Sony Vaio Flip 15 review: A big-screen hybrid that's more laptop than not

A bigger issue is that, when folded down into tablet mode, the system doesn't actually lie flat. Like the Acer Aspire R7, the tablet mode leaves a gap between one edge of the screen and the rest of the base. The resulting shape is fine for lap or tabletop use, and you might even like the slight incline for lap typing, but it's also awkward to hold or carry. I'd call this a laptop/almost-tablet hybrid, as it never quite becomes a slate.

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The big 15.6-inch screen is a real highlight. The native resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels is what you'd expect, but the image is especially clear, colorful, and bright. First, this is an IPS screen (that stands for in-plane switching), which gives it excellent off-axis viewing. Second, Sony says it uses some of its TV group's display know-how to create laptop screens now, which involves snazzy-sounding marketing terms like Triluminos and X-Reality. On the downside, the screen is especially glossy and glare-prone. There is also a 2,880x1,620-pixel-resolution upgrade option, but our review unit didn't have that.

Audio is good-to-excellent, and is another area in which Sony generally excels. In this case, simply having a larger chassis with room for larger speakers is a big part of the appeal.

Sony Vaio Flip 15
Video HDMI-out
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 3 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None

Connections, performance, and battery
Not having an optical drive in a 15-inch laptop is still a concept that takes a little getting used to, but the Flip 15 is thin enough to excuse it, especially as it works in a full Ethernet jack, albeit one with a jawlike hinge.

Our review configuration includes a 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-4500U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a big 1TB hard drive. It's a platter drive, but of the faster 7,200rpm variety. Other recent high-end 15-inch laptops, including the Vizio CT15 and 15-inch Retina MacBook Air performed faster on our benchmark tests, but at these higher performance levels, you'll hardly notice the difference, even under heavy multitasking, such as playing back HD video, surfing the Web, and working on office documents at the same time.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Nvidia's entry-level GeForce 735M graphics card is available as an option on some models, and is an interesting way to make this a more gaming-friendly machine, but wasn't included in this review sample.

While a 15-inch laptop can be forgiven for having unimpressive battery life, if its also being pitched as a tablet, it had better be able to run for a long time in your lap or on the couch. In the case of the Vaio Flip 15, the system ran for 4 hours and 24 minutes on our video playback battery drain test. That's underwhelming, but not unacceptable. The very similar Acer Aspire R7 ran for about 20 minutes less, while 15-inch laptops from Apple and Vizio added more than two hours.

Conclusion
There are few bigger-screen hybrids right now, likely because the mechanics of flipping or folding a 15-inch or larger screen is complicated compared with a smaller 11-inch or 13-inch one. Sony does an excellent job of making its fold-over Flip 15 screen mechanism feel smooth and secure, but the odd decision to not have the tablet mode lie completely flat makes the system's tablet mode awkward to hold or carry.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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System configurations
Sony Vaio Flip 15
Windows 8 (64-bit) 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-4500U; 8GB DDR3 SDRA 1,600MHz; 1792B (shared) Intel HD 4400 Graphics; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Vizio CT15T-B1
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3635QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB Intel HD 4000 Graphics ; HD 256GB SSD

Acer R7-571-6858 Touch Notebook
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 3337U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 4000; HD 1 24GB SSD HD 2 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch w/Retina Display (June 2012)
OS X 10.7.4 Lion; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 650M + 512MB Intel HD 4000; 256GB Apple SSD

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    Sony Vaio Flip 15

    Part Number: sVF15N190XE2E3DE
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    Quick Specifications See All

    • Regional specs shown for US. AU specs are unavailable.

    • Resolution 1920 x 1080 ( Full HD )
    • Installed Size 8 GB
    • Color silver
    • Weight 5 lbs
    • Graphics Processor NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M / Intel HD Graphics 4400 - 2 GB
    • CPU Intel Core i7 (4th Gen) 4500U / 1.8 GHz
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