PROS / The VAIO Z flip has the best performance of any ultrabook we reviewed.
CONS / This premium convertible ultrabook falls flat on some unique design elements.
VERDICT / The VAIO Z flip offers best-in-class performance, an ambitious premium design that combines style and substance, and an impressive 2-in-1 design.
The VAIO Z flip is an outlier among the other ultrabooks in our review. Though not the only convertible ultrabook we reviewed, it has a distinctive flipping-screen mechanism that sets it apart from other 2-in-1 models. It’s also the most powerful ultrabook in our review, thanks to the latest high-end Intel processing hardware. It’s not a perfect laptop by any means – the ambitious design reaches a bit too far in some areas – but it’s definitely one of the best ultrabooks on the market. It’s also one of the first laptops to bear the VAIO brand without the Sony name; Sony spun off the brand in 2014, but the new company kept most of the designers and engineers it had, and the continuity is evident in the stylish design and high-quality construction. The VAIO Z flip earns our Top Ten Reviews Silver Award.
Specs & Performance
Our review unit is VAIO’s top-of-the-line model for the Z flip, outfitted with an Intel Core i7-6567U processor, 16GB of memory and Intel’s Iris Graphics 540. For storage, it has a 512GB solid-state drive. The resulting performance leads the ultrabook category, scoring 7,834 points in Geekbench 3 and completing the Laptop Mag Spreadsheet test in three minutes and 53 seconds. Given the use of Intel’s latest and greatest processor and graphics, this impressive performance is no surprise. The laptop tends to get a little noisy, with cooling fans revving up whenever the processor is taxed. That’s a mild irritant in a laptop but more so in a tablet.
Performance was also impressive in graphics applications, where the Z flip’s Intel Iris graphics produced better results than the standard integrated solutions. If you want to do much that is visually demanding, such as editing video or low-end gaming, the VAIO Z flip delivers the performance you need. In 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, the laptop scored 98,876 points, easily outpacing the other systems in our review.
If you don’t need quite so much horsepower or simply want to reduce the expense of your new laptop, the VAIO Z flip is also available with an Intel Core i5 processor, a smaller 8GB allotment of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Models are available with either Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro, depending on the configuration.
Design & Construction
In keeping with a growing trend in ultrabooks, the VAIO Z flip has a 2-in-1 design, letting you switch between using it as a laptop and as a tablet. Unlike most competing models the Z flip uses a flipping display, with a hinge that runs horizontally along the middle of the lid. A sliding latch at the base of the display locks in place for laptop use and releases to allow the display to flip. Built-in magnets hold the flipped display in tablet mode, letting you flip back and forth easily while securing it in tablet mode without an extra action.
VAIO touts the premium materials and design of the Z Flip, and it’s hard not to be impressed. The chassis is made of anodized aluminum and UD carbon – a non-woven variant on carbon fiber that’s used in high-end bicycle frames. The keyboard is made to be extra quiet when typing, and even the touchpad gets a luxe touch with a layer of mica stone. The question becomes whether this lavish design makes for a better user experience, and the answer is, “Sort of.” The chassis design is quite good, with the carbon fiber underside reducing heat transfer to hands or legs, and the keyboard is very quiet, if a bit stiff. The mica touchpad doesn’t seem to do anything unique, but it doesn’t detract from basic functionality like multitouch or gestures.
The design also has a few tablet-friendly touches, with a pressure-sensitive stylus included standard and a rear-facing camera that actually sits on the bottom of the laptop when not in tablet mode. A couple of design quirks do irritate, for example a short, stubby power connector that is likely designed to prevent plug damage from snagged cables or unexpected bumps. The day-to-day result, though, is a power cable that doesn’t always plug in easily. Power and volume controls are placed on the back right corner of the chassis, which is somewhat convenient when using the Z Flip in tablet mode, but when using it as a laptop, it’s a pain to have to reach around behind the laptop to adjust the volume.
Measuring 12.76 x 8.48 x 0.66 inches, the Z flip is fairly compact in both laptop and tablet modes, and it weighs just 2.94 pounds, so it’s reasonably portable. The only drawback is battery life, which was just six hours and 52 minutes in our testing.
The Z flip has a 13.3-inch display, which boasts 2560 x 1440 resolution and support for both touch and the included stylus. The display uses an In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel, which has wide viewing angles and excellent color reproduction. VAIO also made the display and lid extra flexible, touting its ability to be closed onto a stray object – like a pen or stylus – without damaging the glass or housing. While that sort of rugged feature is welcome, the display is quite impressive on its own, with a brightness of 366 nits and very good color accuracy (DeltaE 2.6).
For all the fancy materials on the new VAIO, it has a fairly standard set of ports, with two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI output, an SD card reader and 802.11ac Wi-Fi for networking. There is an included HDMI to VGA adapter for those who need the older video output but nothing in the way of advanced ports like USB-C or Thunderbolt.
Help & Support
The VAIO Z flip is covered with a one-year warranty, which is standard for ultrabooks. Support services include free phone support and a selection of online materials like product manuals and FAQs. What you won’t find offered are live chat options through the VAIO website or social media contacts for help services. This is likely because VAIO is fairly new as a standalone company – formerly a Sony brand, the VAIO brand has been resurrected recently, and support services are still sparse. Accordingly, VAIO was not included in Laptop Mag’s Tech Support Showdown and has no score or ranking against other companies.
The VAIO Z flip stands out from the average ultrabook with a unique 2-in-1 design, premium construction with luxe materials and top-notch performance. It has a few quirks, but they don’t outweigh the many ways that the VAIO Z flip leads the pack as one of the best touchscreen ultrabooks around.