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Review: VAIO’s Z Flip ultrabook shows little learned

TechCrunch TechCrunch 27/05/2016 Stefan Etienne

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t’s been a long journey for the VAIO brand: sold off from Sony in 2014 to investment firm Japan Industrial Partners, the deal saw all of its then-new products disappear. The computer brand was on standby for a while, and only within the last year has been launching new laptops — the VAIO Z Flip is one such laptop.

But to be fair, despite new management, it doesn’t seem like much of the formula has changed for the better, if at all.

Price as Reviewed: $1,999 at VAIO

Basics

  • 13.3-inch WQHD (2,560 x 1440) touchscreen
  • Intel Core i7-6567U Processor (4MB Cache, up to 3.60GHz)
  • Intel Iris Graphics 550
  • 8GB LPDDR3 1866 MHz RAM
  • 256GB PCIe SSD
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
  • WiFi/Bluetooth 4.1/TPM 2.0
  • Headphone, HDMI-out, two USB 3.0 ports (one with charging), and SD card slot
  • Measures 12.76”(W) x 0.59-0.66”(H) x 8.48”(D)
  • Backlit keyboard
  • “Digitizer stylus” (it’s a pen)
  • Weighs 2.96 lbs

Experience

So, here’s what you have to know about the VAIO Z Flip that makes it “special” — the screen can be flipped off a hinge mounted to the middle of the screen, and then laid flat, on top of the keyboard.

The point of it all is to have a laptop which also doubles as a convertible tablet.

A simple release switch disengages the lock to make this happen. The point of it all is to have a laptop which also doubles as a convertible tablet.

There aren’t any keys exposed, which is a good thing, but the nature of this design means the top-end of the laptop is heavy, and that the hinge offers so much resistance, that to cope with it you can’t open it with just one finger. Instead, use one hand to hold the base, and the other to open the lid — it’s silly.

To close the tablet mode, you need to exert a force against the hinge, using the body of the laptop, or awkwardly pulling it up, then pushing back. It’s not intuitive and has to be learned, Ultimately, there’s a lack of finesse here despite the creative engineering.

Oh, and the Vaio Z Flip comes with a stylus pen, which is useful for OneNote and the like, but with no place to store it on laptop itself, it becomes a fad rather quickly and I instead to leave it out of my commutes. In this case, Vaio could have learned something from the Surface, where the pen magnetically latches to the body.

Also, the volume rocker is on the back end of the laptop — this makes no sense.

Also, the volume rocker is on the back end of the laptop — this makes no sense, and is another consequence of the flip mechanism.

What’s there to love about the Vaio Z Flip? Evidently, nothing about the flip mechanism for the screen, but the specs are actually great for the form factor. The Core i7 processor is blazing, as is to be expected for a base clock speed of 3.3GHz, with a decent amount of RAM and SSD storage to keep things running.

Another good thing: very little bloatware was on the Z Flip the first time I booted up.

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The screen is another solid point on the Z Flip’s resume: it’s sharp, with popping color reproduction and accurate tracking with your finger or the pen.

Other things to note: the keyboard feels and looks solid, but there is some flex on the surface area; battery life is middling at 5 hours or so; the speakers are actually pretty loud; it runs hot at the bottom and the fan blasts when it’s handling workload.

Bottom Line

Still, nice try by Vaio on this — I almost flipped out. 

The Vaio Z Flip main feature doesn’t justify its cost, especially not in build quality or intuitiveness. It has one of the highest starting prices for a Windows ultrabook, and what you get doesn’t fit the bill.

A better alternative would be Vaio Z, which is everything the Flip is, sans the flipping screen with a lower starting price of $1499.

In short, this is Vaio’s problem: with offerings that are not competitive in price or looks, it becomes hard to justify buying into what was once good, when so many better alternatives are available.

Still, nice try by Vaio on this — I almost flipped out.

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