VAIO Z Flip Model Review: Gets the Right Parts Right

by Reads (11,089)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 8
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 8
      • Usability
      • 8
      • Design
      • 8
      • Performance
      • 9
      • Features
      • 8
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 7
      • Total Score:
      • 8.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Great build and unique design
    • Powerful, with decent battery life
    • Attractive display
    • Pen performs very well
  • Cons

    • No place to dock the pen
    • Keyboard and touchpad need work

Quick Take

The VAIO Z flip model is a great device with a high price.  It's for those that want the best of the best, and are willing to pay -- and possibly overpay -- for it.


VAIO hasn’t changed much since Sony shed the brand in 2014, selling it to a private equity fund. VAIOs are still premium machines with high-end specs and the build quality to match. As the notebook market presses on toward commodification with ever declining prices, VAIO starkly stands apart. And its latest, the VAIO Z flip model, fits the bill as an exceptional 2-in-1, with an uncommon design and powerful internals.

Is this expensive Windows 10 two-in-one worth its high asking price in a market awash in cheaper alternatives? Read this VAIO Z flip review to find out.

Build & Design

The VAIO Z flip model laptop mode

The VAIO Z flip model laptop mode

First, a word about the name. VAIO offers three VAIO Z products as of this writing: VAIO Z, a standard thin-and-light notebook; VAIO Z Canvas, a Windows 10 tablet that pairs with a bundled Bluetooth keyboard; and the VAIO Z flip model, sometimes called the VAIO Z (flip), VAIO Z (2-in-1), and VAIO Z 2-in-1 model. There is also the VAIO S, which is a tougher version of the VAIO Z notebook.

While most Windows 2-in-1s sport either the 360-degree display hinge made popular by the Lenovo Yoga series, or a detachable keyboard, the VAIO Z flip model has a 180-degree hinge halfway down its display, which enables the screen to flip and close over the keyboard.

It’s not a unique design, plenty of pre-iPad Windows tablets had it, but it requires a well-built device (which is probably why so many device makers avoid it). Pieces have to precisely fit together to pull it off, and VAIO succeeds here. It’s obvious it put time and effort into designing and crafting the VAIO Z flip model.

The same is true of the build materials. The aluminum display lid has a slight texture that feels pleasant, though picks up smudges a bit too easily, while the black carbon edges and bottom feel especially solid.

VAIO Z flip model aluminum lid

VAIO Z flip model aluminum lid

A release switch centered at the display hinge enables the switch to tablet mode, where the display secures with magnets. Operation is smooth, though requires two hands. Same goes for the switch back to notebook mode.

In tablet mode, a small portion of the landscape edge remains, providing a solid grip. This is a nice design touch. We also liked the ability to flip the display over while in notebook mode, leaving it propped up for presentations, or even a freer drawing experience.

The VAIO Z flip model ships with an N-trig pen, but the 2-in-1 has no place to dock it. The pen doesn’t even ship with a tether. This is the only design flaw, and it’s frustrating.

Even systems engineered to be as thin and light as possible, like the Surface Pro, have a place to store the pen, either via a keyboard loop (Surface Pro 3), or a magnetic strip (Surface Pro 4). The VAIO Z flip model is not small, measuring 12.76 x 0.59-0.66 x 8.48 inches and weighing 2.96 pounds, and it already has a magnet along its upper display edge. So this omission seems completely unnecessary.

Display

VAIO Z flip model hinged display

VAIO Z flip model hinged display

The VAIO Z flip model has a 13.3-inch display with a 2560 x 1440 resolution. That gives is a cinematic 16:9 aspect ratio and approximately 221 pixels per inch. We prefer the boxier 3:2 aspect ratio of the Surface Pro 4 and Galaxy TabPro S, as it provides more headroom for spreadsheet work and other productivity tasks, but there’s no denying this VAIO display looks slick. Movies and video look especially striking thanks to the cinematic aspect ratio.

The Surface Pro 4 has a smaller and more pixel dense display, and the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S has a Super AMOLED panel. Neither is significantly better than the VAIO. Images are sharp, colors vibrant and full, viewing angles wide, and max brightness sufficient. Glare is a bigger issue with the VAIO Z flip model than some of the high-end competition thanks to a reflective panel, however.

Touch is accurate, and the VAIO Z flip model supports up to 10 touch points simultaneously. VAIO claims the display sports “impact resistant tempered glass,” but we didn’t drop the system to see how well it withstands abuse. Given the overall build quality, we’re confident the display panel would survive a few drops without shattering.

The VAIO Z flip model’s bottom mounted speakers meet the low standard of other devices in its class. They are fine for person use, though sound output is limited by both their small size and location. Whether in tablet or notebook mode, the speakers direct sound away from the user, and even listening directly reveals a tinny high end and nearly absent bass. But again, this isn’t unique to the VAIO flip model, and we’d sooner flip a coin than use speakers as a basis for a 2-in-1 buying decision.

Buttons & Ports

VAIO outfitted this Z flip model with a broad selection of ports and buttons, including a full-sized USB 3.0 with charge, full-sized standard USB 3.0, full-sized HDMI, full-sized SD card reader, AC adapter input, small power button, dedicated volume rocker for tablet mode, and a dual-audio jack. The display has a physical Windows key, also for tablet mode, and the AC adapter adds another full-sized USB for charging. We love this addition, and so will frequent travelers when they realize the adapter can serve double duty charging both the VAIO and a smartphone.

VAO Z flip model USB ports

VAO Z flip model USB ports and power button

VAIO Z flip model HDMI input

VAIO Z flip model HDMI input and SD card reader

The VAIO Z flip model also ships with a HDMI-to-VGA adapter. Considering the ubiquity of VGA monitors, it proves particularly handy.

VAIO Z flip model rear panel

VAIO Z flip model rear panel

VAIO Z flip model display lid

VAIO Z flip model display lid

Overall the VAIO Z flip model has a solid selection, with one glaring omission. We can forgive the lack of an Ethernet jack, Thunderbolt port, and DisplayPort input, but the VAIO Z flip model should really have a USB Type-C input.  In fact, all devices in its class should. Also, it’s too difficult to find and press the power button without looking. It’s just too small.

Keyboard & Trackpad

VAIO Z flip model keyboard

VAIO Z flip model keyboard

The backlit keyboard features 82 large and well-spaced keys. Key travel is short, measuring about 1mm, which is more typical of mobile and Bluetooth keyboards than laptops, and the keys only have a moderate amount of snap. Thankfully the body has enough give that typing remains comfortable, and the VAIO Z flip model design creates a pleasant sloping effect, propped up by an opened display lid.

A large, textured and single-piece trackpad sits centered underneath. It’s not nearly as smooth as the VAIO’s premium quality suggests. Given the touchscreen, active pen, and ports for external mice, it’s best left as a last resort for precision pointing.

Performance

The VAIO Z flip model ships with either a sixth-gen Intel Core i5-6267U processor (4MB Cache, up to 3.30GHz) or a sixth-gen Intel Core  i7-6567U processor (4MB Cache, up to 3.60GHz), and either 8GB or 16GB of LPDDR3 1866MHz RAM. Storage options include either a 256GB or 512GB PCIe SSD. All configurations have Intel Iris Graphics 550. The Core i5 unit ships with 64-bit Windows 10 Home, while the others ship with 64-bit Windows 10 Pro.

These are good options compared against other Windows 10 two-in-ones in this class. The Intel Iris graphics set the VAIO Z flip model apart. The base configuration should be able to handle demanding video editing programs and whatever the power Creative Cloud user can throw at it. Even gaming is on the table. Whereas devices with Intel HD graphics can handle AAA titles from about 2012, the VAIO Z flip model should be able to handle many titles from 2014 and 2015 on moderate settings.

Our VAIO Z flip review unit shipped with a 256GB SSD, with the system and preinstalled apps taking up about 24.5GB (apps alone are just short of 2GB). There’s very little bloatware beyond the standard Windows apps and services and a few VAIO utilities, and thankfully no unnecessary and annoying antivirus software.  

Our VAIO Z flip review unit has the following specifications:

  • 13.3-inch IPS touchscreen display with N-trig pen support (2560×1440 resolution)
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
  • 6th-gen Intel Core i7 6567U processor (4MB Cache, up to 3.60GHz)
  • Intel Iris Graphics 550
  • 8GB LPDDR3 1866MHz RAM (non-expandable)
  • 256GB SSD
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • 8-megapixel rear camera, 1-megapixel front camera
  • Dimensions: 12.76 x 0.59-0.66 x 8.48 inches
  • Weight: 2.96 pounds
  • Ships with N-trig pen, HDMI-to-VGA display converter, and AC adapter with USB charging input

Price as configured: $1,999

Benchmarks

wPrime processor comparison results (listed in seconds – lower scores mean better performance):

wprime

PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):

pcmark 8 h

PCMark8 Work (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows for work-related productivity tasks (higher scores mean better performance):

pcmark 8 w

 

3DMark 11 measures the overall gaming performance of the GPU (higher scores mean better performance):

3dmark 11

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance tests:

flipcdmark

Heat & Noise

This machine has a lot of power considering its size, and its fan does a good job keeping things cool, with some moderate underside warmth. The fan is loud though, and hard to ignore. Thankfully, it’s efficient, and rarely runs for more than a few seconds at a time. For what it’s worth, VAIO claims this Z has a “high density component placement and an advanced cooling solution allows for optimal efficiency.”

VAIO Z flip model N-trig pen

VAIO Z flip model N-trig pen

Pen

This is one of the better pen and 2-in-1 combos we’ve tested. The N-trig stylus flows especially well on the display, with minimal latency. The pen is accurate, and does an excellent job straightening out slowly drawn lines, as evident by the pen test below. Even the Surface Pro 4 produced squiggly lines when we performed the same test late last year.

The VAIO Z flip model recognizes hover actions at about 8 to 9mm above the display, and 1,024 points of pressure. It’s AAAA-battery powered and relatively thick, but comfortable to hold, with or without the optional rubber grip. The pen sports two buttons, with one serving to quick launch OneNote with a double press, and the other to launch the VAIO Clipping Tool with the same. They’re a bit too easy to access however, resulting in too many accidental presses during testing.

flippentest

Battery

The VAIO Z flip model has a 58 Wh lithium-polymer battery, and it provides decent longevity. This Windows 10 2-in-1 lasted 4 hours and 23 minutes in the strenuous Powermark Balanced test with the display set at 70%. This test is demanding, so users will undoubtedly see longer battery life, especially when utilizing Windows 10’s robust power management tools.

PowerMark “Balanced” battery life test results (higher scores mean better life):

powermark balanced

Value

Starting at $1,799 for the Core i5 unit with Iris graphics, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, the VAIO Z flip model is not cheap, and the market has little to compare against this configuration. To compare, we have to look at the $2,399 VAIO Z flip model with a Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB SSD.

A suped-up HP Spectre X360 15t with its Core i7, Iris graphics, 16GB RAM, and a 512GB SSD is a better value, if such a thing can be written about a high-end device. It has a 360-hinge, similar to a Lenovo Yoga, and a 15.6-inch display with either a 1080 x 1920 or 2160 x 3840 resolution. It costs $1760 as of this writing with Windows 10 Pro, or $1690 with Windows 10 Home, both with the high-resolution panel and no stylys.

A Microsoft Surface Pro 4 with similar specs costs $2,099 as of this writing, and a Surface Type Cover adds either $130 or $160 to the total. It’s smaller, with a thinner build and 12.3-inch display. And a 13.5-inch Surface Book with matching specs costs $2,699, but has NVIDA GeForce graphics. It’s the current pinnacle of the 2-in-1 market. With prices similar, the choice here comes down to which design you prefer.

Conclusion

VAIO Z flip model tablet mode

VAIO Z flip model tablet mode

The VAIO Z flip model gets most things right. It has a great build, stunning display, and decent battery life. Its pen is also a pleasure to use, and it pulls off the hinged display design well, which sets it apart in a market awash in detachables and Yoga clones. These are all more important features than any of its drawbacks.

But the VAIO Z flip model’s high price make those drawbacks harder to swallow. For the money, it should have longer key travel and better touchpad, and it definitely should have a place to dock its N-trig pen. To be fair, we could find flaws amplified by the high price in competing devices, short battery life and uncomfortable keyboards are common.

For most users, the VAIO Z flip model is just too expensive, especially with Core i devices that costs half as much on the market. The VAIO Z flip model is for those that want the best of the best, and are willing to pay (and possibly overpay) for it. Those considering a powerful Surface Pro, Surface Book, MacBook Pro, or even iPad Pro, should also add the VAIO Z flip model to their list.

Pros:

  • Great build and unique design
  • Powerful, with decent battery life
  • Attractive display
  • Pen performs very well

Cons:

  • No place to dock the pen
  • Keyboard and touchpad need work

 

 

 

 



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  1. tommib

    Hi guys… I’ve been following this model for quite sometime and in the past week or so the prices have dropped dramatically. The 1TB model is selling in ebay for less than $2000, and I was wondering if you think that’s a good enough price for considering this over a traditional laptop with similar horsepower and a slightly lower price. What do you think?