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Sony Vaio Flip 15

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What's Hot: One of the few big screen Windows convertibiles with an active digitizer and pen. Excellent full HD display, attractive design, dedicated graphics, very upgradable for an Ultrabook.

What's Not: Flipping that big display is almost unwieldy.


Reviewed February 7, 2014 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

You'd think that there wouldn't be much difference between the Sony Vaio Flip 13 and the Flip 15. Two inches sets them apart and they share the same convertible design and casing materials. Surprise: they're quite different. We reviewed the Flip 13 a few months back and now we're reviewing the Flip 15 simply because it is such a different animal. While the Flip 13 is an Ultrabook convertible with a 13.3" design and the usual Haswell 4th generation Ultrabook internals that aren't terribly upgradable, the Flip 15 is a slim 15.5" model with delicious options like dedicated graphics, two display resolution options, more ports and upgradable internals. Sony has more space to work with, and that's why you get all this goodness.

Sony Vaio Flip 15

The Vaio Flip 15 runs on standard Ultrabook 15 watt Intel Core CPUs, as do the smaller Flip 13 and Flip 14. We'd love to see an even faster 28 watt CPU option, like that in the Asus Zenbook UX301, but alas that rare CPU doesn't make an appearance here. The Flip 15 has a full HD IPS Triluminos display and there's a $300 option for a 2880 x 1620 display. Like the smaller Flip models, it has a dual digitizer that supports 10 points of multi-touch and an N-Trig digital pen (Sony sells the $40 pen separately with most configurations). That means the Flip 15 is one of the few really big screen digital canvases on the market for art types, and it's certainly less expensive that adding a Wacom Cintiq to your arsenal.

In our review we look at the $1,249 configuration (SVF15N17CXB) that Sony and Best Buy sell. This is a nicely configured model with the full HD display, Intel Core i7-4500U CPU, 8 gigs of RAM, a terabyte HDD with 16 gigs of NAND flash cache and switchable Intel HD 4400 and NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M graphics with 2 gigs VRAM. The machine has two RAM slots, a standard 2.5" SATA drive bay and a socketed wireless card, making it much more upgradable than the 13" model. The base Core i3 model with HD 4400 graphics only and a full HD display is a reasonable $799. And the Core i7 model SVF15N190X with just HD 4400 integrated graphics is $999.

Bugs Squashed and a Quieter Fan

The Sony Vaio Flip 13 lost big points in our review because the fan is a vacuum cleaner that never stops sucking and wheezing. Even with firmware updates, the 13" model's fan is loud and runs inexplicably often. Happily the Flip 15, which has more room for cooling and heat dissipation, is a much quieter beast, and is mostly silent when doing productivity work, streaming video and browsing the web. Current demanding 3D games will get the fan running and you'll hear it spin up when installing software or exporting video. It's a perfectly normal Ultrabook fan, in other words.

When the Vaio Flip 15 shipped, it came with bugs, as noted in some early reviews. Sony has released firmware and driver updates that have taken care of these bugs, including the touch screen failing to respond every once in a while, overzealous fan operation and quirky WiFi (WiFi quirks were Intel and Microsoft issues that also affect other PC brands, but the companies issued Windows updates to address this). Our machine shipped with Windows 8, and we first ran Windows update, then the Vaio update program to get the latest drivers and firmware before updating to 8.1. It went smoothly and we ran Vaio Update again to get Windows 8.1 drivers. In Feb. 2014, Sony should start shipping the machine with Windows 8.1, so you won't have to bother doing the update yourself.

Design and Ergonomics

The Vaio Flip 15 weighs 5.05 lbs. so you'll likely use it in tablet mode on a desk or perhaps on your lap. It also works in presentation or easel mode, with the display facing you and the keyboard behind (facing away from you). The flip mechanism is intelligently designed and unlike Lenovo Yoga models, the keyboard's keys never rest on the table or your legs. This is a big and heavy panel to flip compared to the Flip 13, and the very stiff hinge also requires more muscle. The upside is that the display has very little bounce when you touch it in presentation mode. I've even managed to draw and paint in presentation mode, because it works much like an easel.

Sony Vaio Flip 15

Build quality is superb with no uneven seams, no creaks or ugly hinges. The aluminum lid and keyboard deck look premium, minimalist and modern. Alas the black model also loves fingerprints. Magnets hold the screen in any of 3 positions and the whole thing feels solid despite the thin ribbon cable tucked safely inside. The lid and keyboard deck are made of brushed aluminum (your choice of black or silver) and the bottom is plastic, which we actually don't mind since it doesn't feel cold against the legs in the winter or hot in the summer (plastic doesn't get as hot as metal).

The sides have an interesting design: the keyboard deck extends beyond the sides. It looks cool and provides grip points, but that small ledge means you have to peer around the sides to see the ports. Ports are plentiful thanks to the larger chassis, and the Flip 15 has Ethernet, three USB 3.0 ports, full size HDMI, an SDXC card slot (the card doesn't stick out) and 3.5mm combo audio.

The laptop's stereo speakers aren't hissy or thin, though bass isn't exactly a strong point. Sound is pleasing and natural with good separation, but volume isn't very loud for a machine this size. Sony does offer sound profiles and EQ so you can boost the loudness, though we found that made things sound harsher without getting much louder. I found the speakers enjoyable for movies, but I'd use headphones or external speakers for music.


Deals and Shopping:


Sony Vaio Flip 15 Video Review


Sony Vaio Flip 15 Pen Demo for Note Taking and Art

We test OneNote 2013, ArtRage Studio, Adobe Photoshop, Manga Studio 5 and Corel Painter X3.


Sony Vaio Flip 15 Gaming Demo

We test BioShock Infinite, Civ V, Max Payne 3 and Skyrim, and show you the settings we used for each game.



Keyboard and Trackpad

The keyboard has typical Ultrabook shallow travel, but tactile feel is good. The keys click or rattle just a bit, and they're not damped as on the Dell XPS 12 and ThinkPads. There's some flex but no annoying bounce when typing. It's a perfectly acceptable keyboard but it's not among the best (Dell XPS, Lenovo ThinkPad and MacBook Pro rate higher). The keyboard is backlit and is controlled by the ambient light sensor. There's no way to change backlight levels on the keyboard, and it's a fairly bright white that rings each key and illuminates the letters.

The large buttonless Synaptics trackpad has very stiff click points for left and right click. This might just be our unit and it could be the trackpad screws inside are simply a bit too tight. They're stiff enough on our unit to be annoying, but thankfully tap to click and two finger right clicking work well enough that we simply stopped using the mechanical clickers.


The versatile convertible design and the dual digitizer display are the Vaio Flip 15's crown jewels. My word, what a gorgeous full HD display! We have the standard 1920 x 1080 Triluminos IPS display for review, and though resolution and color gamut are no different than the best displays on the laptop market, this display simply looks better than most. Think of the best looking TVs on the market and how colors are luminous, detail is keenly sharp without looking oversharpened and brightness is pleasing. The Flip 15 display is like that--a premium TV experience only on a notebook. Of course, Sony is very good at making premium TVs and they're using some of that same technology here. Brightness is good but not remarkable at 260 nits (be sure to disable Windows auto-brightness to see the full brightness) and color gamut is among the top laptops at 96% of sRGB and 75% of Adobe RGB. The color gamut matches the Retina MacBook Pro, Sony Vaio Pro 13, Vaio Flip 13 and Asus Zenbook UX301, and should please graphics pros.

For those who want an even higher resolution display, Sony offers a 2880 x 1620 upgrade as part of the $1,799 SVF15N18PXB model. This model also includes the pen, which is a separate purchase with other Vaio Flip 15 models. That's a pricey display, and honestly the full HD display looks so great and doesn't require any fiddling with display scaling, that I'd choose the full HD model over the 2880 x 1620.

Sony Vaio Flip 15

N-Trig Active Digitizer and Pen

All Flip models come with an active digitizer made by N-Trig. Sony's used N-Trig on their Duo models and the Flip works the same. One point of confusion: the pen isn't included with most SKUs, so you'll have to pay $40 to get one from Sony (it's the same pen as used on the Vaio Duo 13 and Tap 11, and it uses N-Trig DuoSense 2 technology). Generally if a tablet has an active digitizer the pen is included in the box, and I'm sure this will confuse some folks, or they might not even realize they can use a digital pen.

As ever, with N-Trig you get accurate tracking and 256 levels of pressure sensitivity. Though the pressure sensitivity doesn't compare well with Wacom's 1024 levels, this is something only artists would notice. Even then, 256 levels are enough to do advanced artwork even if I personally do prefer more levels for nuanced art work. N-Trig's pen tip tracking is better than Wacom's, especially near the edges of the screen where Wacom equipped convertibles and tablets tend to be off. You have to hold the pen closer to the display compared to Wacom, and that may be off-putting to those accustomed to Wacom pen behavior since the digitizer must detect the pen before it will disable capacitive touch (also called palm rejection). N-Trig supports modern Windows Ink APIs so programs like MS Office 2013, ArtRage Studio 3.5 (bundled), Manga Studio 5 and Sketchbook Pro have pressure sensitivity. Adobe recently released an update for Illustrator CC that adds pen pressure sensitivity via Windows Ink APIs. Sony has released a 32 bit WinTab driver (courtesy of N-Trig and Adobe) that adds pen support for Adobe Photoshop, though Adobe will eventually add Windows Ink support there too. Corel Painter, which uses the WinTab driver, still doesn't have pressure sensitivity, even with the Sony WinTab drivers installed.

Performance and Horsepower

All Sony Vaio Flip models run on 15 watt Intel Haswell Ultrabook CPUs, and the Flip 15 is available with the 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 and 1.8GHz Core i7-4500U (both with Turbo Boost). A hybrid hard drive (a conventional 5400 rpm hard drive with 16 gigs of on-board cache rather than a separate caching SSD) is standard on most models. Our unit has the Core i7 and 1 terabyte hybrid drive and 8 gigs of DDR3L 1600MHz, 1.35v RAM. The hard drive is a conventional 2.5" SATA model, so any aftermarket HDD or SSD that's 7mm thick will fit. The laptop has two RAM slots, so you can go up to 16 gigs of RAM. There is no RAM soldered on the motherboard. The wireless card is a standard socketed PCI Express card. Thus, this is a very upgradable Ultrabook.


(1.8 GHz Intel Core i7-4500U, 8 gigs RAM and 1TB HDD)

PCMark 7: 3537 (lower score due to having an HDD rather than SSD)

3DMark 11: P1774 (GT 735M)

wPrime: 19.6 sec.

Cinebench R15: CPU 244, OpenGL: 48.6 fps

Geekbench 3: 2964 single core, 5809 multi-core

PCMark 7 Benchmark Comparison Table

Sony Vaio Flip 15 3537
Sony Vaio Flip 13 4434
Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro 4737
Sony Vaio Duo 13 (Core i7) 4800
Sony Vaio Pro 13 (Core i5 Haswell) 4549
Sony Vaio Duo 11 (1.7GHz Core i5) 4772
Samusng ATIV Book 9 Plus 5050
Acer Aspire S7 (Core i7-4500U) 5075
Asus Transformer Book TX300 4495
Acer Aspire R7 3981
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch (Core i5) 4670
Dell XPS 12 (Core i5, Haswell) 4889
Asus Taichi 21 (Core i7) 4952
Microsoft Surface Pro 2 4905


NVIDIA Dedicated Graphics and Gaming

Our model has switchable dedicated graphics that uses NVIDIA's Optimus to handle switching between Intel HD 4400 graphics and the NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M dedicated graphics card with 2 gigs of memory. You can use the NVIDIA control panel to manually set which program runs with your preferred graphics card, but we found that it almost always made the right choice (3D games ran on NVIDIA, but low demand tasks like video playback and web browsers use HD 4400 graphics for better battery life). The GT 735M is a low-mid range graphics card that adds a little punch for 3D games and helps speed up Photoshop, HD video editing and CAD. If you won't be using your laptop for more than web, MS Office, video streaming and casual gaming, you can get by fine with the $300 cheaper Vaio Flip 15 model SVF15N14CXB. That model also drops down to a Core i5 and 750 gig hybrid hard drive, so if you prefer more storage or the Core i7, you'll have to get the dedicated graphics. We found that current demanding games gained an average of 10 to 15 fps thanks to the GT 735M, and that makes a game that's barely playable on Ultrabooks with HD 4400 graphics actually enjoyable. For example, BioShock Infinite plays nicely at 1600 x 900 resolution with frame rates of 35 to 60 fps. With a Core i7-4500U and integrated graphics, we generally see 30 fps at 1366 x 768. Max Payne 3 really isn't playable on integrated graphics Ultrabooks with ULV CPUs, but it runs at a playable 35 fps with low settings and 1600 x 900 resolution on our Flip 15 (similar to the Sony Vaio S with an older full mobile CPU and NVIDIA GT 640M LE graphics). You will hear the fan loud and clear when playing demanding 3D games, but the same is true of any Ultrabook or uber-skinny laptop.

Pro tip: if you notice frame rates drop every 5 or 10 minutes or so when gaming, try using advanced power management to set max CPU speed to 99%. NVIDIA Optimus has a way of throttling power consumption when the CPU is set to 100%.

Opening up the Sony Vaio Flip 15 for Upgrades

It's not hard to open the machine up if you have a little experience with such endeavors: remove the 4 visible Philips head screws, twist off the two rear rubber feet and remove two more screws. Finally, remove the rubber strip along the front edge of the bottom cover to reveal 4 more screws. There's double-sided sticky tape on the bottom of the feet and strip, but it stayed largely intact. Note that the strip screws, feet screws and visible screws are different sizes, so keep track of them and put them back in the right spots. The feet screws are the biggest and the strip screws are the smallest. Once you've removed the screws, work off the plastic bottom cover using a credit card or something firm but thin. Strong compression clamps hold the cover, so it will take a bit of work.

Once inside, you'll see internals like those we've pictured to the right. RAM is very straightforward, but the HDD has two ribbon cables running over it. Release the cable clamps by raising the clamp upward, and then move them aside so you can access the hard drive. I upgraded our machine with a 250 gig Samsung EVO 840 SSD and it works like a champ! I used Samsung's SATA to USB cable and Migration application to clone the internal drive and didn't have to worry about using recovery or reauthorizing already installed programs. The machine is even quicker, boot times and application launch times are as fast as any SSD equipped Ultrabook and the laptop is quieter. The fan comes on less often and you won't hear the whir of a mechanical hard drive or the clicks of heads parking.

Wireless and Networking

The Vaio Flip 15 ships with Intel N-7260 802.11n single band wireless. It's odd that each Flip size uses a different wireless card: the 13" has dual band Intel WiFi, the 14" uses Broadcom single band WiFi and the 15" has single band Intel WiFi. We'd like to see dual band WiFi on a machine at this price, but we'd forgive it on the base $799 and even the $999 model. Dual band WiFi allows for faster connections and if you use the 5GHz band, less interference from Bluetooth. That said, Intel's adapter is solid, and the machine maintained a strong connection where some of our dual band laptops and tablets dropped off.

Bluetooth is integrated into the Intel wireless adapter and the Sony has NFC. In the US, there's currently no 3G/4G option, though you can use a MiFi or your smartphone's mobile hotspot feature for wireless access when WiFi or Ethernet aren't available. The Ultrabook has wired 10/100/1000 Ethernet and a standard RJ-45 jack.

Battery Life

The 3170 mAh, 48 Wh Lithium Ion battery is sealed inside, as is true of most Ultrabooks. If you remove the bottom cover, you can swap the battery, should it die of old age. Battery life depends on what you're doing with the machine, and if dedicated graphics is involved. For productivity work we averaged 6 hours under Windows 8.1 with brightness set to 50%. The laptop also managed 5.7 hours of full HD video streaming using the default integrated graphics. When editing and exporting 1080p video, we managed 4 hours of actual editing and exporting time. Gaming is best done plugged in so you can get maximum performance, but if you do need to game on the go, expect between 2.5-4 hours, depending on the game.


There's certainly nothing like the Sony Vaio Flip 15, it's a full size yet slim and light 15" laptop with a convertible design and a digital pen in a premium case with dedicated graphics. You might think of it as the upscale alternative to the second generation Acer Aspire R7, which also has an N-Trig digitizer and a 15" full HD display. But the Sony design is superior: giving you laptop, presentation and tablet modes without resorting to the Acer's odd trackpad placement behind the keyboard. This is a great looking machine with one of the most enjoyable displays on the market and the large digitizer is tempting for art types. It's upgradable, has plenty of ports and the fan isn't crazy. We had reservations about the Vaio Flip 13, but the Vaio Flip 15 is a winner.

Price: $799 to $1,799, $1,249 as tested


Related Reviews:

Sony Vaio Flip 13

Acer Aspire R7 Review

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro Review

Sony Vaio Duo 13 Review

Sony Vaio Pro 13 Review

Microsoft Surface Pro 2 Review

Dell XPS 12 Review

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga Review


Sony Vaio Flip 15


Sony Vaio Flip 15


Sony Vaio Flip 15


Sony Vaio Flip 15


Sony Vaio Flip 15


Sony Vaio Flip 15


Sony Vaio Flip 15


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Display: 15.5" IPS Triluminos display with capacitive touch and N-Trig active digitizer (pen sold separately with many SKUs). Resolution: full HD 1920 x 1080. Intel HD 4400 integrated graphics and NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M 2GB dedicated graphics. HDMI port and Intel WiDi wireless display/Miracast.

Battery: 3170 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable, sealed inside (VGP-BPS40). Claimed battery life: 6 hours.

Performance: Fourth generation Intel Haswell ULV CPUs, 1.7GHz Core i3-4005U (no Turbo Boost on Core i3), 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U, 1.8GHz Core i7-4500U. 8 gigs of DDR3 LPDDR3-1600MHz RAM in two SODIMM RAM slots. 750 gig and 1TB hybrid 5400 rpm drive options with 16 gigs onboard solid state NAND flash.

Size: : 14.85 (W) x 0.73 - 0.79"(H) x 9.99 (D) inches. Weight: 5.05 pounds.

Camera: HD webcam with Exmor R sensor and dual array mic.

Audio: Built-in stereo speakers, dual array mic and 3.5mm standard stereo combo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated single band Intel Wireless N-7260 WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 +HS and NFC. Wired gigabit Ethernet.

Software: Windows 8 64 bit (Windows 8 Pro available). Kaspersky anti-virus trial, Sound Forge Studio 10, Movie Studio Platinum 12 (32 and 64 bit), Acid Music Studio 9, DVD Architect Studio 5, ArtRage Studio 3.5, Sony Reader for PC, Dragon Assistant (voice command and dictation), Vaio Movie Creator, PlayMemories Home and remote keyboard for Playstation.

Expansion and Ports: Three USB 3.0 ports (one charging), full size HDMI, 3.5mm combo audio, RJ45 Ethernet and SDXC/MMC/Memory Stick Pro Duo card slot.



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