Miss Sony? VAIO PCs are Back in the U.S. and Looking Good

The new Sony-free VAIO PCs are coming to the U.S., hoping to provide a premium, Windows alternative to Apple’s MacBooks.

Sony surprised the world in 2014 when it sold off its VAIO division and completely exited the PC market. What would happen to the VAIO brand? Would another PC maker buy it, the way that Lenovo acquired the ThinkPad assets from IBM (although not quite the same, as Lenovo was already making the laptops for IBM)?

Not quite. Instead the division-turned-company found external backing in the form of Japan Industrial Partners (JIP). JIP set up a new company to administer the VAIO brand, and it’s this new VAIO that is coming back to the States, free of any Sony influence.

vaio_z_black_071Well, almost free of Sony influence. The new VAIO products hew closely to Sony’s classic designs, and for a good reason – they’re good. Sony has always been lauded, perhaps more than any other electronics manufacturer outside of Apple, for its design chops; in creating the original iPhone, Apple famously looked to Sony for inspiration.

VAIO_Z_Black_101.0The new VAIO laptops and hybrids are targeting business users, a segment of the market that can bear the higher premiums that VAIO wants to charge, and one that has traditionally resisted switching to Apple’s MacBook lineup (although this, at least, is changing, with enterprises like IBM ironically switching over their entire workforce to MacBooks).

vaio_z_product-image51Of the three new products introduced today, the star of the show is VAIO’s new VAIO Z Flip. As you might expect from the name, this premium laptop can turn into a tablet by folding the top of the notebook in half (that seam you might see running along the top cover is actually a secret hinge, held secure via the power of magnets.

vaio_z_product-image71The trackpad is made from stone. Stone! Mica, to be precise.  Most of the machine has been milled from aluminum (the base is carbon fiber), and despite the 2-in-1 nature, it manages to be thinner than a MacBook Air. It weighs the same at 2.96 pounds, however, and manages a little under twelve hours of battery life (11.5, to be precise). There’s also a touchscreen and rubberized stylus included.

The VAIO Z Clam is largely identical to the Flip, except it doesn’t, well, Flip. You lose the 2-in-1 hybrid, the touchscreen, and the stylus support, but you also get a lighter laptop. The Clam comes in at just 2.58 pounds and can run for a promised 15 and a half hours on a single charge.

VAIO_Pro_13_mk2_Black_Image_01.0The third laptop introduced today by VAIO is the VAIO S, which has been out in Japan for a while – there, it’s known as the Vaio Pro. It’s offers customers a nice looking machine, with business-centric features like a VGA port, for much lower cost than the other models in VAIO’s lineup. It also weighs just 2.34 pounds, with a promised 9-hour battery life.

VAIO is targeting Apple’s MacBook Pro 13 with its Z Flip, putting in a 28-watt Skylake chip in a laptop with the same form factor as the much lighter MacBook Air. It’ll also feature 8GB of RAM and a 256GB M.2 NVMe SSD, and start at $1799. The Clam drops down on the touchscreen and tablet hinge, but brings the price down to $1,499 in its place. The VAIO S, meanwhile, starts even lower, at $1099.

All three laptops come with Windows Signature Edition, which means they will be sold with clean Windows installations – no bloatware here. You can pick up the Z Flip from VAIO or the Microsoft Store starting on February 8th, while the other two models will go on sale in early March.

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