Of all the bits of gear, the one thing that fundamentally defines how I'm able to travel is my laptop. I use it to keep in touch with people all over the world, make money, find things to do in each country, and buy my plane tickets. It's probably my most important possession, which means that any time a new one comes out that can improve the way I work (better specs) or travel (smaller or lighter weight), I consider buying it.
I went to Japan last month for many reasons, one of which was because there was a laptop there that was unavailable in the states. Its specs were so unbelievably good that no other laptop would substitute. I marveled at how Sony could make a laptop so much better than anyone else, even my beloved Lenovo, and I was determined to buy one.
It took two trips to the Sony Building in Ginza (fruitless) and finally convincing one of my awesome friends (Thanks Elliot!) to buy it for me and ship it to me after I left. Not an easy process. Luckily for you, they released this laptop in the US two days after I got back, for less than I paid. Oh well.
So what makes this laptop, the Sony Vaio Z12, so great?
There's all the usual stuff that you'd expect these days: the latest Core i7 processor, plenty of RAM, a decent NVidia video card, etc. But what got me were two things I'd never seen before:
An Amazing Screen
The 13.3" screen has a full HD resolution of 1920x1080. This is absolutely unheard of in any screen under 17". Resolution REALLY matters (check out this Microsoft study), especially when working with two windows. I find it particularly useful when I'm working on a web page. I can have the code in one window and the actual page in the window next to it. Clock speed and such doesn't do much to boost my productivity, but screen resolution does, so I'll always pay for higher resolution.
Besides resolution, the screen displays a full 96% of the Adobe color gamut. Most high end laptops (like the MacBook, Thinkpads, etc) have around 70%, which means my screen can show 50% more different colors. This isn't just ad copy, either. I routinely see colors that I've never seen on a monitor before, like bright fluorescent colors. I've also noticed that pictures I've taken in the forest have much truer greens.
I don't watch many movies, but watching the Blue-Ray of BBC Life was incredible on this screen.
Awesome Hard Drive Configuration
If you've never had an SSD (Solid State Drive) Hard Drive before, hold off as long as you can. Once you get one you'll never go back. And once you have what Sony has, you won't want to go back to regular SSDs. Sony packs dual or even QUAD RAIDed SSDs in this thing, which makes them unbelievably fast. You can get dual 64s or quad 64s for a total of 128gb or 256gb.
If, like me, you need more space than that for things like digital negative storage or video editing, don't worry! Despite being a tiny laptop, there's a DVD burner in it, which you can easily hack and replace with another hard drive. So now I have dual 64gb SSDs, plus an additional 500gb drive for storage. Unreal!
Icing on the Cake
Another not quite unheard of feature, but still amazing, is how lightweight the computer is. With the battery it only weighs 3 pounds, which is 33% lighter than the worse-equipped Macbook Pro 13, and every other computer in its class, and the same as the MacBook Air. The computer is, honestly, unbelievable.
The only downside in my mind is the touchpad. I would much rather have a Thinkpad-style trackpoint, but Lenovo has fallen behind the curve (they used to be the leaders for high resolution screens), so I've compromised. And it's a pretty happy compromise!
I STILL don't see how anyone prefers a touchpad. I hate it, but deal with it because I like the laptop so much otherwise. Multitouch is a useless gimmick besides two-finger scrolling, which I'd rather have a middle button for anyway. In fact, I disabled two-finger scrolling and just use chiral-scrolling, which is much more useful, but still worse than a middle button.
BTW, I compare so much to Apple because everyone is familiar with Apple since they're so ubiquitous now. And because I think the defensiveness of Apple fanboys is funny.
Still getting used to eating meat. Eggs are a really nice solid breakfast and I had some good grass-fed barbecue in Texas, but other than that I'm mostly still excited about vegan foods. Dinner is still vegan Goulash every night. I'm looking forward to getting some bacon at the SF Farmer's market.
I randomly decided to visit a couple friends in San Diego, so that's where I am now. Using the rare combination of an guest bedroom and a washing machine to wash my sheets!
Sorry these still look bad in Google and Yahoo! I've been busy with other stuff, but I WILL fix that soon. I removed the annoying email popup for the time being, too.
I think that thanks for the valuabe information and insights you have so provided here.
thanks for this great post. i was looking for the z12 with the HD resolution but can't seem to find anyone that offers the 1080p upgrade online. do you know your exact "type" string of your laptop? should look similar to Sony VAIO® VPCZ135GX/B. once i know that i might be able to google for the 1080p model.
Tynan! I just brought this 2 weeks ago based on your recommendation and I been so happy with it. Heading to Istanbul with the Z13 and my camera, to give it a full test soon! Keep up the blog!
Try youtube and search for: "Add a 2nd Hard Drive to a Sony VAIO Z11, Z12 Laptop"
I'm unable to make a decision between the Z12, T410s and the 8440p....
I already own a 2540p but the display sucks....
I think the Lenovo display (1440x900) will suck too and so I'm struggling between the 8440p and the Z12....
I've seen a blog post on how to change the build-in ssds but it's kind of difficult because it's not a regular sata port... they use m-sata....
Now I've to find a reseller here in Germany...
My only concern about the Z12 is the m-sata because I think it might get very difficult to become spare parts for a broken ssd when the product is out of warranty..
can you please tell me, how i can find information about replacing the dvdburner with an additional harddrive on the internet? (got a vaiovpcZ too). i tried searching a lot of combinations of replace-dvd-harddisk-vaio, but didn't find anything useful, neither in english nor in german :(
I was debating between a new mbp 15", the vaio z you got, and a thinkpad t510.
The vaio z is an awesome machine, but I got scared when i noticed how easy it is to flex the screen. I abuse everything I own, so I ended up with a T500 with 1680x1050 screen.
One thing that you may want to fix: when I click tab on the website address I don't go to the comments area, that's a bit annoying.
Regarding the laptop, I still prefer mac for the software quality (in general). On the rare times that I use windows I spend the majority of the time making the programs work, not actually doing my work. I thought that maybe it's just me, but I've checked with many other people and it's a common thing.
yeah, that is a really good laptop.
i enjoy my vaio z11 for several months now, was the cutting edge model back then.
i really love the light weight, backlit keyboard (i know, macs have them too), raid drive, dual graphics card, battery life, and, most of all: the build in modem, where you just have to insert the simcard, without having an extra modem stick to it.
allows me to berform my work everywhere i am at the moment :)
So 4x the failure rate and we are back to normal HDD failure rates. You can back up
all you want, but unless it's continual, you will loose data. And the time to restore is another pain.
I'm just not sure why anyone would stick with RAID 0, when it's a mere reformat away to solve. RAID 5 gives you a pseudo backup, redundancy, and time to drop into a store and pick up a replacement.
RAID 0 is essentially temporary storage, ultra fast /tmp.
My friend Elisia first showed me an ebook reader, the Kindle she bought as soon as they came out. The quality of the screen was jaw dropping - it wasn't anything like a computer screen, but instead actually looked like paper. As amazed as I was with the device, I had no intention of buying one. The form factor was clunky, it seemed like a superfluous device, and it couldn't natively display PDF files, which is the format I tend to read (and publish) in.
A couple months later I was wandering around in the Sony Store and I saw their ebook reader, the PRS-505. It had the same amazing screen that the kindle had, but was much smaller, less than a third of an inch thick. When I found out that it could also natively read PDF files I was tempted to buy it, but was still concerned that it was just a useless toy.
Six months later my friend Vince brought a Sony PRS-505 on the trip to Morocco that he joined me on. I found myself asking to borrow it constantly, just about any time he wasn't using it. If he fell asleep on the bus I'd carefully slide it away from his grip and read on it.
For the longest time I hated, detested and utterly never understood why people bought mac or any other apple products. They were (and still are) expensive, mired in propietary gadgets, and very restrictive. People used to tell me all type of stupid stuff to justify them buying mac/apple products. They don't crash (wrong), they don't get viruses/infected (wrong), they are easier to use (wrong, you just double click on stuff just like windows).
But I did it, I finally gave in and bought one of the new macbook pro retina. With the student discount and some upgrades it came out to a decent price. Here is why I ended up getting it.
1. Two OSes for the price of one. You cant run mac comfortably on windows. I've tried hackintosh and vmware, They work, don't get me wrong, but they are mired with problems, slow, unresponsive and require a ton of work when new updates come out. But on a mac you can fully install windows and run with barely any issues. While the optimization might be different and not be true to specs because the hardware is so mac focused (you get a lot less battery life for example), you just end up being able to reliably run both Oses (and linux as well, but you can do that on any computer) with no hassle.
2. The price has gone down. Right after I found out you can run both Windows and mac, I immediately felt a bit relieved, but was still disappointed at the huge price I would have to pay compared to similar windows laptops/ultrabooks (atm the best ultrabook is Asus 301A w/ corei7 4558u by the way, truly a beast of a computer). I was planning on getting the Asus, but it was expensive. Heck any good laptop running a 58u or 28u were expensive. I wanted retina resolution and 28u or 58u processor (these processors run at higher wattage and have a significantly better integrated graphics processor called iris). I expected mac to release without 28u or 58u and be at least 200-300 dollars more expensive if one where to get the 8us. But they surprised me. Not only does every new macbook have an 8u processor and retina display and is all flash, but they lowered the price by 200-300 by doing so. slap on a 100 dollar student discount (insert: they didn't even ask me for confirmation, but I am a student though).
3. Apple makes very strong, durable laptops. I gotta say the best thing by far about the actual laptop is the build. The keyboard is great, very spring and good to type with with very useful shortcuts. The trackpad, is well, flawless. very responsive, large and tons of very handy gestures. The screen is great and not glossy, which is the only thing about the asus I hated. the all aluminmum build means its is tough. It also weighs a lot less now, and only around .5 pounds more than air, but u get a much better screen, processor, graphics etc. Overall the actual laptop is just very strong and feels premium. A lot of other manfacturers have tried to copy or at least impose design style into their laptops, but most of the time they feel cheap, or weak, or just fragile, not with apple. albeit, the asus is covered in gorilla glass, which might make it awesome.