When I first saw the TR1, I was amazed by what was a very cool redesign of an already impressive laptop. I knew at that time that I would eventually want one, but I wanted to wait. Why? Well first of all, I hadn’t owned my Tablet PC for very long, and since I was waiting, I might as well wait for the upgrade version. Well the TR2 came along, and I was one of the first to line up and get one.
Before I even start into the review, I should just say that the popularity of this laptop has caught me by surprise. I know of at least 3 other people that want it and it’s completely sold out everywhere. Most shops have it on backorder so there are still a few people waiting for their laptops. I guess scarcity factor is pretty cool. But I suspect everyone that wants one will get it sooner or later.
So what makes this such hot property? Well, first of all, it’s the look – an extremely cool, sleek white cover. Second, the specs are extremely impressive and very good. And lastly, I just think it’s the design – something so small yet powerful. I must say (and from my blogs you’ll probably know this) the main factors that lured me was in fact the size (given it is an all-in-one laptop), the design (very cool), and lastly, the screen.
If you buy it online, you can take advantage of Sony’s interest free installment program. In addition, you can also upgrade the memory to 1GB. With these in mind, I pre-ordered it with the additional memory (512MB is standard) and the interest free payment, and got my laptop 2 days later. I’ve had it now for nearly a month and so I’ve put it through its paces.
Well, what can you say about most Vaios? They are stunning. But I think the TR2 has taken Vaio to a new level. Sony did a really good job redesigned the Picturebook models. If you recall, I had one sometime back and I loved it. I can’t believe that it actually took them what 3+ years or so to redesign the product? But it was worth the wait. The white/ceramic look is visually striking and very sturdy to the touch.
You really do have to see this in the flesh to get a sense of just how spectacular it looks. Pictures do not do it justice. Ok, so I really like it. The TR2 is larger than the Picturebook models of the past but it’s still a pleasant wonder. The metallic shell and white plastic looks very good. It is not a cheap plastic feel as I was worried it might be. This machine gets a lot of attention.
I have to admit that I have always had a mixed reaction to the camera (aka Motion Eye). I wasn’t sure if it’s a necessary addition. The resolution isn’t very good and so far, there really hasn’t been a need for it. But, I do think it’s really cool that it’s there. The camera is well integrated into the machine and does make it look a lot more interesting. On the side of the screen is a series of buttons that includes a button to capture images, volume and a magnifying function. This helps make the TR2 more user friendly.
The whole layout of the laptop is actually very good. It’s very interesting how Sony has put a USB port on each side which is actually a very smart design. The DVD/CDRW drive is well placed in the front and is very nice to have built-in. The keyboard layout is different. The keys have a new font lettering which gives them a much more high-tech look. The keys themselves seem a bit different. The spacing is relatively tight and anyone with big hands/long fingers beware, but I’m used to this and have no problems. It does take a little time to get used to, but once you understand the layout, it’s actually very good. I also like that the keyboard is relatively silent. Some older laptops I had made too much clicking noises when I typed. Others had keyboards whose touch sensitivity was much too “firm” (i.e. you had to hit the keys pretty hard to get it to work). This keyboard is extremely well designed for a sub-notebook.
I’m not a big fan of the whole touchpad design. I think I was just getting used to the touchpoint that seems standard in other computers. This is though a matter of personal taste and I did buy a tiny mouse though I don’t really think I’ll travel with it.
The overall weight remains very light given that the laptop includes a DVD/CDRW drive, it still remains very portable. To help with bulk, Sony has also redesigned the AC adapter and it’s much flatter, smaller, and lighter than previous laptops. This is still a sub-notebook after all, albeit it’s extremely powerful and the lines between sub-notebook and full notebook are blurring.
This is my first laptop with a Centrino chip. Although I wasn’t quite sure about this processor, I can without reservation say that it does work very well and it definitely flies. My TR2 is the fastest computer I have. I’m not sure if it’s the upgraded memory, the processor, or of if it’s just a new PC. The TR2 starts up extremely quickly. Programs open and start very fast and all my 6MP photos are simple to edit and load up. It’s awesome. The only thing that makes me a little upset is that the TR2 is now faster than my main PC, the Dell Inspiron 8200. I guess I’m going to have to look for a new one soon. HA – an excuse to buy another laptop.
Other than speed, the biggest selling point in my opinion is the screen. It’s visually much better than anything else. Colors are extremely bright and for the most part, this is the best resolution I have seen on a laptop. At first, I though the glass/mirror like cover/coating on the surface would be distracting. After all, when you look at the screen without turning it on, you can see your reflection extremely well. But, instead, the glass coating helps give the TR2 an extremely clear, bright screen. I believe this glass helps transmit much more light than normal because even when the screen is considerably dimmed, it still appears much brighter than normal. The result is one of the most impressive screens I have seen. In order to conserve battery, you can chose to lower the brightness of the screen, well with this screen, it really is a viable option. Why? Because even at half the screen brightness, it’s still extremely bright.
To me, this is the TR2’s biggest selling point. I know that I’ll be using it quite a bit when I travel to upload photos and do some editing. As a result I want a screen that shows colors brilliantly in addition to being able to handle pictures with extremely solid resolution. I thought a 1280×768 resolution wouldn’t cut it, but this resolution just seems to be that much better than what I expected. If you recall, the key to me chosing Dell was because they offered the high grade UXGA screen with a much higher resolution than other comparable laptops.
The size too is great. Widescreen is fantastic and the screen seems much bigger than what it is. I don’t know how to verbally describe the TR2 screen other than to say that if you see one, you’ll understand what I mean – just amazingly clear and bright.
One supposedly strong selling point of the Centrino is its improvement in battery life. From that perspective, there is certainly an improvement in the TR2 over past sub-notebooks. Even compared to laptops that I had which didn’t have as large a screen or come with a DVD/CD drive, this laptop blows them all away. I managed to still have 30% battery life after watching the Matrix Reloaded on it. If you crank up the screen brightness to full, the laptop is rated at just under 3 hours. I think that’s roughly about right to about +/-15 minutes. However, if you turn down the screen brightness and not run the drive, you can probably get a good 4-5 hours of use. I’ve been steadily trying to drain the battery and I get very good results in overall use and life. Certainly much better than anything I’ve every used before.
The laptop does get extremely hot to the tough so placing it on your lap as with many other laptops requires something to be placed in between. The fan that kicks in to cool off the processor isn’t too loud and you can feel the fan every so often. Still it’s not distracting and not unlike many other laptops.
Centrino chips are also supposed to incorporate WLAN technology. The WLAN function of the TR2 work effortlessly and I do really like the on and off switch which is much more convenient then trying to get software to turn WLAN on and off. I was though disappointed that the non-Japanese TR2 versions do not incorporate Bluetooth technology. This would have been particularly useful. Of course you would have expected Sony to only incorporate the Memory Stick into the laptop which is fine. I do like the way that the comparable Fujitsu model (P5XXX series) has both a Memory Stick/SD slot and a Compact Flash slot.
The TR2 comes with a host of software that takes advantage of everything from its Firewire port (for DV editing for example) to a Memory Stick slot utility. In general the TR2 is a brilliant laptop that really is a full-fledged laptop. Performance is by far the most impressive for a laptop, not only of its size, but for any laptop that I have had.
Yes, in case you didn’t guess, I only have praise for the TR2. It’s definitely one of the hottest laptops around and it deserves to be. So if you are in the market for a laptop, I think the TR2 is one of the best options out there. Unlike other “sub-notebooks” in the past, the TR2 is the most complete laptop that I have come across. In the past, I have been in favor of owning a laptop for traveling, and one for the home. However, with the performance, size, and overall feel of the TR2, I’m happy to recommend this as an ESSENTIAL, all-in-one laptop. Buy one if you are in the market for a laptop. You’re unlikely to regret it.