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Sony VAIO Z12 review

Verdict

Extravagantly expensive, but Sony’s VAIO Z12 is a premium cut above your average ultraportable

Review Date: 29 Jul 2010

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £1,432 (£1,683 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
6 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

That price at the top of the page is enough to make anyone wince. There’s just no way around it, Sony’s VAIO Z Series is devilishly expensive. That’s not to say it’s bad value for money, though: this is one laptop that manages to blend power, practicality and portability like no other.

Perhaps understandably given the ground-up redesign at the beginning of the year, Sony’s latest refresh, the VAIO Z12, is virtually identical to its predecessor. In fact, the only difference we could find was that the Samsung SSD chips of the previous model have made way for Toshiba-branded units. Not an Earth-shattering alteration.

A quick look at its vital statistics, however, shows this is one laptop in little need of any tweaks. Pull the Z12 out of its packaging and, at just 1.38kg, it’s disconcertingly light. So light, in fact, that it feels more like a hollow prop from an Ikea showroom than a regular laptop.

Sony VAIO Z12

More surprising is that this doesn’t make it frighteningly insubstantial. The aluminium and carbon fibre base shrugs off twisting motions with ease, and only the yoga-like flexibility of the millimetres-thick lid reminds that this is an ultraportable. The slight rattle of the battery in its moorings can’t cheapen the otherwise premium feel.

Stern, businesslike curves and understated stylish design are all well and good, but Sony has partnered good looks with impressive usability. The Scrabble-tile keys look peculiar, but don’t be deceived: the light, crisp feel and wide channels between each key make for one of the comfiest keyboards on any laptop, at any price.

Beaming down upon that superb keyboard is an equally fine 13.1in LED-backlit display. While not quite the match of the Full HD panel found on pricier models, it’s still very good, and the resolution of 1,600 x 900 pixels is ample. The combination of a matte finish and impressive brightness makes it legible in even bright sunlight, while well balanced colour reproduction makes for images that pop off the screen with stunning vibrancy. Vertical viewing angles are perhaps a little narrow, but it’s no deal-breaker.

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User comments

TRIM Command

Does the Z12 require the TRIM command to maintain access speed as the drives fill up and is it enabled? I believe it was not enabled on the previous version and Sony did not seem to be able to answer whether it was required. Also, why cannot they put a USB 3 connector on it and a better resolution camera for such an expensive model?

By Nicolau on 1 Aug 2010

TRIM

No, TRIM will never work on drives in a RAID array. Garbage collection, however, does.

From my reading around the subject - the intrepid Z owners over at NotebookReview have been hard at work - the Sony's GC system recovers write speeds pretty quickly, so it's pretty much a non-issue.

I had to give back our review unit fairly sharpish, but I'll see if I can't borrow it for some testing of my own in the next week or two.

By SashaMuller on 2 Aug 2010

VAIO Z good, yet proprietary SSD, chiclet and incomplete kbd

I had the VAIO Z in hands (13.1in). Yes it's incredibly beautiful, light, sturdy, and powerful: i5-520M (2×2.40 GHz TB 2.93, VT-d, TET with TPM, New AES), 13.1in 1600×900 retro-LED, GT 330M 1GB, 8GB RAM,W7 64b Pro, 128G SSD-Ultra-SATA, Gbit, WiFi n, finger print reader and TPM, backlit kbd, etc.

But it has a few shortcomings hard to admit IMO in such a high-end product:


- The case is too small to accommodate at the same time, a Standard HD or SSD, and a standard optical drive. While I would admit this in a 10in or 11in laptop, I don't in a 13.1in one.
- Whence the two different flavors, X (with proprietary SSD and Std Optical Drive) and V (with standard HD and no Optical Drive). Yes, on the X model, the SSD is proprietary, you can't replace it with a standard SSD.
- The keyboard is incomplete: it lacks the Edit column (Home, End, PgUp, PgDwn). I find this flaw, and the following one as well, unacceptable on a high-price writing tool, whence intended to "power writers".
- The keyboard is made of chiclet keys. This gives up the sub-conscious auto-centering of finger strokes you have with traditional concave keys that writing machine makers used so many years to perfectly tune. This will result in lower reliability and speed, not only for touch typists, but also for everyone.
- The screen quality is, after some users (whom I don't know, so I am not sure on this), not the quality expected on this item.
- A .3Mpix (VGA) webcam is sub-par for this item
- Given the above shortcomings, better wait and see if new laptops come (from SONY or others) with USB3, SATA6, SDXC, 3D...

Versailles, Wed 04 Aug 2010 17:29:20 +0200

By MichelMerlin on 4 Aug 2010

No optical drive?

The review says an optical drive is an optional extra, yet Sony's own spec sheet says that it's included with this model with no hint that it's only an optional extra (http://www.sony.co.uk/product/vnp-z-series/vpcz12
m9e-b). A search for the cheapest deal on google shows a few places selling this model for around 200 quid less than Sony's RRP... but am I to assume these may not be the great deals they seem because the spec may not be the same as Sony's spec sheet for this model? *sigh* Whose idea was it to have the same model number for models with different specs?

By gjscott75 on 4 Aug 2010

Optical drive...

My bad. This model DOES come with an optical drive.

I think I must have been suffering from a chronic lack of caffeine.

By SashaMuller on 5 Aug 2010

Not so customisable

Battery life will depend on the processor - if you use tue i7 it will be less than stated here.

Also - other countries get the choice of 1920 x 1080 screen along with designer covers - notably premium glossy in japan. It seems inconceivable that Sony still limit choice for uk consumers - let us decide!

By Virtuatw on 18 Aug 2010

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