For our final episode in our MacBook Pro with Retina display coverage (at least for now), we have a smackdown between it and my favorite travel-friendly Windows notebook, the Sony Vaio Z 2012 model. These two notebooks have much in common: they eschew spinning drives of any kind and feature very high resolution displays. They're both portable, though the 4.5lb. Retina MacBook Pro weighs nearly twice as much as the 2.5lb. Sony Vaio Z. They're also both expensive, though surprisingly the Vaio Z is less expensive. The Sony starts at $1,599 with a full mobile Core i5 CPU and it's $1,949 when configured similarly to Apple's base model Retina Mac.
Both machines in this comparison run on quad core Ivy Bridge Intel Core i7 CPUs. The Mac is clocked at 2.3GHz and the Sony at 2.1GHz. Both have 8 gigs of DDR3 RAM and a 256 gig custom SSD (both drives are extremely fast). Neither has an internal optical drive. The Sony has a 13.1" 1920 x 1080p display with 168ppi pixel density while the Mac has a 15.4" 2880 x 1800 display running at 220ppi. Both are extremely sharp and since the Sony's pixels are squeezed into a smaller area it looks darned sharp.
The Sony Vaio Z has a carbon fiber casing with a metal frame inside. The MacBook Pro with Retina display has the usual Apple unibody aluminum casing. The mac feels more dense and robust. It doesn't scratch or show fingerprints. Carbon fiber isn't as rigid, so you don't get that same sense of robustness from the Vaio Z.
The RAM and SSD aren't design for user upgrades, but the Sony does have a removable battery unlike the Mac.
The Retina Mac has two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, two Thunderbolt ports (they double as Mini DisplayPorts) and an SDXC card slot. There's no Ethernet built in, you'll need a $29 Thunderbolt to gigabit Ethernet adapter for that.
The Sony Vaio Z3 has two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, VGA and gigabit Ethernet.
And that's where the similarities end.
Two obvious points: one is a 15.4" notebook while the other is 13.1". Even without the extreme weigh saving design of the legendary Vaio Z, they're in a different portability class. In fact, the Vaio Z third gen makes Ultrabooks seem a little porky. Both are incredibly powerful notebooks that have the brawn of a desktop replacement, but only the Sony seems to defy physics by cramming so much into a small and light package. The Vaio Z really is a feat of engineering.
In terms of benchmarks, the Vaio Z scores slightly higher in the cross-platform Geekbench 2 benchmark. Under Windows, the Mac scores 2,000 points higher in PCMark Vantage thanks to the dedicated graphics card. In 3DMark Vantage, the Sony Vaio Z3 scores 4,000 vs. 10,000 for the Mac with Retina.
Obvious point number 2: one runs Mac OS X and the other runs Windows 7. Yes, you can install Windows 7 on the Mac, and in fact we're running it with Windows 7 in this video, but the best experience comes when running Mac OS X. Drivers, battery life and access to Intel HD 4000 graphics for power saving when unplugged are perks with Mac OS X. Less obvious point: the Retina Mac has 1GB GDDR5 Nvidia GT650M dedicated graphics that switchable with Intel HD 4000 graphics. The Sony has no internal dedicated graphics option: you get Intel HD 4000 graphics. Intel's latest GPU is actually as powerful as a lower to mid-range graphics card so that's not the end of the world, but if you need dedicated graphics (middle class), you'll need Sony's Portable Media Dock. And that means lugging two things rather than one.
Here's our Sony Vaio Z vs. MacBook Pro with Retina display video review: