How do you solve the age-old (or at least a few years old) problem of building a tablet and laptop into a single device? We've seen plenty of possible solutions over the years, from fully detachable screens, to slide-out keyboards, to screens that twist or rotate around.
Sony is debuting a new Vaio line, called the Flip, and as one might guess from the name, its transformative abilities come from a screen that, well, flips. We previously saw a teaser video with a papercraft mockup of the Flip, but no concrete details.
On paper, that sounds a lot like Lenovo's successful Yoga line, with a two-way hinge that folds all the way backward, forming a slatelike tablet. The main issue people have with that design is that the keyboard, while deactivated, ends up pointing out from the bottom of the tablet, which can be awkward and uncomfortable.
The Flip solves that particular problem by adding a hinge to the center of the upper lid, forming a horizontal line from left to right. The lid folds back along that line, allowing the screen to tilt back. First, it flips back to form a kiosk mode, with the screen pointing out from the back of the system (away from the keyboard and touch pad). Then the lid can be pushed shut to form a slate-style tablet, and unlike the Yoga, the keyboard is on the inside.
In practice, judging from our brief hands-on time with the Flip, it works a lot more like Dell's
The Flip, in all three sizes, is slim, well-built, and looks and feels very high-end, and is made of silver and black aluminum, with a backlit keyboard, optional active pen stylus, and optional Nvidia graphics on the 14- and 15-inch versions.
Unlike many hybrids, it wisely doesn't compromise the laptop form, and in its clamshell mode, you'd be hard-pressed to even tell that this is a part-time tablet. My main issue with the prerelease version of the Flip is that the tablet mode does not fold down exactly flat, leaving its screen at a bit on angle, which is a side effect of how the entire thing folds down.
Will that be a deal breaker? Hard to say without more hands-on time, but it's certainly a part of the system that doesn't look as deliberately engineered as it could be. Sony has not yet announced price and availability details for the Vaio Flip.