EXEC TECH : The mobile office

Despite the easy accessibility of virtual conference calls, flying long haul is still reality and keeping up with daily emails and other business on the run is vital. lightweight, robust notebook with long battery life is essential for travellers, and user-friendly smartphone comes into its own. To really test how they’d cope, these products were put through the customs wringer, flying to two destinations in the US, as well as few South Island jaunts.

Flying high

NZ Management got its hands on Sony’s VPCZ116GGB from the Vaio Z series just as it was launched at the company’s Carnival road show earlier this year. Selling at $3399, it’s billed as “the choice of uncompromising executives” and certainly would look good in any boardroom. Like most of Sony’s products, it is sleek and shiny, with kick; it’s made of milled aluminium plate and hybrid carbon.
At 13.1 inches and weighing 1.4kg, the Z series is small enough to be quite portable while flying without making you feel like you’re tapping out the equivalent of the Oxford Dictionary on postage stamp.
Unlike earlier manifestations of the ‘chiclet keyboard’, the Sony version is comfortable to use and easy to type on, with generous margin between keys. It also lights up blue in the dark, which is useful for planes. This feature obviously uses more power, but even doing this the battery lasted for around five hours. The ambient light sensor also controls the LCD display, although as the battery wanes you feel you need to keep upping the brightness incrementally. This is due to the intelligent auto setting, which selects speed or stamina mode, depending on how you’re using the notebook.
An Intel Core i5-540M 2.53 GHz processor (with Turbo Boost up to 3.06 GHz) makes for speedier experience and more efficient multitasking environment – the VPCZ116GGB had no problem handling several programmes simultaneously: Word, Chrome, Photoshop, Messenger Live, Outlook and Skype.
Sony’s displays have always been bright and clear and that is certainly the case with the Z series’ full HD screen. The increased workspace, coupled with the Windows 7 operating system means you can easily view several documents simultaneously.
Multimedia capability has also been one of Sony’s signature features (perhaps nod to the Walkman) and embedded noise cancellation technology through supplied headphones and one-push Media Gallery activation button continues this trend. Comms are made easy with an integrated webcam and Bluetooth.
You can also get the slightly more expensive VPCZ117GGX, which is faster and even more efficient with multitasking thanks to its Intel Core i7 processor.

• Intel Core i5-540M Processor 2.53 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 3.06 GHz
• SSD in RAID 0: 128 GB (64 GB x 2, Serial ATA)
• NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M GPU for smoothly rendered video and graphics
• Automatically controls Gfx mode: Dynamic Hybrid Graphics System
• 13.1” wide (WXGA++: 1600 x 900); VAIO Display Premium, LED backlight.

Functional and friendly

When travelling, high-spec equipment like the Z series can be useful but sometimes you just want $999, functional entry-level system. Like the Toshiba T110D.
Part of the company’s new Satellite series, this 11.6-inch notebook looks the part with gloss black finish with grey diamond detailing to give it quasi hounds-tooth effect. Toshiba calls it ‘twister black’. tapered chassis looks odd at first glance, but is feature designed to make it easier to carry. It is light at 1.76kg, yet feels quite solid, both important considerations when travelling.
Battery life is good, clocking in at up to five hours, not enough for an entire flight but it certainly will get you most of the way there. Power plans include balanced and eco, with the eco mode obviously reducing screen brightness to conserve power.
Management used between 10 and 13W according to its meter. This is bit of catch-22 on flights, as you’ll want the eco mode for longer battery life, but brighter screen for the low ambient light on board.
For notebook coming in at the under $1000 mark (just) its 2GB of memory performs well enough to run most applications you’ll need smoothly; web browser, Word (or OpenOffice), Skype and email. Memory can be upgraded to 8GB if required. An integrated webcam allows you to keep in touch with family and the occasional face-to-face with the office. The only things you’ll lack are an optical disc drive and HD screen although with three USB ports, an HDMI, VGA port and SD card slot it can be argued you don’t need these. The standard definition 1366 x 768 widescreen is bright and clear.

• AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 processor (1.6GHz, HyperTransport3: up to 1.6 (GT/sec), 512kb L2 Cache)
• ATI Radeon HD 3200 (256MB – 895MB dynamically allocated shared graphics memory) to handle graphics
• 3D hard drive shock sensor
• Kensington cable lock slot for optional theft protection devices

Nokia E72

The T110D is portable, but for travelling light nothing beats 128g smartphone.
The Nokia E72 has been around for while but still ticks the main boxes; messaging, application and media support. It also looks good with matt black finish with silver and white accents. Sometimes accessing your SIM card in smartphone is more technical exercise than using the phone itself, but the E72’s silver etched back panel levers off quickly and gives some traction on smooth surfaces.
According to Nokia research “49 percent of respondents prioritise their partners’ [emails] ahead of their bosses”. Due to the E72’s preloaded Nokia Messaging, email set-up is easy, even for the most reticent, and once your email accounts have been set up, just as easy to navigate. You can also set up instant messaging on your home screen to access your Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo or Ovi Chat accounts.
A high-speed USB port (neatly covered) and five-megapixel camera are improvements on its predecessor, with the latter capturing both images and video in VGA quality. In addition to the camera on the back of the phone, VGA front camera is useful for video calling.
Keeping in touch with the office is imperative when travelling on business and the E72 facilitates this further with built-in mobile VPN to access intranets conveniently and one-touch modem access. Quickoffice 5.3 provides support for Office 2007 so that you can read documents and presentations if pressed. This is usually challenging exercise on small mobile screens. Nokia makes it little easier with “font magnifier” setting.
Extras include GPS with compass and Ovi Maps.

• 250MB internal memory
• HSDPA up to 10.2Mbits
• HSUPA up to 2Mbits
• WLAN (IEEE 802.11b/g)
• EGPRS multislot class 32 class A
• A2DP stereo audio enhanced data rates (EDR)
• HW accelerated data encryption and remote lock and data wipe.

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