Vaio Z Flip review:

A revived Vaio packs plenty of power into a thin hybrid

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

1 stars 1 user review

The Good The Vaio Z Flip has exceptional performance for a thin and light laptop, a crisp high-resolution screen and an attractive, functional design.

The Bad Battery life in this expensive system is just adequate, not great. Loud fans and an overly glossy screen detract from the experience too.

The Bottom Line For those willing to pay top dollar for a stylish, functional, highly portable PC, the Vaio Z Flip is impressive -- but you might do better with a Lenovo Yoga 900, MacBook Pro or Microsoft Surface Book.

7.4 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Battery 6.0

You had to hand it to Sony: the company's laptops were always unique. Sometimes inventive, often stylish, always different from the competition. They usually cost more, too, which could be why they didn't rack up many sales.

The new Vaio Z Flip, an ultrathin 13-inch laptop shipping this February, is Sony on steroids. OK, technically it's not Sony, because Sony sold the Vaio computer brand to a new Japanese company back in 2014. But the new Vaio Z is more inventive -- and expensive -- than ever before. At a time when you can buy a high-quality laptop for under a thousand bucks, the Vaio Z starts at $1,799. That means it's competing with the MacBook Pro and Surface Book, two of the very best laptops we've tried. Why would anyone pick the Vaio over those machines?

It's simple, really: Vaio fits the performance and features of that MacBook Pro into the svelte dimensions of a MacBook Air.

Vaio Z vs. the competition

Vaio Z Flip Lenovo Yoga 900 13-inch MacBook Pro Microsoft Surface Book
Starting price (USD) $1,799 $1,199 $1,299 $1,499
Display 13.3-inch 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution 13.3-inch 3,200x1,800-pixel resolution 13.3-inch 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution 13.5-inch 3,000x2,000-pixel resolution
Pixel density 220 276 227 267
Dimensions (imperial) 12.76 x 8.48 x 0.66 inches 12.75 x 8.86 x 0.59 inches 12.35 x 8.62 x 0.71 inches 12.3 x 8.67 x 0.9 inches
Dimensions (metric) 324 x 215 x 16.8mm 324 x 225 x 14.9mm 314 x 219 x 18mm 220 x 312 x 22.8mm
Weight 2.96lbs (1.34kg) 2.84lbs (1.29kg) 3.48lbs (1.58kg) 3.48lbs (1.58kg)
Operating system Windows 10 Pro Windows 10 Pro OS X El Capitan Windows 10 Pro
Processors Up to 6th-gen 3.3GHz 2-core Intel Core i7 Up to 6th-gen 2.5GHz 2-core Intel Core i7 Up to 5th-gen 3.1GHz 2-core Intel Core i7 Up to 6th-gen 2.6GHz 2-core Intel Core i7
Graphics Intel Iris 550 Intel HD 520 Intel Iris 6100 Intel HD 520 or Nvidia GeForce
Storage 256GB / 512GB 256GB / 512GB 128GB / 256GB / 512GB 128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB
RAM 8GB / 16GB 8GB / 16GB 8GB / 16GB 8GB / 16GB
Touchscreen Yes Yes No Yes
Stylus Included No No Included

Despite being marginally thinner and a half-pound lighter than Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro, the Vaio Z Flip has the same class of silicon under the hood: up to a 28-watt, 3.3GHz Intel Core i7 chip with Intel's latest Iris 550 graphics inside. The Vaio Z Flip offers enough oomph to play slightly older games such as 2013's Tomb Raider at 1080p resolution, as long as the graphics are set to medium levels of detail.

Unlike most thin and light laptops these days, the new Vaio doesn't look like it's directly aping the design of the MacBook Air. Yet it feels competitive with that popular system, with a dark anodized aluminum lid and a matte-finish carbon-fiber base that insulates your legs from excessive heat. The aluminum deck extends around the edge of the laptop, making it feel thinner and making it harder to accidentally press the power button.

vaio-z-flip-004.jpg
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The Vaio Z Flip.

John Kim/CNET

Like any recent high-end laptop, the Flip has a fantastic screen. It's a 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel that's easy to read at most any angle, and doubles as a responsive touchscreen. Pictures, websites and games look great since the screen can display 100 percent of the SRGB color spectrum, delivering pure and vibrant color.

Plus, it has a trick up its sleeve, one learned from the original Sony Vaio Flip in 2013: flip a switch to unlock a hidden hinge, set horizontally in the center of the display, which lets the screen fold down into a tablet configuration. Sadly, the gap between the screen and chassis still makes it a little awkward to hold as a tablet, as it doesn't fold down completely flat, and the glossy glass screen is extremely reflective.

Connections include two full-size USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port and an SD card slot that lets you push the card all the way in so it fits nearly flush with the body (that's rare in computers this thin, but makes it easy to expand the on-board storage). No dongles should be necessary, though one does come in the box: a VGA adapter so you can connect to those old projectors at work. Not only is the Vaio's power adapter tiny, but the plug is smartly designed, too: it'll pop right out of the socket if you trip over it, instead of yanking your laptop to the floor.

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