Introducing the Sony VAIO Z2

Users who want everything out of their notebook, no matter how ridiculous the demands, are probably more than at least a little curious about Sony's new VAIO Z2. There's good reason to be: this 13.1" ultrabook features a stunning 1080p screen, a secondary battery slice that nearly doubles running time off the mains, and an external dock box that features an optical drive, additional connectivity, and a dedicated GPU that can actually be used to power the notebook's internal screen. The VAIO Z2 has a lot going for it, but is it worth the heavy price tag?

Sony's website lists this unit under the same old Z-series heading, but you'll remember last generation's Z-series notebooks used Arrandale CPUs and packed an optical drive and GPU into the main chassis. The Z2 also technically wouldn't qualify as an ultrabook with a starting price north of $1,600, but the design and build quality is basically in line with Intel's specification (other than the full power CPU). Sony just also happens to include a wealth of extras in the box with it to shore up any deficiencies the primary system might have.

Sony VAIO Z2 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-2620M
(2x2.7GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.4GHz, 32nm, 4MB L3, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM67
Memory 4GB integrated DDR3-1333 in dual channel
Graphics Intel HD 3000 Graphics
(12 EUs, up to 1.3GHz)

AMD Radeon HD 6650M 1GB DDR3 (in external dock)
(480 shaders, 128-bit memory bus, 725MHz/1.8GHz core/memory clocks, running at PCIe 2.1 x4)
Display 13.1" LED Matte 16:9 1080p
Sony MS_0025
Hard Drive(s) 2x128GB Samsung SATA 3Gbps SSD in RAID 0 (integrated)
Optical Drive Optiarc DVD+/-RW (in external dock)
Networking Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet (second in dock)
Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Audio Realtek ALC275 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Single combination mic/headphone jack
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 45Wh (integrated)

6-Cell, 11.1V, 49Wh (battery slice)
Front Side MS/MSPro card reader
SD/MMC card reader
Right Side Mic/headphone combo jack
Ethernet port
USB 2.0
USB 3.0/dock combo port
AC adaptor
Left Side VGA
Exhaust vent
Kensington lock
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 13.0" x 0.66" x 8.27" (WxHxD)
330mm x 16.8mm x 210mm
Weight 2.57 lbs (with standard battery)
Extras Webcam
SD and MS card readers
2xSSD in RAID 0
USB 3.0
Removable external battery slice

External docking unit which features:
DVD+/-RW drive
2x USB 2.0
1x USB 3.0
Gigabit ethernet
AMD Radeon HD 6650M 1GB DDR3
Warranty 1-year international warranty
Pricing Starts at $1,649
As configured: $2,499

It's fairly obvious Sony is gunning for the premium ultraportable market with the VAIO Z2, much as they did with its predecessors. The Z2 is slim and light, but unlike other ultrabooks, Sony elected to use a full-wattage Intel Sandy Bridge processor in the form of the Core i7 2620M, a dual-core processor that runs at a 2.7GHz nominal clock but turbos up to 3.2GHz on both cores or 3.5GHz on a single core. They pair it with 4GB of dual channel DDR3-1333, and you can order the Z2 with up to 8GB, but buyer beware: the memory is soldered on to the motherboard. If you want more than the standard 4GB of DDR3, you'd better order it from the get go because you won't be able to upgrade it later.

Also not upgradable but still appreciated is the SSD. Information about the controller used is not forthcoming, but the individual drives are running on SATA 3Gbps instead of SATA 6Gbps, and then data is striped between two channels in RAID 0. It's a decision of questionable value to the end user; the HM67 mobile chipset is capable of supporting a SATA 6Gbps SSD, so the only real benefit here is the pair of SSD controllers theoretically improving overall throughput.

The rest of the notebook on its own is business as usual excepting the stellar 1080p 13.1" screen. It's definitely a TN panel, but as you'll see later it's among the best notebook screens we've ever tested. The 1080p screen is an upgrade, but even the bottom rung model of Z2 still comes with a 900p screen bog standard, a far cry from the poor quality 768p screens other manufacturers are using.

While sheet batteries are nothing new and the one available for the Z2 does exactly what it was intended for, the docking unit is another matter entirely. Sony dubs it the Power Media Dock, and it offers something most notebook users have been clamoring for: a discrete graphics upgrade. Since the Z2 itself is too small to house a discrete GPU, the Power Media Dock features an AMD Radeon HD 6650M with 1GB of DDR3. Unlike prototypes that have been announced year after year (and almost never materialize in the marketplace), the Z2's Power Media Dock is capable of actually using the Radeon with the internal screen instead of forcing you to use an external monitor if you want dedicated graphics performance. The dock also includes additional connectivity along with a DVD+/-RW drive, and more expensive versions can upgrade to a Blu-ray reader or a Blu-ray writer.

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  • Malih - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    I'm curious how low would the temperature be, and how much longer the battery life is if it uses an i5 (or maybe i3?).

    Primarily cause I don't expect too much CPU power with an ultrabook, and the cooler it runs, the less noisier it is, the better, just as long as I can browse the internet, watch HD movie, run a development web server and code comfortably, preferably on 8-hour or so battery life.

    Perhaps if AnandTech could test/request some of the i3 or i5 Ultrabooks from manufacturers instead of maximum performance hardware in the future.
  • mczak - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    core i5 instead of core i7 doesn't really buy you anything - in fact it should be slightly slower for the same power usage.
    I think though if the fan really has trouble cooling that 35W chip Sony should have opted for a i7 25W instead. If you compare the i7 2620M (35W) with the i7 2649M (25W, same price) you'll notice you don't really give up that much (in contrast to the 17W options which definitely sacrifice peak performance quite a bit).
    The i7 2649M has 2.3Ghz clock with 3.2Ghz turbo, while the i7 2620M has 2.7Ghz clock with 3.4Ghz turbo. That's just 15% deficit for base clock and 6% for turbo. The IGP is also clocked lower but since you've got a dock with discrete graphics it probably isn't that important.
    (In contrast the fastest 17W i7, the i7-2677M, has just 1.8Ghz base clock, with 2.9Ghz turbo, a bigger loss percentage wise against the 25W i7.)
  • JarredWalton - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    While the i3, i5, and i7 are all rated at 35W TDP, that's not what they'll actually draw on a consistent basis. My experience in the past has been that, depending on the voltage of a specific CPU (which varies slightly even for the same clock speed), you will find i7 frequently uses a bit more power (offers slightly lower battery life) than i5. It's usually not enough of a difference to worry about, though -- like less than 5%. My feeling is that 35W is just pushing the limits of the cooling solution a bit too hard; either they need a slightly thicker laptop (thicker = more airflow), or they need a lower TDP CPU.
  • mczak - Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - link

    I'd love to see a test comparing different i7 chips (with several identical ones to account for variation) to different i5 chips (again with several identical ones).
    There used to be a time where faster chips had a published TDP which was larger than slower ones (they often also had higher voltage). Then at some point someone must have realized this doesn't look good, and all chips had the same TDP (or rather same TDP class) even though it was plainly obvious the power draw of the faster chips was still higher (they continued to have higher frequency, the same or higher voltage, and leakage wasn't much of a factor).
    Nowadays, with multiple VIDs and leakage being an important factor, this isn't that obvious. but it would not be surprising if it's still somewhat true.
    I agree though it would not be enough of a difference in any case to make a significant difference for cooling (hence the 25W suggestion, though this implies core i7 as there are no current mobile i3/i5 25W chips).
  • Malih - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    Thanks, I wasn't aware they have the same TDP. I wouldn't mind the 17W i7 if the temp is lower, guess I'll be looking for laptop with this CPU.

    I assumed since it is a quad core the i7 probably would produce more heat, compared to dual core i5 (or i3).
  • Malih - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    Oh, I just noticed on the specs sheet that the i7 2620M is a dual core.
  • vavutsikarios - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    could you please provide the dimensions and weight in metric system please?
  • axelthor - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    Yes please!
  • mtoma - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    Amen to the metric system! AnandTech aims to be an international site, yes? Progress, progress, progress, much like we demand to the notebook manufacturers.
  • ratte - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    Agree, really annoying to have to translate everytime

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