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.
I got an email from a reader this week asking if I'd post about how my computer is set up for productivity. As I was going through my answer in my head, I realized that I'm also very geared towards security, which is frequently overlooked. So, behold: a post about how my computer is set up.
Almost all computers today are fast enough for the average load of tasks that a user will dump on it. Most laptops are light enough to be lugged around comfortably. Storage capacity is abundant across the board.
I've started doing a lot of YouTube video blogging and I've been working on finding the best video camera for the job.Since I post mostly to YouTube, I don't need a super high resolution camera. I've been using a Canon SD900 for several years now and it's an excellent camera. But when I take videos longer than 10 minutes or so, I've found it freezes my MacBook Pro up when i connect my camera to the laptop via USB cable, and I have to force-quit iPhoto. So, I went in search for another camera. I tried the Flip (Mino series) and the DXG 567V HD cameras. They're both in the $100 - $150 range.
I would rate the DXG above the Flip Mino any day of the week. It has a macro lens setting and is higher quality. It uses rechargable AA batteries. While both the DXG and Flip feel cheap compared to the Canon, they are good camcorders. But after testing their video qualities, I decided they weren't any better than the Canon. So, how to keep it from freezing up?
I ended up bying a $2 SD Micro USB flash card reader off eBay. It just allows me to plug my flash card directly into my laptop via a USB port. For whatever reason, I'm able to sync long movies using the flash card reader just fine when the cable fails & locks iPhoto up.
But I also wanted to test different camera resolutions to see if I could get away with using a lower resolution video setting on the Canon camera, since the movies are really large files on the 640x480 30 FPS (FPS = "Frames Per Second") setting. For example, a 5 minute video is 325MB!
I've started doing a lot of YouTube video blogging and I've been working on finding the best video camera for the job.Since I post mostly to YouTube, I don't need a super high resolution camera. I've been using a Canon SD900 for several years now and it's an excellent camera. But when I take videos longer than 10 minutes or so, I've found it freezes my MacBook Pro up when i connect my camera to the laptop via USB cable, and I have to force-quit iPhoto. So, I went in search for another camera. I tried the Flip (Mino series) and the DXG 567V HD cameras. They're both in the $100 - $150 range. I would rate the DXG above the Flip Mino any day of the week. It has a macro lens setting and is higher quality. It uses rechargable AA batteries. While both the DXG and Flip feel cheap compared to the Canon, they are good camcorders. But after testing their video qualities, I decided they weren't any better than the Canon. So, how to keep it from freezing up? I ended up bying a $2 SD Micro USB flash card reader off eBay. It just allows me to plug my flash card directly into my laptop via a USB port. For whatever reason, I'm able to sync long movies using the flash card reader just fine when the cable fails & locks iPhoto up. But I also wanted to test different camera resolutions to see if I could get away with using a lower resolution video setting on the Canon camera, since the movies are really large files on the 640x480 30 FPS (FPS = "Frames Per Second") setting. For example, a 5 minute video is 325MB! So I ran some tests, and you can judge the results for yourself. What I found was that there was very little difference between the highest and lowest settings except for the "video via email" setting on the camera, which was too low. So if you're just planning on doing YouTube videos, you might as well do the 320x240 at 15 FPS. However I think I'll use the 640x480 at 15 FPS (the 2nd highest setting) just so I have the larger video size for repurposing the video later. Doing 15 FPS instead of 30 FPS cuts the video size in half. The file size decreases by 50% for each setting. They are ordered below from largest (highest quality on the camera) to smallest: Canon SD900 Testing Video Quality 640x480 + 30fps Canon SD900 Testing Video Quality 640x480 + 15fps Canon SD900 Testing Video Quality 320x240 + 30fps Canon SD900 Testing Video Quality 320x240 + 15fps Canon SD900 Testing Video Quality - Email setting