Sony takes its ultraportables seriously. Every potential weight saving is pursued with tigerish fervour, and the result is this: a 1.15kg notebook that not only includes a DVD writer, but also lasted for an astonishing 8hrs 30mins in our battery tests. Even the tiny power supply weighs barely more than 100g.
The streamlined chassis and 4mm-thick screen, made of carbon-fibre laminate, is stunning. There’s even an Apple-like design touch to the optical drive’s eject button, which finds its home at the top-right- hand side of the chassis (fear not, there’s also a more traditionally placed button on the drive itself). The DVD writer itself is compatible with all kinds of media, including DVD-RAM.
We were also impressed to see a 100GB hard disk inside. The 1.8in Toshiba disk uses perpendicular recording to pack in such a high capacity, and Toshiba claims the drive consumes just 1.1W while seeking.
A good thing, because when it comes to power consumption, every little bit helps – it’s no good having a mere slip of a laptop if you can’t rely on the battery. The G118’s press release claims an optimistic-sounding 11.5 hours, which we scoffed at until our intensive-use battery test produced a result of 4hrs 2mins. And it’s worth repeating that our light-use test ran for an amazing 8hrs 30mins. Even with moderate business tasks, the G11 will comfortably see you through a day’s work without needing to go near a wall socket.
The extraordinary battery life and light weight wouldn’t be possible without Intel’s Core Solo U1500. Generating a maximum of just 5.5W of heat, the CPU doesn’t need heavy or power-consuming cooling fans to keep the system stable. The amount of computing power available inevitably suffers: the 1.33GHz CPU struggled in our benchmark tests, with a low overall score of 0.55. But this doesn’t tell the whole story – our benchmarks push a machine to its absolute limits, and the G11 isn’t designed to run for hours on end encoding video. When it comes to everyday tasks, such as word processing, Internet access and spreadsheets, the G11 works perfectly. It’s compatible with Vista’s Aero effects too, thanks to Intel’s GMA 950 graphics. Intel also provides the wireless chip with 802.11a/b/g support. Finally, the security-minded will appreciate a TPM chip and fingerprint reader.
The screen is a 12.1in LED-backlit screen, and it runs at a basic 1024 x 768. It’s bright and colours were reproduced accurately. The lid feels alarmingly flimsy when open despite being solid enough when the laptop is closed. But after watching videos of Sony’s torture testing of the machine, it’s amazing the pounding the chassis can take and the amount of violent twisting the screen can take without breaking.
Business notebooks don’t normally marry desirability and practicality so well. The hardware itself is stunning, and has clearly been designed with a great deal of attention to detail. Performance is also more than adequate, and battery life is just incredible – among the best we’ve ever seen from a laptop, whatever the size. And yet the G118 manages to squeeze in all of the features you’ll need for business.
What stops it landing on the A-List is the price and lowly one year collect and return warranty. The Dell D420 is considerably heavier, but offers a three-year warranty and costs $700 less. But if you prize battery life and portability above all else, the G118 is a brilliant option.