The Bottom Line
Mar 8 2012 - Sony's VAIO VPC-Z214GX/B is certainly a high performance ultrathin laptop thanks to its Core i7 processor and solid state drives. It also offers some exceptional capabilities thanks to its included Power Dock and sheet battery. The problem is that at this price point, it is just too expensive to make much sense. In addition, use of the peripherals negate much of the portability benefits of the base laptop. The sheet battery at least makes this one of the longest running laptops available but the overall package is going to appeal to only a very small number of people.
- Very Strong Performance
- Dedicated Graphics and Blu-ray With Power Dock
- Very Long Running Times With Sheet Battery
- Very Expensive
- Hinge Design Can Be Problematic
- The Use Of Peripherals Makes It Less Portable
- Intel Core i7-2620M Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-10600 DDR3 Memory
- Two 128GB Solid State Drives In RAID 0 Array (256GB Capacity)
- Blu-ray Reader and Dual-Layer DVD Burner Drive in External Dock
- 13.1" WSXGA+ (1600x900) LED Backlit Display With 2.0 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 3000 Integrated Graphics and AMD Radeon 6550M 1GB Dedicated Graphics in External Dock
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- One USB 3.0, One USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, SD Card Slot, Memory Stick Slot
- 13" x 8.3" x 1" @ 2.6 lbs.
- Windows 7 Professional,
Review - Sony VAIO VPC-Z214GX/B
Mar 8 2012 - Sony is no stranger to trying to make a feature rich ultraportable system. One of the big problems that many of the new ultrabooks face is limited features that make them not necessarily the best choice for a primary computer system. The VAIO Z2 looks to change this by providing a small, lightweight laptop that has the ability to be extended through a Power Dock and sheet battery peripherals. In terms of the design of just the laptop, it is bigger than most of the new ultrabooks as it does not use a tapered design. Even still, the system is extremely light thanks to the carbon fiber design. The odd portion though is the hinge of the display that when open pushes the laptop back up so it rests on the display hinge rather than its feet. This can be very annoying on smooth desktop surfaces.
Performance from the Sony VAIO Z214GX is very fast thanks to the Intel Core i7-2620M dual core processor. This combined with 4GB of DDR3 memory lets the system outperform just about every ultraportable on the market. The downside is that this system also costs much more than the competition. Now, a traditional full featured laptop with quad core processor will still likely beat it in demanding tasks such as desktop video but this laptop certainly has the ability to be used for such tasks if pushed.
Sony makes a very interesting choice when it comes to the storage on the system. Solid state drives are pretty common now thanks to ultrabooks and they do boost performance. What Sony has done is take two 128GB solid state drives and linked them together in a RAID 0 array. This essentially provides 256GB of storage space but boosts the performance of the storage over many single solid state drives. Even with the extra performance, booting times still fall short of many of the new ultrabooks with roughly over half a minute to boost. Dell's XPS 13 boots nearly twice as fast. Now, the system does not feature an internal optical drive as do most new ultraportables but with the Power Dock attached, the system has access to a Blu-ray compatible drive that allows it to playback Blu-ray movies or record CD and DVD media as well. This is nice for those wanting to use it as a media center for a home but frankly Blu-ray is a bit much for those looking to use it in a business situation. There is a USB 3.0 port for use with high speed external drives on the road but this port is used for the Power Dock and replicates a USB 3.0 port on the dock as well.
One of the big draws for the Sony laptops has always been their high resolution displays. The VAIO Z214 comes equipped with a very high 1600x900 resolution screen. This isn't even the highest that Sony offers as some models come with a 1920x1080 resolution. It provides a very bright and colorful picture that does extremely well. The only real downside is that brightness drops off quickly when viewed off of center. The graphics processor is split between the two different modes. With just the laptop, it relies on the Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics that are built into the Core i7 processor. This is fine for most general purpose use but does preclude much for 3D. Now, if you need some 3D acceleration, the Power Dock provides an AMD Radeon HD 6550M graphics processor. Now this isn't going to make it a gaming platform but it does offer some casual PC gaming at lower resolution and details. More important, it can really help boost non-3D application performance such as with Adobe Photoshop.
The internal battery for the Sony VAIO Z2 is rated at 4000mA which puts it slightly less than many other ultraportables. To supplement this, Sony includes a sheet battery that can be attached to the bottom of the laptop. This obviously adds to the bulk of the system but doubles the battery capacity with an additional 4400mA capacity. Attaching the battery can be difficult with the screw design such that many people may just leave it on most of the times which negates some of the portability. In video playback tests without the sheet battery, the laptop was able to run just over four hours before going into standby mode. This is below average for many of the laptops in this segment including the Apple MacBook Air 13 or the Samsung Series 9. With the sheet battery, running times extended to just under eight and a half hours which crushes just about every ultraportable but once again, it adds to the bulk of the laptop.
The big problem with the Sony VAIO Z2 is the price. Even with recently reduced prices, the $2100 price is well beyond even the high performance Apple MacBook Air 13 or Samsung Series 9. With much of the features achieved through the peripherals included with the system, the portability suffers. It is almost at the price point where one can purchase a decent performance desktop system and an ultrabook and end up with a good experience but with a much better "docked" one.