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Sony has taken the wraps off its latest Vaio ultraportable, a two-part system that comprises a very lightweight main unit and a separate attachment that will turn it into a powerful desktop replacement when docked. First rumored back in March, the new Sony Vaio Z is easily one of the most interesting laptop designs we've seen in a while.
Weighing just 2.6 pounds with a thickness of 0.86 inches, it's thinner and lighter than Apple's MacBook Air, yet Sony still manages to pack in a full-voltage Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, 13.1-inch display with 1600 x 900 resolution, up to 8GB RAM and up to 512GB of SSD storage. Graphics are handled by Intel's integrated HD graphics 3000 solution, but when paired with the docking station you'll be able to tap into the power of a discrete AMD Radeon graphics card with 1GB of VRAM (no model is specified) and connect up to four displays using the additional VGA and HDMI ports.
Optionally, a more expensive dock includes a Blu-ray player / recorder. The dock uses a proprietary version of Intel's codenamed "Light Peak" architecture, which is the same technology Thunderbolt is based on, but Sony has apparently chosen not to market the optical connection as such, and they aren't using a Mini DisplayPort type connector either.
Last but not least, Sony also provides an optional "Sheet Battery" pack you can snap on the bottom of the machine to boost the maximum runtime from 7 hours to 14 hours in total. There's no word on U.S. pricing for now, but on Sony's U.K. site the base model is marked a whopping £1,434 ($2,295) with a Core i5, 128GB SSD and no dock. The dock is an additional £400 to £525 ($640 to $840), while adding 3G and a higher-res display will further hike the price.
It seems to me that Sony has a great product on their hands, but unless the company is ready to get competitive on the pricing front they won't be selling many of these. The new Vaio Z will ship in Europe first at the end of July. It's obvious rival, the MacBook Air, is due for an update in the same month that will add Thunderbolt and Sandy Bridge CPUs.
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