Wonder why the coolest new tech often never makes it to Australia? Blame our collective lack of interest in paying extra for truly premium products.
The NEC LaVie Z. The world's lightest ultrabook. (Credit: CNET)
The NEC LaVie Z ultrabook is the lightest ultrabook in the world. Weighing in at just 875 grams, it is half a kilogram lighter than many of the other models that consider themselves "very light". The LaVie Z has been available in Japan since July, with no plans to bring it to any other country. But why not?
The LaVie Z was designed and manufactured as part of a new joint venture between Lenovo and NEC. NEC is a very Japan-focused company in the laptop scene, but the partnership means that if Lenovo wanted to, they could release the same device into any territory they choose. So it's not a lack of global presence stopping this from wider release.
The LaVie Z, itself, is eerily light. In the hand, it feels fake, as though there couldn't possibly be any internal parts hidden underneath the keyboard. Like one of those pretend computers sitting on the furniture at IKEA. But it is real, and it's spectacular. Its chassis is a magnesium lithium alloy which allows the amazing lightness, and they have used special screen glass to also take weight out of that area of the device. Available in both Core i5 and Core i7 configurations, this is a true ultrabook. Perhaps its only trade-off, compared to other Lenovo ultrabooks, is a choice of a lighter battery type that delivers an eight hour performance, but doesn't have advanced features like rapid charge. While it is definitely not Mil-spec tough, like Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon, it is no fragile snowflake, either. Even if its lightness makes it feel that way.
All up, it's an impressive machine on paper and in the hand. So why no Western release?
"The average sell price for a PC in Japan is the highest in the world," says Roderick Lappin, executive chairman of Lenovo NEC Holdings. "Premium products succeed here, because people are willing to pay for premium technology."
"If there's ever a chance for a premium play outside Japan, then maybe."
It seems sad that cutting-edge notebook designs are deemed unsellable in Western markets. In this case, the Japanese price for a third generation Core i5 model, with 128GB SSD, USB 3.0 and HDMI output, is ¥135,000, the third generation Core i7 version, with 256GB SSD, is ¥165,000. Adding 30 per cent, for argument sake, to get a somewhat typical local price conversion, is $2199 fundamentally too much to pay for something a cut above?
The answer is an obvious "Yes" for most people. If it doesn't deliver tangible features and benefits over and above products that are $500 (or more) less than this price tag, it isn't going to be on the radar. Those who are willing to pay are in such a minority today, it simply costs too much to add such a product to the local line-ups.
Pragmatism is understandable for the majority. We want a system that gets it done, and while a few bells and whistles are nice, we only want to pay for features that really matter to our daily routine. There are lots of rational reasons why most people do not want to choose a LaVie Z over various other options in the market.
Maybe one day we'll see special order offers as part of global online ordering and shipping programs. But products still require local service and support to some degree, so even then, certain products may still be seen as too difficult to support, due to very low volumes.
For now, we resume our regularly scheduled program — looking at beautiful technology from afar, and hoping that, one day, we'll get a piece of the action.
Click through below for a closer look at the NEC LaVie Z ultrabook.
Seamus Byrne attended a facility tour in Japan as a guest of Lenovo.