Silver cloud to the Sony Vaio VGN-TZ laptops debacle

Silver cloud to the Sony Vaio VGN-TZ laptops debacle

The bad news is that Sony says these sexy 11.1in Vaio TZ laptops are at risk of overheating. But there is something about Sony's Vaio laptops that should make you happy.

If you've been salivating over Sony's DVD drive equipped, ultra-slim 11.1inch Vaio VGN-TZ series, then the possible overheating is bad news. There is a risk of plastic distorting around the DC jack inlet and LCD area due to "extreme high temperatures". Sony is offering a free inspection and repair service.

The Vaio TZ is one of Sony's remaining crown jewels in the notebook space, rivalling the MacBook AIR and Lenovo's X300 for battery life.

In our Sony Vaio VGN-TZ36GN/W review, we were highly impressed with the battery life (more on that later), with test times that put machines like the Eee PC to shame.

The 1.48Kg Vaio TZ also out-classes cheap sub $600 ultraportables with an integrated DVD drive (as does the X300). It's slightly thicker than the MacBook Air, but has better battery life, though the Lenovo X300 is a better desktop replacement.

Pity about the overheating then.

The good news?

Despite the unfortunate overheating issue, we can report something about Vaio notebooks that you should be glad to hear.

At a recent product session, Sony told me that they are switching to a more realistic measurement for advertising notebook battery life.

Battery life figures quoted by vendors have been getting wildly misleading for years. The worst recent example I can recall was that quoted by Toshiba for its R500 ultraportable. The R500 had great battery life, but it was more like 5 hours than the ridiculous 12.5 hours advertised by Toshiba.

And they aren't the only ones. Sony itself quoted 11 hours for the TZ mentioned above, back in 2007. Lots of big notebook vendors base their battery numbers on Jeita.

Sony's Vaio VGNTZ36GNW (now discontinued), was advertised with up to 11 hours battery life
Sony's Vaio VGNTZ36GNW (now discontinued), was advertised with up to 11 hours battery life

Predicting battery life is notoriously difficult, given how varied power consumption can be. Jeita was never meant to be a realistic prediction, and notebook vendors I've spoken to happily tell me it’s a comparison measure, nothing more.

The problem is, most people aren't to know that. Those numbers still get advertised on the box in the shop, and you and I are none the wiser.

Switching to Jeita "A" for battery life

Instead of using the old annoyingly-misleading method of measuring battery life, Sony says it has changed its yardstick.

The old method involved first measuring the machine at complete idle, with the screen and other settings turned to minimum - and seeing how long the laptop lasted. Then, with different settings, a movie file was played on screen to see how long the machine lasted. The two results were averaged.

Even then the results didn't add up. For example, while Sony stated up to 11 hours for the Vaio VGNTZ36GNW above, our own tests resulted in 4 to 8 hours, despite also using a combination of intensive and light-use scores.

Sony told us they will now be advertising the second result only, which has to be better than what they were doing previously.

If you're curious, you can see the settings Sony uses to get these results online.

Here is an example of the old method Sony used to measure battery life:

This is how Sony measures battery life now, called "Jeita A":

Sony's other crown jewel

This should come as good news for those looking at Sony's even sexier laptop, the HDMI-equipped, hybrid-graphics-enabled Vaio Z series (which comes with a bonus Sony Ericsson W190i phone).

Sony Vaio Z Series - advertised as having up to 5.5 hours battery life
Sony Vaio Z Series - advertised as having up to 5.5 hours battery life

Sony tells us this Centrino 2 machine, recognisable by its glowing green hinge, uses the new method of battery life measurement.

The upshot is that instead of 10+ hours we're used to gawping at, Sony is quoting 5.5 hours for the Z series.

Battery life figures advertised with notebooks have been a joke for years - so it's good to see the industry trying a more realistic tack.

How long does your notebook last on batteries? Share your experience by adding a comment below.

See more about:  vaio  |  vgntz  |  battery  |  jeita

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