When we stopped by the Sony booth, there was plenty to see. Vivek will be covering some of the other areas—tablets and gaming devices—while I’ll focus on the laptop side of things.

Like all the major OEMs, Sony had an ultrabook concept on display. I use the terms concept loosely here, as while Sony didn’t commit to anything the ultrabook push by Intel pretty much guarantees that the 13” VAIO ultrabook will see the light of day this year. The Intel booth, incidentally, was largely devoted to pushing ultrabooks with over half of the public area devoted to singing the praises of the devices. As for the Sony ultrabook, it’s not too hard to guess at the hardware inside (Ivy Bridge ULV), and the design is flat (e.g. no sloped keyboard) and looks stylish. We were unable to physically handle the preproduction/concept device, but we hope to have a unit for review when the time comes.

Next up on the list of VAIO laptops is the updated VAIO Z that started shipping about five months back. This was my first chance to actually get hands on with the VAIO Z, and I can see why so many people like it. The display on the unit at the booth was a beautiful 1080p 13.1” panel that puts just about every other laptop to shame (1600x900 comes standard in the base model). Sony also uses Intel’s Light Peak technology (a.k.a. Thunderbolt with a proprietary connector that plugs into the AC socket and USB 3.0 port) to drive an external dock. The dock houses a Radeon HD 6650M GPU and Sony had it driving two additional displays with one more external display connected to the laptop’s HDMI port along with the integrated 1080p display.

The VAIO Z is an amazingly feature rich package, but I do have a few concerns. First, the GPU in the dock is still only a 6650M; if you’re going with a dock, I’d be more than happy to sacrifice size for a faster GPU (e.g. 6770M as a minimum). Second and perhaps more of a concern, the keyboard definitely shows flex, which is not something we like seeing in premium devices. Finally, there’s the price of nearly two grand, but given everything else you get—premium display quality, an ultra-thin laptop, an mSATA SSD (two in some models), and the attached Media Dock—we’re not surprised at the cost. Overall, the VAIO Z is an impressive tour de force from Sony and we’re eager to see what they cook up with the inevitable Ivy Bridge refresh.

The final laptop we were impressed with at the Sony booth is another laptop that has already started shipping, the VAIO SE. It sports the familiar VAIO styling and looks in many ways like a larger version of the Z—and that’s a good thing. Sony was using the SE to show their Media Gallery 2.0 software, but that wasn’t nearly as impressive to us as the 15.5” 1080p IPS display. (I’m always a sucker for a good display!) The word on the web is that the display isn’t full sRGB on the color gamut, but then there are many laptops that fall into that category and they don’t come with a 1080p IPS panel. With pricing starting at just over $900, we’re definitely interested in doing some additional testing of the VAIO SE!

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  • TrackSmart - Sunday, January 15, 2012 - link

    I presumed it was because the Vaio Z's implementation of "light peak" had much less bandwidth than the 'full' thunderbolt specification. A faster GPU would be bottlenecked.

    You guys mention this a while back:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4474/sony-updates-va...
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, January 16, 2012 - link

    That's true. Obviously without testing 6650M internal, 6650M in the PMD, and something like 6770M in the PMD we can't come to a firm conclusion. I suspect there are occasions where the Light Peak bandwidth would limit performance of a faster GPU, but there would be other scenarios where it would not. More to the point, a desktop 6770 would actually be cheaper than a mobile 6650M--MXM modules are always more expensive. But it would ruin the sleek form factor and require a full x16 slot. Reply
  • Kiji - Sunday, January 15, 2012 - link

    Is Sony still blocking certain options in their laptop BIOS ? I know they used to block VT-x, making 64-bits virtualization impossible, among other things. Is that still happening with the new models?

    I like Sony design for laptops, but I hate buying a equipment that comes locked like this. Specially the premium range. Doesn't make sense to me.
    Reply
  • nitrous9200 - Sunday, January 15, 2012 - link

    Pretty sure they don't do that anymore. My laptop (Sony FW) was one of many that received a BIOS update that unlocked the virtualization option. Reply
  • jeremyshaw - Monday, January 16, 2012 - link

    Sony still doesnt have uefi boot, ever since it was blocked in 2008 or so to prevent a bootmod that was able to modify fhe bios to enable hw virtualization. Reply
  • iamlilysdad - Monday, January 16, 2012 - link

    I'm looking at getting the older 13.3" Vaio SA which has the 6630M graphics card. How would this compare to the SE 15.5? I know you guys reviewed the SB a while back, but that doesn't have the higher-res screen (have you seen how the quality is with that?) and it has a lesser GPU.

    Thoughts? I know they aren't necessarily designed for the same type of user, but they are both on my radar.

    Thanks in advance.
    Reply
  • Malih - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    Proprietary connector... again?
    Can't Intel tell these companies to use only one type of connector?
    Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    Admittedly the ultrabooks are attractive initially. But I am not sure that they are really going to sell that well. They just seem too expensive for the performance, and I also dont know how they cannot heat up if you do any really intensive tasks. You could get a tablet and a Brazos netbook or small laptop for the same price as an ultrabook, at least a high quality one. And it still bothers me that a 1000 dollar plus laptop will be lower in performance than a 400.00 Llano. I know the weight is way less and it is much nicer, but still??

    They might be a hit in the business world though, when the company is footing the bill and wants your laptop to look impressive, and the person does a lot of traveling.
    Reply
  • Fran - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    Dear friends, sell my Vaio Z21-2011 purchased in August-2011, if there is someone interested can visit the link indicated below;

    http://www.ebay.es/itm/SONY-Vaio-Z21-Ultrabook-VPC...

    Greetings!
    Reply
  • Fran - Thursday, April 26, 2012 - link

    Hi all! I lowered the price to -300 €.

    http://www.ebay.es/itm/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&a...

    Regards.
    Reply

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