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Introducing the Sony VAIO Z2

Users who want everything out of their notebook, no matter how ridiculous the demands, are probably more than at least a little curious about Sony's new VAIO Z2. There's good reason to be: this 13.1" ultrabook features a stunning 1080p screen, a secondary battery slice that nearly doubles running time off the mains, and an external dock box that features an optical drive, additional connectivity, and a dedicated GPU that can actually be used to power the notebook's internal screen. The VAIO Z2 has a lot going for it, but is it worth the heavy price tag?

Sony's website lists this unit under the same old Z-series heading, but you'll remember last generation's Z-series notebooks used Arrandale CPUs and packed an optical drive and GPU into the main chassis. The Z2 also technically wouldn't qualify as an ultrabook with a starting price north of $1,600, but the design and build quality is basically in line with Intel's specification (other than the full power CPU). Sony just also happens to include a wealth of extras in the box with it to shore up any deficiencies the primary system might have.

Sony VAIO Z2 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-2620M
(2x2.7GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.4GHz, 32nm, 4MB L3, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM67
Memory 4GB integrated DDR3-1333 in dual channel
Graphics Intel HD 3000 Graphics
(12 EUs, up to 1.3GHz)

AMD Radeon HD 6650M 1GB DDR3 (in external dock)
(480 shaders, 128-bit memory bus, 725MHz/1.8GHz core/memory clocks, running at PCIe 2.1 x4)
Display 13.1" LED Matte 16:9 1080p
Sony MS_0025
Hard Drive(s) 2x128GB Samsung SATA 3Gbps SSD in RAID 0 (integrated)
Optical Drive Optiarc DVD+/-RW (in external dock)
Networking Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet (second in dock)
Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Audio Realtek ALC275 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Single combination mic/headphone jack
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 45Wh (integrated)

6-Cell, 11.1V, 49Wh (battery slice)
Front Side MS/MSPro card reader
SD/MMC card reader
Right Side Mic/headphone combo jack
Ethernet port
HDMI
USB 2.0
USB 3.0/dock combo port
AC adaptor
Left Side VGA
Exhaust vent
Kensington lock
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 13.0" x 0.66" x 8.27" (WxHxD)
330mm x 16.8mm x 210mm
Weight 2.57 lbs (with standard battery)
1.17kg
Extras Webcam
SD and MS card readers
2xSSD in RAID 0
USB 3.0
Bluetooth
Removable external battery slice

External docking unit which features:
DVD+/-RW drive
2x USB 2.0
1x USB 3.0
Gigabit ethernet
HDMI
VGA
AMD Radeon HD 6650M 1GB DDR3
Warranty 1-year international warranty
Pricing Starts at $1,649
As configured: $2,499

It's fairly obvious Sony is gunning for the premium ultraportable market with the VAIO Z2, much as they did with its predecessors. The Z2 is slim and light, but unlike other ultrabooks, Sony elected to use a full-wattage Intel Sandy Bridge processor in the form of the Core i7 2620M, a dual-core processor that runs at a 2.7GHz nominal clock but turbos up to 3.2GHz on both cores or 3.5GHz on a single core. They pair it with 4GB of dual channel DDR3-1333, and you can order the Z2 with up to 8GB, but buyer beware: the memory is soldered on to the motherboard. If you want more than the standard 4GB of DDR3, you'd better order it from the get go because you won't be able to upgrade it later.

Also not upgradable but still appreciated is the SSD. Information about the controller used is not forthcoming, but the individual drives are running on SATA 3Gbps instead of SATA 6Gbps, and then data is striped between two channels in RAID 0. It's a decision of questionable value to the end user; the HM67 mobile chipset is capable of supporting a SATA 6Gbps SSD, so the only real benefit here is the pair of SSD controllers theoretically improving overall throughput.

The rest of the notebook on its own is business as usual excepting the stellar 1080p 13.1" screen. It's definitely a TN panel, but as you'll see later it's among the best notebook screens we've ever tested. The 1080p screen is an upgrade, but even the bottom rung model of Z2 still comes with a 900p screen bog standard, a far cry from the poor quality 768p screens other manufacturers are using.

While sheet batteries are nothing new and the one available for the Z2 does exactly what it was intended for, the docking unit is another matter entirely. Sony dubs it the Power Media Dock, and it offers something most notebook users have been clamoring for: a discrete graphics upgrade. Since the Z2 itself is too small to house a discrete GPU, the Power Media Dock features an AMD Radeon HD 6650M with 1GB of DDR3. Unlike prototypes that have been announced year after year (and almost never materialize in the marketplace), the Z2's Power Media Dock is capable of actually using the Radeon with the internal screen instead of forcing you to use an external monitor if you want dedicated graphics performance. The dock also includes additional connectivity along with a DVD+/-RW drive, and more expensive versions can upgrade to a Blu-ray reader or a Blu-ray writer.

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  • silverblue - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    I was playing on my 11 year old Dreamcast the other day. :) At my last job, we had three Vaio laptops and two of the screens started to develop dead lines of pixels (or whatever the technical classification is)... cheap panels, I guess.

    In response to rarson, Sony were notorious for developing many versions of their PS and PS2 hardware due to some fault or another. I don't remember Sega doing the same with the Saturn or Dreamcast; theirs were limited to cosmetic/cost saving changes.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    To be fair, the PSone and PS2 had about 3 times the product live of the Sega consoles. The Saturn was a still-born, because of management changes at the time (it was dropped quickly for the Dreamcast). And the Dreamcast couldn't compete well enough with the PS2 to live out to its old age. PS2 consoles on the other hand are still being produced as we speak. Reply
  • amdwilliam1985 - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    "The price of an HP laptop has nothing to do with the fact that Apple's products are overpriced. It just means that Apple ain't the only one."

    You paid what you get for.
    I can easily buy an $500 HP/Dell laptop over MacBook Air, but we do I get in return for that $500?
    1) A cheap plastic feel
    2) A messed up oem os with tons of junk.
    3) Awful battery life(most of the time).
    4) A slow hard drive to boot up to.
    5) A bad keyboard to type on.
    6) A bad screen(quality) and resolution(720p most likely).
    7) A touchpad that doesn't work well(compare to MBA).

    I used to buy the cheapest(best bang for the buck, got 5 PC in the house). Now I look for quality over price.
    Reply
  • jonyah - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    Sony gives you the option (when configuring on their site) to have no bloatware on the machine. I think that's an invalid argument against it.

    That said, I have the previous Z and don't see any reason to upgrade. I actually prefer my Z1 over the Z2. If it had no optical drive and supported dual external monitor, it would be nearly perfect.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    If you order direct from Sony, you sometimes pay a markup relative to what you'll pay if you buy through other channels. Right now at least that doesn't appear to be the case on the VPCZ22UGX/N ($2550 at Sony or other online resellers), but I certainly wouldn't expect Sony's built-to-order option to be the most economical. Anyway, it's good that you can get a laptop from Sony with a clean OS/software setup, but all the retail units are the standardized build. Reply
  • extide - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    But it appears you can only purchase it WITH the dock. Kind of lame IMHO, as I wouldn't ever use it. The rest of the laptop seems great and 1080p @ 13.3" is awesome! Reply
  • OCedHrt - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    You can buy without the dock. Reply
  • rm19 - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    I much prefer the old VAIO Z's compact all-in-one, "how did they hell did they do that?" format. It weighed less than a MacBook Air, had a Core i7, discrete graphics card, Blu Ray burner and 13.1" 1080p resolution. If they stuck with that formula and just updated to Sandy Bridge and a beefier GPU, I would have been all over it. Reply
  • Penti - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    Not business, not Gamer where is it aim at? Looks kinda nice, but it's expensive has a high-res screen, unneeded two drive RAID 0 SSDs, needs the dock to gain faster graphics. No DisplayPort to drive a high-res external screen (above 1920x1200).

    It feels left out and kinda dated. If it had like QM67 chipset and vPro for business, just one SSD, DisplayPort and maybe even an internal discrete graphics solution it would have been much better. Now it's just an expensive notebook with a high-res screen. Without a real Thunderbolt port. You can get more memory (RAM), you can get wireless 3G/4G broadband card as option, but you can't configure it with just one SSD. I would have preferred the relatively weak discrete graphics as an internal card/onboard instead of the second SSD. Sure it's two SSD SATA drives in sandwich but I would prefer something like a single 256GB Samsung 830 mSATA drive. Raid is a bad way to increase capacity here. Why have a couple of sandwiched SSDs, as well as Mini-PCIe WiFi/option for 3G card instead of SO-DIMM memory too? Looks like it has enough room inside to have made other choices like internal discrete graphics. Even MXM 3.0 Type A like a 6770M GPU is just 82 x 70 mm. On board it can even take up less space. Two half-height mini pci-e is 2 x (30x26.8 mm) to begin with. Some other choices could have been made I'm sure.
    Reply
  • alex1945 - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    I have a Vaio Z2.
    Absolutely, I repeat, absolutely no fan noise.
    The keyboard is good and the touchpad is nornal.
    Mr Dustin you can buy the Vaio Z2 with "fresh start" ,without bloatware.
    Not fair at all, Mr Dustin, sorry.
    Regards,
    Alex1945
    Reply

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