Vaio Z3, first impressions

Sony Vaio Z (mid 2012 model, with Power Media Dock)
Sony Vaio Z (mid 2012 model, with Power Media Dock)

My new workhorse, Vaio Z (3rd generation), arrived today. It is bit early to say anything conclusive yet, but mostly my first impressions are positive. The overall build quality is better than in the first generation “Z” that I have been using so far. The Full HD screen is very sharp and colours are vivid. The laptop is very light, even while after the long-duration sheet battery has been added the weight goes up a bit. The keyboard feel is pretty good even while the key travel is so short it takes some time getting used to. But luckily the “click” (tactile-auditive feedback) you get from the keys is ok.

My main concerns right now relate to the touchpad. On the other hand it is a clear upgrade from 1st generation Vaio Z’s touchpad that did not properly support multitouch. Here you can do all the scrolling and rotating gestures you most usually need. But touchpad is rather small, and most serious thing is the nonreponsive left mouse button. There must be something wrong with its mechanical construction – getting it to register button clicks is pretty frustrating hit and miss thing. Really unacceptable from a laptop of this caliber. I still need to check whether this could be something that a driver upgrade could fix.

Things that I have not yet got any chance to test include the discrete graphics chip in the Power Media Dock, in Blu-ray as well as gaming modes. It is also interesting to see how long the battery will actually last: since the sheet battery is installed on top of the regular one, there is two of them, and it seems that when the power brick is not plugged in, Z3/Win7 first starts draining the long-life battery and the regular one will stay in 100%. Sony promises 14 hours of usage, but I will see this in the real life later.

Also, I have not found yet where to insert SIM card (this thing should come with 4G/LTE mobile data module). Maybe it is buried underneath the battery compartment like in the old Z1.

Author: frans

Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the University of Tampere, Finland.

14 thoughts on “Vaio Z3, first impressions”

  1. One more nice thing: Z3 has Bluetooth 4.0 (Intel Centrino) built in, and it seems I am finally able to use my Nokia BH-905 stereo Bluetooth headset it was meant – from music to Skype to gaming, I am looking forward to it. The first test with classical music was so crisp.

  2. The sim card compartment is actually at the back of the laptop; it looks like a rounded lid, but it is actually a small tray that you need to pull right out of the laptop. I got also 4G working (with Elisa/Saunalahti, a Finnish operator), which is great, even though the 4G availability seems still pretty limited here.

  3. The trackpad is really irritating, that is my main critique. It is sensitive enough, and multitouch works, but the trackpad buttons are almost non-responsive. Sometimes four presses out of five attempts fail to register. I just wonder whether this is a mechanical issue, or something that can be fixed with a driver update?

  4. The mouse button might actually be getting a bit more responsive in use, so I have not returned this unit yet. As to the battery life, I think I am getting over 8 hours of regular use, but nowhere near 14 hours, so I do not know how Sony have done their tests…

  5. What is the total weight with the battery? And are there any heat issues? Especially near the keyboard (i.e. does your hand feel it when you are typing?). And at the bottom (does it get uncomfortable when you have it one your lap?).

  6. Jay: I have not put this to scale myself, but looking at the specs the laptop itself should be 1,175 kg with the standard battery (that is c. 300 g), if you replace it with the extended, sheet battery like myself, that is c. 520 g, so the full, long-life setup would weight c. 1,7 kg. The long-life battery adds quite a lot to the mass of the laptop though, so it feels much more bulky with it – c. 1/3 more to the thickness. As to the heat, it does not have any issues. Particularly, as the sheet battery comes under the laptop, you can really use it in your lap since the thick battery is such an efficient insulator. I cannot feel any warmth / heat at the handrest area either. [Edit: you do not actually replace the regular battery: you fit it to the bottom so you will be running the system with two batteries – ergo, the extra-long battery life…]

  7. Lars, yes, the surface is piano-like glossy – I think they called it “Premium Black” in the options page (I made the configuration through Sony Europe web store). It really shows your fingerprints, otherwise it is nice.

    1. Thanks, frans!
      It’s a shame Sony didn’t add a (Mini-) DisplayPort or a modern implementation of HDMI that supports resolutions above 1080p. So I ordered one of these shiny new DisplayLink USB 3.0 to DisplayPort converters. Consequently (and unfortunately), my buying decision for a Z3 depends on the performance this thingy is able to deliver.

      1. Lars, do you mean something like this: http://www.lindy.co.uk/usb-3-to-displayport-adapter/43171.html ? I am actually happy with the resolutions I can reach via the HDMI (currently have the screen plugged into the HDMI in the PMD unit); Wikipedia says that “HDMI 1.4 increases the maximum resolution to 4K × 2K, i.e. 3840 × 2160p (Quad HD) at 24 Hz/25 Hz/30 Hz or 4096 × 2160p at 24 Hz”. I think Vaio Z supported 1.4 already in the 2011 model, at least in the PMD unit? (see http://www.pcpro.co.uk/blogs/2011/06/29/sony-vaio-z-series-2011-review-first-look/ )

      2. Well, it SHOULD work with HDMI 1.3+, but a working implementation has not been spotted in the wild, yet. There a numerous threads in miscellaneous forums, with no success stories apart from hacks with reduced refresh rates like this one: http://forum.notebookreview.com/sony/608550-wqxga-2560×1600-z1-without-vidock-works-but-i-need-some-help.html
        Unfortunately my (old) Dell 3008WFP refuses to accept such low refresh frequencies. So the only remaining solution for me is Display Port.

        In the meantime, the DisplayLink converter from Lindy has arrived. Nice hardware, nice software. And based on a shitty technology called Display Port that seems to be very, very fragile, unstable and sensitive to interferences: http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/peripherals/f/3529/t/19339056.aspx (251 Replies…)
        This applies to many different models of monitors, graphic cards and cables. Every now and then the monitor enters power save mode and often only IT-Crowd’s “have you tried turning it off and on again?” brings back the picture on screen.

        I really shouldn’t buy a Z3, I should buy a Pentium 4 with a CRT running at 800x600px. That’s mature technology THAT WORKS.

      3. Ok – I was just wondering, since I am able to run through HDMI-DVI connection this Dell monitor that I am now using over here (NZ) at its full native resolution (1680×1050), but there might be issues if you go to those really high ones.

      4. I know I’m commenting on an old thread…but my Z3 runs my Dell U2410 at 1920×1200 without a problem (without the PMD attached).

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s