Print 22 comment(s) - last by Qapa.. on Jun 30 at 8:30 AM

Sony VAIO Z with Power Media Dock

Sony VAIO Z and its "sheet battery"

Back end of VAIO Z Power Media Dock
Sony's VAIO Z uses Intel "Light Peak" technology to pair with an external GPU

Apple may turn a few heads with its ultra-thin, and ultra-light MacBook Air notebooks (which are available in 11" and 13" varieties), but Sony is going for the throat with its latest VAIO Z notebook. Sony, as usual, is packing in about as much technology as it can muster into a slim and sleek package. 

While Apple can only manage to cram dusty old Core 2 Duo processors into its current MacBook Air (granted, a refresh is on the way), Sony is going full-tilt with an Intel Core i7-2620M processor running at 2.7GHz -- Turbo Boost ups the ante to 3.4GHz if you need some extra performance for more demanding applications. Also included are 8GB of DDR3 memory, a 256GB SSD, a 13.3" display (1600x900), and an integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU.

The VAIO Z uses a sheet battery design that was introduced with the VAIO S Series. The lithium-polymer design provides up to 7 hours of battery life -- a second sheet battery can be added to boost battery life to a more impressive 14 hours. 

In its base configuration, the VAIO Z weighs in at a respectable 2.65 pounds.

Where things start getting interesting, however, is with the VAIO Z's Power Media Dock. The Power Media Dock features an integrated AMD Radeon HD 6650M GPU with 1GB of DDR3 memory, an HDMI port, VGA-out, two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, GbE, and a DVD SuperMulti Drive (VGP-PRZ20C) or Blu-ray Drive with SuperMulti (VGP-PRZ20A). The Power Media Dock connects to the VAIO Z using Intel's Light Peak technology

The Power Media Dock adds 1.51 pounds to the overall package.

Sony will begin shipping the VAIO Z and its accompanying Power Media Dock in Europe next month. However, there's currently no indication of when the pair will make the trip to North America or how much it will cost when it arrives.

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By Spuke on 6/28/11, Rating: 0
RE: Hmmm
By StevoLincolnite on 6/28/2011 12:55:50 AM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately, because these are not in a universal form factor and supported by a heap of different manufacturers... Expect it to be high priced and hard to find just like MXM/AXIOM cards were.

RE: Hmmm
By corduroygt on 6/28/2011 4:05:43 AM , Rating: 2
They could have easily done it. Ever heard of vidock?

RE: Hmmm
By quiksilvr on 6/28/2011 9:53:36 AM , Rating: 2
I'm already seeing problems with this Power dock. Why isn't it using the standard Thunderbolt connection?

RE: Hmmm
By KC7SWH on 6/28/2011 10:19:08 AM , Rating: 4
Because then you wouldn't need to buy an over priced cable from Sony.

RE: Hmmm
By Souka on 6/28/2011 11:25:37 AM , Rating: 2
This reminds me of my laptop setup about a decade ago.

IBM ThinkPad 600X (powerful Pentium 3 processor) with a whopping 1 or 2mb video card.

It had a full docking station... 5.25" & 3.5" bay plus the real treat...pci and ISA slots.

I had a top of the line TNT PCI (gaming) card...perfect for playing unreal tournament at work. hehehhe.

Was nice being able to play against desktops the developers had...

RE: Hmmm
By bunnyfubbles on 6/28/2011 3:36:20 AM , Rating: 4
agreed, I was intrigued with the previous Z series because it included discrete nVidia GPU, which while nothing particularly powerful, was at least useful for CUDA apps.

since this is clearly not a gaming-on-the-go laptop due to the lack of a discrete GPU, its also a shame that the included AMD GPU in the dock isn't substantially more powerful (should be at least a mobile 6800 or 6900) to make this a more legitimate gaming laptop when docked. Subpar for serious work and play, although still excellent overall for ultra portability.

RE: Hmmm
By superPC on 6/28/2011 10:06:32 AM , Rating: 4
but look at that price ( ). i can buy a car that's cheaper than that.

RE: Hmmm
By DanNeely on 6/28/2011 7:03:28 AM , Rating: 2
The catch is that while 8x or even 4x PCIe doesn't have a significant impact on GPU performance lightpeak is only 1x, and that's slow enough to hurt performance a lot. A year or two ago on [H]ocp when someone was playing around with an external box that plugged into a miniPCIe slot it was about 33% average framerate hit (worse for texture intensive games, less so for shader intensive ones).

It's a step in the right direction, but even if you can buy LP enclosures that hold desktop cards you're still going to be taking a rather large hit.

RE: Hmmm
By Parhel on 6/28/2011 8:46:21 AM , Rating: 2
The catch for me is no multi-monitor support. I have a docking station set up with two monitors both at home and at the office, and work with my laptop docked unless I'm travelling. I know this isn't a business class machine, but it would be a dealbreaker for me, especially since I suspect the GPU supports Eyefinity. It's a great idea, though, and I hope to see it improved upon.

RE: Hmmm
By DanNeely on 6/28/2011 9:18:00 AM , Rating: 2
I see two video outs. I'd prefer both to be digital, but below 1080p analog is perfectly serviceable.

RE: Hmmm
By MrTeal on 6/28/2011 10:13:56 AM , Rating: 2
According to the engadget link, the chief designer claims that the media dock can output video to four monitors simultaneously. That should be enough for anything you plan to do with a 6650M.

Intel LightPeak as a new standard for docking stations
By Qapa on 6/28/2011 8:03:58 AM , Rating: 2
Now that seems to me as the 1st great thing about this LightPeak thing because as of right now, all docking stations are proprietary and way to expensive. If laptop start to support lightpeak for docking stations, all normal/current docking stations could be made by anyone brand and bought separately and of course, at a much lower price!!

As for this specific thing, of having a discrete graphic card in the docking, that is a very interesting thing as it would allow to possibly upgrade the docking and have a "light and good enough" laptop on the go and (the same laptop with a good docking station) a GOOD/great computer at home!!

So, nicely done for Sony, and lets hope this brings new products to us all! :)

By EJ257 on 6/28/2011 10:21:49 AM , Rating: 2

Now that seems to me as the 1st great thing about this LightPeak thing because as of right now, all docking stations are proprietary and way to expensive. If laptop start to support lightpeak for docking stations, all normal/current docking stations could be made by anyone brand and bought separately and of course, at a much lower price!!

I wish that were the case, but I don't see manufacturers going that route for two reasons:

1. They would loose a lucrative revenue stream since they currently have a monopoly on docking stations. (overpriced and all)

2. At the same time this will create a whole lot more compatibility issues. They would have to test each and every one of these 3rd party accessories they plan on supporting to make sure they work with their laptops. Now you could offload some of that to the accessory manufacturers. At the end of the day when someone plugs it in and it doesn't work they'll say HP/Lenovo/Dell..etc sucks, they don't follow standards, my docking station won't work. Negative PR for all involved, bad for business in general. Whereas now they have control over all the hardware - and taking a line from Apple - it just works.

By Qapa on 6/30/2011 8:30:42 AM , Rating: 2
You are right that it may take some time, but someone will start it, then market will demand and then more brands offer until all of them offer it.

The poorest example of this is the dual sim phones, it took ages, but now even nokia already has some models (most sold only in india and other such countries).

Well, at least some people have hope ;)

I like the concept...
By aliasfox on 6/28/2011 10:21:39 AM , Rating: 2
For small form factor desktops/HTPCs as well. Have a base, headless laptop (Mac mini/Dell Zino sized form factor) with a processor, HD3000, and 64 GB SSD. Good enough for web surfing and video playback, while being small and silent.

Additional computing power could come from stackable "slices" on top of the original machine.

Need more video power? add another "slice" on top of the original box with a more powerful GPU.

Need fast storage? Add another "slice" with a couple of hard drives.

Need other uses? Add a slice that has a couple of empty PCIe slots...

Essentially, it would allow anybody to buy computers a la cart. Don't know if LightPeak/Thunderbolt is quite fast enough, but it would be interesting.

RE: I like the concept...
By DanNeely on 6/28/2011 10:57:17 AM , Rating: 2
lightpeak is a 1x PCIe lane. You can pack a few accessories on it, but GPUs will bottleneck significantly in gaming.

Standard reporting.
By damianrobertjones on 6/28/11, Rating: 0
RE: Standard reporting.
By damianrobertjones on 6/28/2011 4:02:58 AM , Rating: 1
P.s. This machine could be a valid replacement for my Envy 13 but I'm trembling at the thought of price

RE: Standard reporting.
By nrhpd527 on 6/28/2011 12:12:12 PM , Rating: 2
About 2314GBP fully-loaded with the Power Media dock (though no BD-player / recorder on that). I went to the Sony UK site and did the configuration process on the Vaio Z and that's about the final cost.

'Slimness' claims another victim
By Johnmcl7 on 6/28/2011 5:00:29 PM , Rating: 2
Against the previous Z series I think this machine is disappointing as it's not longer an all in one machine. One of the reasons I've chosen several Sony machines is because each of them didn't need extra docks or connectors as was typical for rival machines particularly no optical drives on sub 13in machines. I'm not keen on carrying bits and pieces around with the laptop to make it 'whole' and when I get home and need performance I'll be using a desktop.

Also I'm not that convinced there's that much need to slim the machine down so much, I have the older Z5 which is slightly heavier but it's still a very portable machine and far more useful to me to have discrete graphics and a blu-ray writer onboard.


Not quite there yet
By Etern205 on 6/28/2011 11:28:17 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with these external graphics cards for notebooks is you must use that with a external monitor.
I hope a few years from now, there will be a notebook based PCIe (like PCIe 8.0, x4 physical to be the max length) slot much like the express cards of today. Users can then go on to their e/retailers to buy a graphic notebook graphic card. Plug that in to give the system graphic boost as well as actually play games on the notebook screen itself.

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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