The Sony Vaio Z (or Z21) has touched down, offering a premium 13-inch notebook to those with plenty of cash to spend. We got our hands on the new skinny PC to give you the low down.
Now before we get started, there is something important to clear up. We were a little surprised with the plastic body of the Sony Vaio Z, so we queried Sony on how they could justify the price for such a cheap body. “The final version will be carbonfibre” came the response, before detailing that these prototypes needed to be sent back for a refit.
That explains some of the flex in the screen and the keyboard, which certainly belies the £1434 starting price, but it does make our hands-on rather limited and we’ll have to wait until retail samples arrive until we can really judge the quality.
Still, the design is impressive and it’s nice to see Sony move away from the rounded battery and hinge arrangement of previous models. The attention to detail on the Vaio Z is commendable, and we like the way that the back of the screen drops down with two little rubber feet and lifts the deck of the laptop to give you a more comfortable typing angle.
The keyboard is Sony’s typical backlit (a £15 extra worth paying for) chiclet style and we know from other laptops that Sony keyboards are very good. The buttonless trackpad looked to be excellent and feels great, but there’s no avoiding the fact that you have to work very hard to beat the Apple MacBook trackpad. The fingerprint scanner does sweeten the deal however.
We asked Sony who they saw as the primary customers for the Vaio Z and the answer was business users who needed a light and portable machine, but with the extra oomph provided by the Power Media Dock when back at their desk. The price reflects that too, as whichever way you look at it, the Vaio Z is expensive.
The Dock (with it’s neat chrome effect stand) mean that you get real graphics power, ports for external displays and more, the benefit of a slot-loading DVD drive or Blu-ray player and critically, a Radeon HD 6650M graphics card, giving you real power at your desk, whether it’s for crunching through video editing or a spot of gaming.
The Power Media Dock uses a connector that combines power and USB, although the normal blue USB 3.0 connection seen here has been modified for higher data speeds, you guessed it, like Apple’s Thunderbolt. In this case with Light Peak the advantage is that when you aren’t connected to the Dock, you can use it as a regular USB port.
Configuration options are wide, ranging from the entry Intel Core i5 models up to Core i7, with different display resolutions and SSD options to choose from too. There is also an optional “sheet” battery, something we’ve seen previously on the HP Envy with their “slice” battery.
The basic Vaio Z claims 7 hours of life from the internal battery, with the sheet battery offering an additional 7 hours. The great thing about the sheet battery is that you can charge it independently and attached when you need it, rather than having to shut down and swap like with a regular spare battery.
It’s certainly skinny and it’s definitely light in the hand, but beyond that we’ll have to wait until we see one decked out in its carbonfibre glad rags before we can really pass judgement.
The Sony Vaio Z21 is available from the end of July, starting at £1434 and running up to a crazy £3600+ when you spec it up to a 2.7GHz Core i7, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Blu-ray writer in the Power Media Dock, etc. All the details can be found in the link below.