Image: Hugh Threlfall
January 06 2012
As someone who feels gratitude to the late Steve Jobs on an almost hourly basis for Apple products, it is perhaps somewhat perverse that it took this superb Sony laptop, the Vaio Z, to help me fully appreciate his genius – and realise that Apple doesn’t always have the last word.
The Sony arrived with two other premium laptops challenging the growing hegemony of the 13in MacBook Pro and Air. I am taking it as a given here that, Windows/Mac arguments aside, these computers all work brilliantly; my focus, as was Jobs’, is their look and feel – we can spend 12 hours a day with laptops, so God is truly in the detail.
First, the Asus Zenbook. This comes in 12in and 13in models of similar thickness, weight and price to the MacBook Air. They have Bang & Olufsen audio and fine screens. But they’re too shiny, with sharp edges, nasty silver keys with cheap-looking italicised letters. Everything is out of visual sync with everything else. Any Apple designer who showed these to Jobs would have been fired.
Then there’s the Dell XPS 14Z; a cheaper, lighter, thinner MacBook Pro competitor with a bigger screen than the Zenbook. No-brainer? Sure, if you can live with its jangling ugliness. It’s good, but, again, just not nice. I, anyway, would never get pleasure from using this.
With the Sony Vaio Z, however, the competition gets serious. The carbon-fibre Z is just over half the thickness and weight of a MacBook Pro, has a potential 14-hour battery life, an aesthetic that Jobs wouldn’t have kicked you out of the room for, plus features he’d love, including a keyboard that tilts as you raise the screen, a 3G SIM and the option of a 512Gb SSD hard drive. Wow.
Of course, being a PC, the machine’s back and sides are hideous, and it comes plastered with those moronic little Intel and Windows stickers, which ruin the visual impact and damage the fascia. Jobs would have murdered anyone responsible for that. Yet in myriad ways, the Vaio Z beats the pants off the sainted MacBook Pro. Indeed, the Vaio Z is terrific enough to beat Apple for the custom of discerning, demanding people, ie, you and me. I’m just not sure it will.