to it.
The pBook was about 8.5″ by 11″ and only 1.25″ tall at 4.6 pounds. It offered a 12.1″ screen and a G4 processor running at 867MHz, putting it on par with a P4 1.8GHz. It came with built-in Bluetooth, which was convenient while transferring pictures from a Nokia 3650, and a great keyboard. The built-in CD-RW/DVD slot loading drive was a great addition from my old notebook because I didn’t need a docking station anymore. The base model I was looking at came with a 40GB hard drive and 256 MB of RAM and was “just” $1799. Once I got it, I felt that it needed more RAM, so I bumped it to 384MB for under $100 and I added the AirPort Extreme card for $100. I had to get an extra VGA dongle and AC adapter, to leave at work, and I went through a couple of old cases I had until I bought a Brenthaven Mobilty 1. The battery would last for about four hours if I turned down the brightness and CPU speed. Add in AppleCare’s three year warrantee and I topped this purchase off at about $2450.
And now the Sony Z1A. The Sony is about 9.25″ by 11.5″ and anywhere from 0.9″ to 1.5″ tall; Sony’s more recent models have been build in a wedge to help balance out their weight and size. It’s 4.7 pounds. It comes with a 14.1″ screen running at 1400×1050 resolution which is great for terminal server sessions with 1280×1024 screens and a Centrino processor running at 1.3GHz, putting it on par with a P4 2.0GHz. It doesn’t come with Bluetooth but with the two USB 2.0 ports, it can be added easily. The built-in CD-RW/DVD tray loading drive isn’t as elegant as the slot loading Apple drive, but it’s more function for non-standard CD sized media. The base model I was looking at came with a 60GB hard drive and 512 MB of RAM and was “just” $2399. I didn’t need more RAM. I didn’t need to add a WiFi card because Centrino machines come with built-in 802.11b; while it’s not as fast as the AirPort Extreme’s 802.11g, I won’t miss it because I don’t have an AirPort Extreme base station and always ran at 802.11b. The VGA port is built into the machine, so I didn’t need a dongle; I did get an extra adapter and a new bag as the Brenthaven wasn’t large enough to fit the Sony very well. Also, because the machine doesn’t run nearly as hot as the PowerBook, I didn’t need the iCurve, IcePad and CoolPads that I had to buy to keep the pBook “cooler.” The battery, thanks to the new Pentium-M CPU, gives me about four hours of use if I turn down the brightness and CPU speed. I skipped the extra warrantee since Sony offers one year to Apple’s 90-days.
And that’s about it. The keyboard works really well bigger than I got used to on my old Sony and the trackpad is fairly responsive. The standby mode that Sony includes with their power management utilities are on par with Apple’s sleep mode, so I don’t even get to miss that feature from the PowerBook. Overall I believe Apple had better get their shit together and fast. Right now they are maintaining their growing market presence by their slick Switch campaigns and building some great software (and the iPod.) However, their latest few rounds of portable notebooks hasn’t been that great the early buyers of the TiBook had a number of problems as did some early Pismo owners and now the Aluminum generation is suffering the same fate. Apple will need to either start putting out some well built notebooks or start to let clone manufactures make competitive software or they can get out of the business all together. They’ve gotten away with these problems so far because they fix that machine as they make more and update the manufacturing process nice to know that “early adopter” can also be called “beta tester” and because of the loyalty of the Apple consumer. This loyalty can’t last forever, though when people are spending thousands of dollars for machines that feel like they didn’t get a full QA cycle, they tend to not stay loyal for very long. Of course, as I write this, there are two TiBook owners within sight of this Sony maybe I’ll check out the Al-15 a few months after it ships it will give them time to find some of the earliest bugs in it!
As for me, I’m still basking in the afterglow of New-Machine-Geek-Euphoria; I’m also shocked that I haven’t found a problem or gripe with this machine yet maybe I will after a week of use, but somehow I doubt it!