You know the deal, every time Sony releases a new Vaio Z notebook, reviewers swoon and shoppers consider fiscal mayhem. The Z is the epitome of Sony doing what they do best: make cutting edge ultraportable hardware that doesn't come cheap. While their midrange laptop line has its ups and downs, the Z stands above everything else on the market.
The Sony SVZ1311 is Sony's third generation Z series notebook, otherwise known as the Z3 among Vaio fans. It features Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 and i7 full mobile CPUs with Intel HD 4000 graphics, not the ultra low voltage (less powerful) CPUs used in Ultrabooks, including Sony's new Vaio T (review coming soon). This is a notebook for those who need extreme power on the road: graphics professionals, video editors and the like. If you just want to do MS Office, email and the web, the Vaio Z is overkill. It scores 17,000 on PCMark Vantage and 4,000 on 3DMark Vantage: both extremely impressive numbers.
The 0.66" thick machine has a metal frame with a carbon fiber casing, and it looks pretty much identical to the second generation Vaio Z2. It's elegant, understated and modern. It will never be mistaken for an Apple product and it's beautiful. It weighs just 2.5 lbs., which is significantly less than the Sony Vaio T Ultrabook and most other Utrabooks on the market. That's even more impressive because this computer packs the power of a 15.6 to 17" desktop replacement notebook.
Sony's latest Ivy Bridge refresh brought price drops, and the Vaio Z starts at $1,599 rather than $2,000 because the Portable Media Dock is now optional. You can get bundles with the dock and the slab battery, but we don't suggest you buy the dock right now if you're in the US where we're still waiting a refresh of the older AMD Radeon 6550 used in the old dock. Honestly, given the huge improvement in Intel's HD 4000 graphics, many folks might find the external dock with dedicated graphics card unnecessary. For those of you new to the Vaio Z, the Portable Media Dock houses a Blu-ray drive, USB ports, HDMI and the dedicated graphics card. It connects using Intel Light Peak technology to one of the two USB 3.0 ports via fiber optic cable.
Our unit has the intel Core i7-3612QM quad core Ivy Bridge CPU clocked at 2.1GHz with TurboBoost to 3.1GHz. Interestingly, you can't get the quad core i7 in the Z's bigger brother, the Vaio S. The S is only available with a dual core i7. Like all Z3 models, it has 8 gigs of RAM soldered to the motherboard and Sony's custom SSD (available in 128, 256 and 512 gig capacities). There is no room for an internal optical drive. Can it play Skyrim at full 1080p with good frame rates? Yes. Can it edit 1080p video with decent render speeds? Yes.
The display is 1920 x 1080 at 13.1 inches. That's very high pixel density and it helps make text readable despite the small size. It has an anti-glare coating, good brightness, good viewing angles and a spectacular 92% color gaming. Photoshop jockeys, take note.
The Sony Vaio Z has an HDMI port, VGA port, two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot, Memory Stick slot, 3.5mm audio jack and a gigabit Ethernet jack (no dongle needed). It has dual band Intel WiFi Advanced-N 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and Intel WiDi wireless display. It has a fingerprint scanner with TPM and noise cancelling earbuds are included in the box.