Sony's new Vaio laptops revealed

Updates, upgrades, new colors, and Sony's first-ever ultrabook.

The latest refresh of Sony's iconic Vaio laptop line is dominated by the company's first entry in the growing ultrabook category.

But, looking at the new Vaio T , you might think, "Doesn't Sony already have an ultrathin laptop?" And that's true -- the high-end Vaio Z has been around for a couple of years in its present form, and certainly is as thin and portable as any ultrabook. It was even one of the first laptops to go SSD-only.

But the Vaio Z is technically not an ultrabook (and its previous $2,000-plus price made it basically an executive laptop). Much of the Z's DNA has filtered down to a brand-new line, the Vaio T, which looks and feels very similar, but starts at under $800.

Sony has updated several other laptop lines as well, most notably with Intel's new third-generation Core i-series (Ivy Bridge) CPUs, and a very nice software package of Sony's Vegas, Acid, and Sound Forge software for video and audio editing.

The Sony Vaio Z series in Premium Carbon Black. Sony

Vaio E series: Now available in 11.6-inch, 14-inch, and 15.5-inch models. This budget-minded line has gotten a slick makeover, although it's still thick and heavy compared with more-expensive midsize laptops. The keyboard is excellent, and backlit on the 14 and 15-inch versions. The 11-inch uses AMD processors, the 14-inch is, for now, stuck with older second-gen Intel Core-series CPUs, and the 15-inch has newer Ivy Bridge processors and optional AMD Radeon graphics.

There's also a special edition called the E14P Boomdizzle Bundle, which includes music software from a company (co-founded by rapper LL Cool J) of the same name, and a pair of Sony MDR-V55 DJ headphones.

The Vaio E 11-inch starts at $449, the 14-inch at $549, the 15-inch at $449, and the E14P Boomdizzle Bundle at $899.

Read our full review of the Vaio E 15 here .

Vaio S series: Sony's most mainstream laptops, this upscale-looking line comes in 13- and 15-inch sizes in silver, black, and white. Physical changes here are modest compared with last year's version, but we liked the Vaio S a lot, so that's not a bad thing. The line includes a business-friendly TPM chip, which makes it a potentially useful crossover system. The 13-inch can get a dual-core Ivy Bridge Core i7, and the 15-inch can go quad-core. Nvidia graphics and Blu-ray drives are optional.

The Vaio S 13-inch starts at $899, the 15-inch at $999.

Vaio T series: Looking like a hybrid of the Vaio S and Vaio Z, the new T series is Sony's first official ultrabook. It's not the thinnest one we've seen, and the (non-backlit) keyboard is painfully shallow, but the overall design and construction are great for under $800.

The Vaio T starts at $799.

Read our full review of the Vaio T here.

Vaio Z series: This high-end, ultrabook-like laptop has always been very expensive. The most recent editions included a breakout box, called the Power Media Dock, with both an optical drive and a discrete GPU, connected via Thunderbolt. That was a very cool concept, but drove the price sky high. The revamped Vaio Z, available in carbon fiber black, gold, and a matte premium carbon black, now makes the GPU/optical breakout box optional, bringing the starting price down to $1,599 (from the original $1,999).

Sony's updated Vaio laptops will be available starting later in June.

 

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