Updated: Aug 20, 2021
What we have here is the first carbon fibre laptop that is made by a brand that some of you might fondly remember. This is the Vaio Z – a laptop that will turn heads for all kinds of reasons.
Vaio was actually a really popular choice for a laptop, even when the company that made them was still under Sony. However, the years have not been kind to Vaio as it sunk into obscurity and its subsequent inactivity, forcing Sony to sell them off. But now, they’re back as an independent company and are making laptops once again.
This laptop’s chassis is made entirely out of carbon fibre, which is one of the features that make this laptop special. Carbon fibre is a material twice as strong as magnesium or aluminium and light enough to be commonly used on most laptops. You’ll also get a look and finish that you’ll only find on the Vaio Z. The laptop sports the plastic black colour that, although not as distinct as Vaio’s signature black, is definitely eye-catching.
Honestly, we feel that the Vaio Z’s design, texture and finish can still be refined further. There are many crevasses, lines and overlaps on various parts of the chassis which can be blamed on carbon fibre’s inherent nature. In a way, it does look unique, but it also looks kind of cheap, for lack of a better word. When you look at the laptop’s sides, the lines and contours don’t really inspire and you’ll also notice screws are in plain sight and irregularly positioned when you flip the laptop over.
Although the laptop feels quite premium to the touch, it, unfortunately, doesn’t look the part. We do, however, like how Vaio designed the corners of the laptop’s hinges – it has a dark copper-coloured accent that kind of mimics a high-end sports car’s taillights or fenders, which gives the laptop a slightly more unique frame.
The Vaio Z comes with a 14-inch display that is a great display for light tasks from general browsing to light gaming. The display features 4K resolution support, IPS and good colour accuracy. Unfortunately, the laptop’s display isn’t that bright (only 450 nits) and has no touch screen support. These drawbacks would have been alright with us, were it not for the price VAIO’s asking.
The Vaio Z is only available in the top-end Signature Edition, which costs S$5,899 in Singapore. The only difference between that and this model that we reviewed is the CPU. If you’re looking for the same Signature Edition in the US, it will cost you US$4,179; quite a hefty asking price. Interested customers in the US can choose from the Vaio Z’s six variants, with the most affordable one being the Intel Core i5 variant with 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD. That particular option has a price tag of US$2,389.
Pricing aside, other features of the Vaio Z include a full HD webcam, compared to most laptops that only have an HD one. While the webcam’s image quality is lacking, it is there and it does work. The webcam also supports Windows’ facial recognition and comes with a privacy shutter.
The laptop’s keyboard is pretty much par for the course. Its key travel is good, it has decent feedback and you get white backlighting. The Vaio Z’s power button, meanwhile, has its own dedicated corner; it also features a fingerprint scanner that automatically scans a user’s fingerprint the moment the power button is pressed. The laptop’s trackpad is smooth to the touch and has dedicated left and right buttons.
Vaio installed 2 Type-C Thunderbolt 4 ports on either side of the Vaio Z. They also added an HDMI port on the laptop’s right side and a 3.5mm combo jack on its left.
As for its specifications, the Vaio Z comes with an Intel Core i7-11370H processor as well as 32GB LPDDR4X RAM and 2TB PCIe SSD Gen 4 storage.
The Vaio Z’s features sound par for the course so far; the entire package you get with this laptop is quite comparable to other similar laptops in this kind of category. But when you remember the price tag, “par for the course” just won’t cut it.
Despite the use of carbon fibre throughout, it really doesn’t look premium enough to match its hefty price tag. Frankly speaking, Windows’ Surface laptop, Apple’s MacBook Pro and Dell’s XPS laptops all look and feel much more premium than the Vaio Z, while retailing at half the price Vaio is asking for. You’ll notice that you can get the 13-inch MacBook Pro’s base model with the M1 chip as well as the same amount of RAM and storage the Vaio Z has, for less.
We found that the Intel Core i7-1370H the Vaio Z has scored high points with Cinebench R20 with 569 points for Single Core and 2299 points for Multi-Core. The laptop was also capable of some light gaming; we were able to play CSGO at 95fps at a 1920×1080 resolution in medium settings. When the same calibration was used with Genshin Impact, we were able to run the game at 51fps.
This all means that you are paying a premium for the Vaio Z’s design and materials used alone, which begs the questions, “why does this laptop even exist?” and “why is this laptop even available?”
In our opinion, the Vaio Z is a proof of concept – a showpiece. Vaio has probably invested quite a bit into doing this three-dimensional moulded carbon, pursuing something that no one has ever done before. They did it, and this laptop is the result of their efforts – a laptop unlike any other. The use of carbon fibre and the fact that this laptop is the first of its kind in its construction is the main reason for the premium price. If you’re interested in this laptop, you aren’t comparing performance or features. All you’re looking for is something unique, which the Vaio Z really delivers.
Although we don’t really like the Vaio Z, we do like how Vaio is approaching this “premium laptop” concept. They are the ones who are willing to do things differently and try using different materials, pushing the boundaries of what their materials can do and so on. In this world where laptops are following the same trend, the Vaio Z is something to take note of, even if the laptop doesn’t make any sense on paper.
We like Vaio as a whole, but not this particular laptop.
Content by Soon Kai Hong