When we stopped by the Sony booth, there was plenty to see. Vivek will be covering some of the other areas—tablets and gaming devices—while I’ll focus on the laptop side of things.

Like all the major OEMs, Sony had an ultrabook concept on display. I use the terms concept loosely here, as while Sony didn’t commit to anything the ultrabook push by Intel pretty much guarantees that the 13” VAIO ultrabook will see the light of day this year. The Intel booth, incidentally, was largely devoted to pushing ultrabooks with over half of the public area devoted to singing the praises of the devices. As for the Sony ultrabook, it’s not too hard to guess at the hardware inside (Ivy Bridge ULV), and the design is flat (e.g. no sloped keyboard) and looks stylish. We were unable to physically handle the preproduction/concept device, but we hope to have a unit for review when the time comes.

Next up on the list of VAIO laptops is the updated VAIO Z that started shipping about five months back. This was my first chance to actually get hands on with the VAIO Z, and I can see why so many people like it. The display on the unit at the booth was a beautiful 1080p 13.1” panel that puts just about every other laptop to shame (1600x900 comes standard in the base model). Sony also uses Intel’s Light Peak technology (a.k.a. Thunderbolt with a proprietary connector that plugs into the AC socket and USB 3.0 port) to drive an external dock. The dock houses a Radeon HD 6650M GPU and Sony had it driving two additional displays with one more external display connected to the laptop’s HDMI port along with the integrated 1080p display.

The VAIO Z is an amazingly feature rich package, but I do have a few concerns. First, the GPU in the dock is still only a 6650M; if you’re going with a dock, I’d be more than happy to sacrifice size for a faster GPU (e.g. 6770M as a minimum). Second and perhaps more of a concern, the keyboard definitely shows flex, which is not something we like seeing in premium devices. Finally, there’s the price of nearly two grand, but given everything else you get—premium display quality, an ultra-thin laptop, an mSATA SSD (two in some models), and the attached Media Dock—we’re not surprised at the cost. Overall, the VAIO Z is an impressive tour de force from Sony and we’re eager to see what they cook up with the inevitable Ivy Bridge refresh.

The final laptop we were impressed with at the Sony booth is another laptop that has already started shipping, the VAIO SE. It sports the familiar VAIO styling and looks in many ways like a larger version of the Z—and that’s a good thing. Sony was using the SE to show their Media Gallery 2.0 software, but that wasn’t nearly as impressive to us as the 15.5” 1080p IPS display. (I’m always a sucker for a good display!) The word on the web is that the display isn’t full sRGB on the color gamut, but then there are many laptops that fall into that category and they don’t come with a 1080p IPS panel. With pricing starting at just over $900, we’re definitely interested in doing some additional testing of the VAIO SE!

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  • jeremyshaw - Sunday, January 15, 2012 - link

    ohh......

    Though the consensus on NBR Forums is the SE does not have an IPS display, rather a TN with a good wide angle polarizer (similar to UX31 zenbook).
    Reply
  • VivekGowri - Sunday, January 15, 2012 - link

    Hmmm, we were told by Sony specifically that it was an IPS panel...NBR has a whole bunch of random speculation it looks like, we'll look into it to get a better idea. Reply
  • jeremyshaw - Sunday, January 15, 2012 - link

    Has more to do with the lack of proper color reproduction. I'm interested in what Sony has to say, too. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, January 15, 2012 - link

    IPS does not guarantee great colors, particularly if the backlight is a low gamut (<40% NTSC) model. Without doing some actual tests I can't say how good/bad the display is in terms of color quality, though it didn't look bad at the show. The viewing angles however I'm quite sure are IPS -- certainly not TN at any rate. As Vivek mentions, Sony's rep specifically said the SE was an IPS panel (at least the 1080p model being shown). Reply
  • Darkstone - Sunday, January 15, 2012 - link

    Actually the UX31 had horrid viewing angles compared to, say, MBA.
    I spent some time comparing viewing angle-pictures on notebookcheck, and my studio 1555 (TN) has actually better horizontal viewing angles, but the SE has far superior vertical viewing angles.

    Sony SE:
    http://www.notebookcheck.com/typo3temp/pics/99c4ed...
    Studio 15:
    http://www.notebookcheck.com/uploads/pics/black_87...

    Notice the colored band on the right. on the SE it washes out fast, on the studio 15 it has few color shift even on extreme horizontal angles.
    Reply
  • synaesthetic - Sunday, January 15, 2012 - link

    WTF Sony? At least put a mid range desktop card in there. Reply
  • Mumrik - Sunday, January 15, 2012 - link

    If it's in an external powered dock, why even use a mobile GPU part? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, January 15, 2012 - link

    Notice how it's an ultra-thin dock, including a slim optical drive as well. This is why I say I'd be happier with a faster GPU and a slightly larger dock, but this one is more about aesthetics. Form over function. Reply
  • abhicherath - Sunday, January 15, 2012 - link

    as Jarred mentions.Sony using a 6650M is rather wierd,does it have something to do with fan noise?did you ask the execs WHY they are using a 6650M.Will there be an option to use a higher end GPU in the dock?Is the fan noise still crazy loud like the 2011 model? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, January 15, 2012 - link

    See above; the dock is basically ultrabook levels of thin (give or take), and they didn't want to make it larger/more powerful. This is Sony we're talking about after all -- just like Apple, high powered GPUs are generally the least of their concerns. Reply

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