If the Vaio Z sounds familiar, you may be recalling Sony's ultraportable laptop that was launched over a decade ago. That was when the electronics giant was firmly involved in the PC market, but that came to a close in 2014, when Sony stopped producing computers and sold off that part of its business to a consortium that eventually became Vaio Corporation. (Sony retains the Vaio trademark and has a stake in the new company.)
Vaio Corp. has slowly resumed producing laptops with the familiar brand name, including the Vaio SX14 that ZDNet's Cliff Joseph reviewed when it launched in 2019 and has remained in production. Like Sony's versions, the new Vaio notebooks feature attractive designs, solid features, and high-end price tags. With the (re)launch of the Vaio Z, the company is taking all of those things to a whole new level.
According to Vaio, the new Z is the first mass-produced laptop built from 3D-molded carbon fiber, a process the company says has been previously been relegated to racing car design. Combining toughness (being to withstand 4-foot drops, for instance) with light weight, the Vaio Z's chassis tips the scales at just under 2.3 pounds, despite possessing a 14-inch screen. It's coupled with a hinge design that can open the computer up with one hand and allows the top lid to open a full 180 degrees.
Despite its small footprint, the Vaio Z is packed with 11th-generation Intel Core i7-11375H mobile processor from the top-of-the-line H series to provide big performance. Three of the four configurations come with 16GB of RAM, while the top model comes with 32GB, while solid-state storage ranges from 512GB to 2TB. The 14-inch display features 4K resolution, but as one of its space-saving concessions, the Vaio Z doesn't offer discrete graphics, relying instead on the improved graphics from Intel's Iris Xe integrated GPU.
Vaio includes a few handy security features, such as a built-in shutter to allow you to cover up your webcam and something it calls User Sensing, a system that combines motion sensing and facial recognition to allow hands-free login when the Z detects you in front of the screen, but will lock automatically when you move away from the laptop. Connectivity includes 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax Wi-Fi 6 and a pair of USB Type C Thunderbolt 4 ports, while Vaio has improved its keyboard with a larger key pitch stroke (1.5mm to compared to 1.2mm) and a resigned backlight.
Those aware of the original Vaio Z series laptops know that they were pricey even by Sony's standards. Vaio keeps that tradition with its version, pricing the base configuration (16GB of RAM, 512GB solid-state drive) at a whopping $3,579 and going up from there for the other three editions. For $200 more, you can double your storage, and at $3,979, you can double it again to 2TB. Finally, the $4,179 configuration features both a 2TB SSD and 32 gigs of RAM.
If you have deep pockets, and the desire to get in on the ground floor of the molded carbon fiber revolution, the Z is currently up for pre-order at the Vaio website. You can also take a closer look at one in person starting next month at select b8ta tech stores.