Vaio Z (2021) review: carbon tax

The Vaio Z is, talking pragmatically, a proof of idea.

There are two issues about it which are groundbreaking — a minimum of on paper. The primary is that it’s made solely of carbon fiber. Whereas loads of high-end laptops, together with the Dell XPS 13, have sheets of carbon fiber throughout their palm rests and different supplies on the edges, the Vaio Z consists of contoured carbon fiber, that means the fabric is molded across the edges, and the entire thing is carbon fiber. (Vaio says the Z is the primary laptop computer to make use of contoured carbon fiber, although the 2012 Gigabyte X11 additionally claims an all-carbon fiber construct.)

The second is, at 2.11 kilos, the Vaio Z is the lightest laptop computer to incorporate an Intel H-Collection chip. (That refers back to the lightest-possible configuration. I used to be despatched a barely heavier one at 2.32 kilos.) H-Collection processors are high-performance chips mostly present in gaming laptops and workstations. It’s extremely uncommon to see one in a skinny and lightweight laptop computer, particularly one which’s simply over two kilos; machines of this measurement usually embrace the lower-powered U-Collection.

This mannequin consists of the quad-core Core i7-11375H, the present flagship of Intel’s brand-new “Tiger Lake H” collection. When saying the chip at CES, Intel claimed it could provide the quickest single-thread efficiency in the marketplace, with increase clock speeds as much as 5GHz. That’s a formidable prospect, particularly in a 2.3-pound chassis.


However the third factor to grasp concerning the Vaio Z is that it’s not low cost. The bottom mannequin is — I’m not kidding — $3,579 for a Core i7-11375H, a 14-inch 4K display, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. You may go all the way in which as much as a $4,179 system with 32GB of RAM and 2TB of storage. I used to be despatched a mannequin within the center, with 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

Our overview of
Vaio Z

Verge Rating

7 out of 10

Good Stuff

  • Astonishingly mild
  • 4K show
  • Distinctive carbon fiber construct

Unhealthy Stuff

  • Very costly
  • Not a ton of ports
  • Noisy followers
  • Flex within the chassis

A laptop computer of that worth isn’t a sensible buy for most individuals, even when it’s spectacular. So as an alternative, I’m going to make use of this overview to discover two questions that concern the way forward for the posh laptop computer market — questions the Vaio Z is getting down to reply: one, is contoured carbon fiber the long run? And two, can a 2.32-pound laptop computer with an H-Collection processor work?

Vaio claims that the Vaio Z is sturdier and feels nicer than different laptops

Sadly, as of this writing, the reply to each of these questions is “not but.”

We’ll begin with the construct. Vaio’s elevator pitch is that the contoured carbon fiber is each stronger than different frequent supplies (like magnesium alloy and aluminum alloy) that different premium laptops are made from, and ideally suited for combining rigidity with a light-weight construct. Carbon fiber additionally permits producers to tailor stiffness and adaptability to particular areas of the laptop computer (utilizing the variety of layers and path of lamination). Vaio claims, consequently, the Vaio Z is sturdier and feels nicer than different laptops near its weight.

The Vaio Z from the left side, half open.

Carbon fiber laminate on all 4 sides.

Sturdiness and rigidity are troublesome claims to confirm with a overview unit for apparent causes. Vaio says the Z has handed MIL-STD 10H torture assessments, together with drop assessments, stress assessments, and body-twist assessments amongst others. There aren’t a ton of two.3-pound laptops on the market, and I don’t doubt that the Vaio Z could also be objectively better-built than the remainder of that class.

However does it really feel sturdy? Probably not. There’s a major quantity of flex within the keyboard and display. Whereas I normally should push fairly exhausting to get keyboards to bend, the realm beneath the Shift key trampolined with a agency thumb press. The show is so flexible that I used to be cautious when torquing it as a result of I used to be legitimately afraid of snapping it in half. I do know most individuals aren’t actively making an attempt to bend their laptops, however I might be afraid that placing an excessive amount of weight on this unit might injury the display and keyboard over time. Vaio informed me this product remains to be within the preorder stage, and chassis high quality might enhance nearer to its delivery date.


The Vaio Z keyboard seen from above.

The important thing tops are concave.

The lid and backside have a plasticky texture

The carbon fiber’s texture is actually distinctive. I like the texture of the palm rests. However the lid and backside have a plasticky texture. I wouldn’t guess that the Z was a $3,500 laptop computer simply from holding it, particularly proper after holding a MacBook or an XPS 13. The opposite factor to notice is that the entire chassis is a fingerprint magnet — the lid, the edges, the palm rests, the keyboard. I might wipe the prints off simply, however they have been all the time again in abundance after a number of hours of use.

The carbon fiber does contribute to at least one vital profit, although: the Vaio Z is unbelievably mild. It’s so mild that selecting it up messes along with your thoughts; it’s exhausting to imagine there’s something inside. This will surely be one of the best laptop computer to purchase when you’re in search of the lightest of the sunshine. However when you’re in search of a sturdy, inflexible kind issue, I’m doubtful.

The Vaio Z lid seen from above.

Vaio has been utilizing multilayer carbon fiber in laptops since 2003.

On to the second query: has Vaio managed to place H-Collection energy in a U-Collection kind issue?

In a literal sense, sure. The laptop computer works. And the one factor I do admire is the battery life. I averaged six hours and 57 minutes of steady workplace multitasking with the show at 200 nits of brightness and Battery Saver on. That’s much less juice than I get from the M1 MacBook Professional, but it surely’s high-quality as Intel H-Collection processors go.

However when it comes to uncooked energy, outcomes are combined.

I ran a number of benchmarks to see how this brand-new chip stacks up in opposition to a number of the extra highly effective skinny methods on the market — significantly, Apple’s M1-based MacBook Professional and the Razer E-book 13, which is powered by one among Intel’s prime Tiger Lake U-Collection chips. Observe that whereas each of those fashions are heavier than the Vaio Z, they’re additionally lower than half its worth. So I hoped it could solidly outperform them beneath the heavy hundreds that you simply’d need an H-Collection processor for.

Vaio Z (2021) benchmarks


Vaio Z


Vaio Z

Cinebench R23 Multi


Cinebench R23 Single


Cinebench R23 Multi looped for half-hour


Geekbench 5 Multi


Geekbench 5 Single


Geekbench 5.3 OpenCL/ Compute


The Z beat the Razer E-book in our Adobe Premiere Professional export check by a bit lower than a minute — a victory, to make sure, however not a margin to jot down residence about. Extra disappointingly, it misplaced to the MacBook Professional by the same margin on that check. Apple’s laptop computer additionally got here out forward in each different check I ran aside from Cinebench’s single-core benchmark. (That’s anticipated; single-core efficiency is what Intel claims is so nice about this chip.) That’s not a terrific argument for spending a number of 1000’s extra on the Vaio Z, even with its spectacular chassis.

One challenge appears to be that the Vaio Z’s 65W charger is inadequate for the varieties of hundreds most customers would need an H-Collection processor for. Throughout a number of Adobe Premiere Professional exports and several other runs of Cinebench multicore, the laptop computer’s battery drained though it was plugged in. (Nothing else was operating throughout these assessments.) This may very well be an issue when you’re hoping to run intense hundreds for lengthy durations of time, particularly when you’re not all the time beginning at a full cost. Extra importantly, it means energy supply might have been limiting the Vaio Z’s efficiency on these duties. (Vaio tells me that is by design; it wished to maintain the charger small and transportable.)

The Vaio Z on a table with three potted plants in the background, open and angled to the left. The screen displays a red flower on a blue background.

The fold-under hinge is meant to offer a extra ergonomic typing expertise.

To Vaio’s credit score, the Z has spectacular cooling for such a small machine. Neither the chassis nor the CPU ever reached a worrisome temperature. However the twin followers have been mega-loud throughout heavy hundreds, and typically beneath lighter ones as nicely. My mother might hear the unit from the subsequent room over whereas it was operating a Premiere export. She informed me later that she “thought it was going to take off.”

For the advantage of of us with deep pockets who’re contemplating shopping for this laptop computer, I’ll run by the remainder of the specs. The spotlight is the backlit keyboard, which supplies 1.5mm of journey. It’s wonderful — comfy, easy, and in no way loud. You additionally get a webcam with a handy bodily privateness shutter, which helps Home windows Hi there.

The Vaio logo below the bottom left corner of the Vaio Z keyboard seen from above.

Vaio says it “aimed for a snug keystroke that feels as whether it is absorbed by your fingertips.”

The Vaio Z open, seen from the right side.

The charger delivers as much as 65W and weighs 0.36 kilos.

Audio is commonplace laptop computer fare: it will get impressively loud with out audible distortion, however percussion and bass are nearly nonexistent. You may swap to “Film Mode” and “Gaming Mode” within the Dolby Audio software program that comes preloaded on the Vaio Z, and I most well-liked listening to my music on these profiles. They strengthen the background music beneath the vocals and provides the whole lot a stronger encompass high quality.

Connectivity consists of two USB Kind-C ports (supporting Thunderbolt 4, energy supply, and DisplayPort 1.4), a headphone jack, a safety lock slot, and an HDMI. I do know the Vaio’s area is restricted, however I want there was a USB-A port in there. You additionally get a pleasant 3840 x 2160 non-touch show and a roomy touchpad (although it has bodily clickers on the underside, which I all the time discover to be an enormous ache).

I’ve two robust opinions concerning the Vaio Z: one, it’s a formidable feat of engineering, and two, it’s nonetheless too costly.

Vaio’s achievements with contoured carbon fiber are commendable. It’s uncommon to see, whether or not Vaio is the primary to do it. And the truth that there’s a 2.32-pound laptop computer on cabinets in any respect, not to mention one housing an H-Collection processor, makes me optimistic about the way forward for the market. It’s been a really cool machine to make use of, one I’m grateful to have skilled first-hand.

However the efficiency bump the Core i7-11375H delivers on this kind issue isn’t sufficient of an enchancment to justify a multithousand-dollar premium over all types of extra reasonably priced fashions in the marketplace in the present day, whether or not they include M1 chips, AMD chips, or chips from Intel itself. Neither is the contoured carbon fiber — which, whereas cool, received’t carry a concrete profit to most prospects. At half its worth, the Vaio Z could be within the dialog; at $3,579, I’m completely happy to commend it from afar.

Images by Monica Chin / The Verge

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