Accessories to a Crime

On paper, the Sony VAIO Z2 is an amazing ultraportable and promises just about everything a mobile professional could possibly want. It's less than three pounds, but get it hooked up to the wall with the docking station and suddenly it's a full featured notebook complete with DVD burner and dedicated graphics performance. Unfortunately, in many ways the Z2 fails to live up to its real potential.

Gallery: Sony Vaio Z2

The external design of the Z2 is attractive, as Sony employs a black carbon fiber shell over an aluminum frame for the notebook with glossy plastic used only for the VAIO logo on the lid. You can order it in gold or silver, but the matte black is beautiful enough on its own. There's also a silver accent along the hinge, and the inside and bottom of the notebook retain that sleek black carbon fiber design. This is a uniform, solid-looking notebook, and I have a hard time believing anyone will complain too much about it aesthetically.

So what's wrong with the shell design? It's utterly impractical. We'll start with the hinge, a design decision so atrocious I can't believe it actually made it to production. If you don't have the battery slice installed, the back of the hinge actually lifts the notebook off of whatever surface it's on, producing an incline for the keyboard. This is exactly the intended functionality, but the problem is that the only feet that provide any traction are the front two, causing the notebook to potentially slide during use. More than that, tilting the screen changes the entire incline of the notebook, making it that much harder to find a sweet spot for both typing and visual comfort. Using the battery slice alleviates this problem, but it's insane that you'd have to buy a $150 accessory just to improve ergonomics that should've been correct from the get go.

The Z2's problems don't really stop there, either. While keyboards are often a matter of some contention amongst you, the readership, the Z2's keyboard is a poster child for why so many people revile chiclet-style keyboards. Many of you don't have problems adjusting to notebook keyboards since there's so much variation between vendors, but this keyboard may very well put some of you over the edge. I have tiny, spidery fingers, and I couldn't keep from fat-fingering the keyboard. Depth and travel for the keyboard is horrendous, and key action is incredibly mushy.

The touchpad should fare better: it's dedicated as opposed to being a part of the rest of the shell, and has a fingerprint reader tucked away at the bottom. Unfortunately it's also smaller than you might like, and the touchpad and buttons are one piece of plastic instead of having a pair of dedicated mouse buttons. There isn't even a rocker switch, it's all just one piece. Once again, style over practicality.

Where the Z2 should redeem itself is the dock. While connectivity of the notebook on its own is quite good, the dock is undoubtedly where the action is. For what it's worth, Sony's Power Media Dock is a fantastic idea: it plugs into the AC adapter port and USB 3.0/dock port (it's not strictly USB 3.0, so don't try to use it with another notebook—it actually uses Intel's Light Peak technology for connectivity), and there's a pass-through for plugging in the AC adapter. Once it's hooked up, the Z2 detects it and asks you if you want the Radeon to power the interior screen or external monitors. This should be the feature that makes the Z2 alongside the stunning 1080p screen. Except there are major drawbacks.

The AMD Radeon HD 6650M inside the dock is limited to a PCI Express 2.1 x4 link instead of x8 or x16, and the performance hit is a noticeable one. Worse still, the only drivers you're going to find for the Radeon are on Sony's site: they don't use the publicly available drivers on AMD's site. You could argue that there's some secret sauce going on here, but the VAIO is using AMD's XGP standard, and either way you have yet another front where the 6650M is being hamstrung. I had to reboot the Z2 the first time I plugged the dock in just to get it to properly accelerate the internal monitor, and after that I still ran into the occasional problem during game testing; DiRT 3, for example, would only run windowed, and would only run on the Intel IGP.

Is the dock still better than nothing at all? Abso-freakin'-lutely. The 6650M is still a major upgrade on the Sandy Bridge IGP, and the added functionality (including the slimline optical drive) is appreciated. Unfortunately you're at Sony's mercy for driver updates, and we all know how reliable notebook manufacturers are at keeping video drivers current. We could also say that as long as you're going external, something a bit more potent than the 6650M would have been welcome; a 6770M would have boosted the clocks another 20%, and making the dock slightly bulkier shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Finally, there's the battery slice. Unlike the slice included with the VAIO S series we reviewed recently, this one actually requires you to screw the battery in to the bottom of the notebook. You rotate the outside edges with your thumbs and tighten the hold at the top. This seems like a sound idea, except the slice doesn't actually feel any more secure than the old latch-style locking system did. It's just a bit of added hassle. Thankfully the slice improves the ergonomics of the Z2 substantially without adding too much to the weight; the Z2 was already under three pounds, and the slice puts it a touch under four. It's an acceptable compromise for what the slice brings to the table.

Introducing the Sony Vaio Z2 Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • epyon96 - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    Please keep the imperial system and give us both.

    Metric system is useful for math but it is hard to imagine visually.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    Speak for yourself... I've grown up with both. :) Reply
  • Plattypus - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    Hard to imagine visually for 4.55% of the population. The world doesn't revolve around the united states. Reply
  • flamefox777 - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    "Hard to imagine visually for 4.55% of the population. The world doesn't revolve around the united states."

    That's sooo cute in a naive and innocent sort of way! ^_^ It's always so adorable when someone from the other part of the world tries to convince people (all who know better) that the world isn't centered on the USA. ^_^

    So, we have 4.55% of the population? We'll go with that. Google tells me we also put out about a $14.58 Trillion GDP -- that's 32.74% of global GDP. China, in the number 2 slot, does $5.88 Trillion.

    You watch our movies and television, you buy our crap, take our handouts, talk (bad) about us. You're on our Internet, going to our sites and talking about our stuff (some of you even learned English just to do so)...

    Kinda hard to argue the world doesn't revolve around us. I guess It's debatable. Cute when someone tries, anyway. "Our country is important too!"

    Please do stop becoming so Americanized, though. We need vacation spots. XD

    I agree, though, for the rest of the population not lucky enough to be in the greatest country in the world, you could include the metric system. It's quick an easy to do, and there's no arguing it's better in every way. It is ethnocentric to ignore their pleas. We wouldn't want to be ethnocentric, now, would we? XD

    In it for the trollololz! XD
    Reply
  • InsaneScientist - Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - link

    I'm not gonna touch most of that post with a 10ft pole. lol...

    However, I do have to take issue with your math.

    US GDP is about $14.58T, that we agree on.
    World GDP is somewhere in the neighborhood of $63.04T right now, though.
    14.58/63.04 = 23.13%
    Definitely still a HUGE part of the world production capacity... but we're not quite as high as you said. ;)
    Reply
  • Penti - Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - link

    You also has a trade deficit of 558 billion US and does export less goods then China. Funny about numbers... Germany is also a larger exporter then the US. Per capita even the fallen down former power of United Kingdom does export more stuff. China and Germany has more production capacity however you look at it. Which of course makes the US far less then a quarter of the world market/production and rather at 8-9%. That doesn't mean there aren't important companies there, dominating in it's fields, sheer size and government founded research and procurement makes sure of that, but it doesn't make it some god given gift to mankind. Your also one of the biggest markets, but that doesn't mean everybody should join the fight for it.

    It all depends on how much air your GDP is made up with. That air is of course basically taken from other countries.
    Reply
  • flamefox777 - Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - link

    Tell you what, Penti, you just manipulate those numbers however makes you feel good about your country or whoever you're rooting for. I want you to feel warm and fuzzy about your little country. Sure, sure; it's our government funding that makes our companies great or whatever. Justify our dominance however you want.

    The sour grapes are so cute! ^_^ I just want to pinch your widdle cheeks! ^_^

    XD

    In it for the trollololz! XD
    Reply
  • jay_kay - Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - link

    aww, it's always so cute to see a cry baby who gets offended by a simple fact ^_^
    USA is the greatest country in the universe, but unfortunately they don't make the bulk of the population on earth. The majority of the people who read the articles here are from outside USA. isn't that sad? :-(
    but the good thing is that the previous comment actually made you spend some time to search and learn a bit about your country. Now you know more about your country kiddo. your daddy is gonna be so proud about you ^_^
    C'mon, he didn't say anything bad about your country at all. I admire USA, a great country. But ironically, it is the least important people, people who are next to useless to the growth of USA who talk like this and people start thinking that Americans in general are idiotic. The guy on top of you just said something about you guys being just a part of the world population, no need to feel so insecure. ;-) and it was a few percentage of your population that made your country great. Great men and women created industries, created jobs, paved way for fast growth and development with the help of other Americans. A few useless morons, who can be totally useless, just because of the virtue of being an American, think they are great.
    I see you mentioned China there. Wow, this kid knows another country's name now! btw, China is growing faster than USA. it will inevitably overcome USA in the near future. Maybe you can help your country, by doing something other than writing how great your country is. Do that quick before you lose your job to some chinese or Indian.
    and btw, there's a country called England. That is where English came from. People speak English because of them. they conquered many parts of the world. You should thank them. :-D
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    /signed
    A lot of articles have metric measurements but just about as many don't have it. Baffling to me.
    Reply
  • Nfarce - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    What, you mean you can't find a simple free conversion site on the web? REALLY? I don't whine about it when reading a European website and do a conversion. Sheesh you lazy people. Reply

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