CNET First Look
Sony Vaio ZSony's super-high-end Vaio Z is an enviable status symbol, but probably out of your price range, especially with its optional 512GB SSD.
I'm Dan Ackerman and we are here with the Sony Vaio Z series. Now, the Z is something very unusual in the laptop world, very hard to find, it is a super expensive laptop. It used to be a $1000 laptop was considered budget, now that's really the high end. There are very few laptops that cost more than that. This guy starts at $1900. Our particular configuration here, $3399. Now, how does it do that? Well, one, it's got Intel Core i5 processor, a fairly fast NVIDIA GeForce 330M graphics card, a higher than usual 16 by 9 resolution on the 13-inch screen instead of the usual 1366 X 768 but much more important, it's got a massive 512 gig SSD hard drive and that alone can add, you know, about $1500 to the price of a laptop at something like that. In fact, the Z series, you can't even get a regular hard drive, the only kind available are SSDs, I think starting around 64 gigs and going up from there. As befits a super premium product like this, it's very nicely constructed. Magnesium and aluminum, all metal. Virtually no plastic here. Very lightweight but very sturdy at the same time. Of course, it's got the excellent Sony Vaio keyboard that we're used to seeing and for a 13-inch laptop, a pretty decent large touchpad with two nice clicking mouse buttons. You also get a built-in Verizon mobile broadband antenna. That's common enough but the Sony wireless networking software is really clever because it gives you a handy switch you can throw that will turn your 3G signal into a mobile hotspot, kind of like you get with a MiFi card. You can do this with other laptops but it takes a little elbow grease. Here, it's just a simple button, you flick it one way and you're good. If there's one kind of glaring flaw in the Sony Vaio Z and we can't even believe it's set up like this, like the last model we saw very early in 2010, to switch between the integrated Intel graphics and the high-end NVIDIA GeForce graphics, you don't use NVIDIA's Optimus technology which does all that for you behind the scenes, instead you have a physical switch right here that goes between what they call Speed and Stamina and then an Auto mode that turns it off and on depending on whether the laptop is plugged in or not. Now, unlike Optimus, you actually have to quit out of some programs when you do the switching and it makes the screen flicker for a couple of seconds. Because you can do this in very inexpensive laptops using NVIDIA's Optimus technology, which, again, handles all this behind the scenes for you invisibly, it's pretty shocking that you can spend $3000 on a laptop and still have a big gigantic graphic switching button on the front of it. That said, if you're looking for a super high end executive laptop in that 13-inch size, you know, you just have to either spend more or get a nicer built overall system than this. I am Dan Ackerman and that is the Sony Vaio Z.