Intel officially launched its Ivy Bridge laptops processors earlier this week, and now Sony is refreshing its entire lineup of VAIO computers with the new CPUs. Yes, every single model has been updated with Intel's third-generation Core processors — from the luxurious Z series to the all-new T series ultrabook to the L series all-in-one (that's not to forget the VAIO S and VAIO E laptops), and we have specs, prices, and launch dates. Let's get started, shall we?
First up is the Z series, which, like most of the systems being announced today, has only been given a mild refresh. The new laptop shares the same "full flat" chassis design as its predecessor and still has a proprietary Light Peak port that connects it to that unique external GPU / optical drive combo from last year. The difference now is that you won't have to purchase the Power Media Dock to get the VAIO Z, which means that the starting price is now much lower at $1,599.99. If you're interested in the dock it starts at $300 with a DVD burner and costs $100 more for a Blu-ray burner, though, unfortunately, it has the same AMD 6650M GPU from last year. Of course, the big change to the VAIO Z is that it now has Ivy Bridge processors — you'll get to choose from either the standard-voltage i5-3210M or i7-3612QM processors (the latter is a $150 upgrade). Lastly, all VAIO Z's now come with 13.1-inch, 1920 x 1080 displays — the lower-res option is now gone — and at that $1,599.99 starting price you'll get a 128GB SSD.
Next is the Sony VAIO S, which has also hardly been changed from its predecessor. We heard a bit about these new models earlier, but now we have more information. There's still the standard 13.3-inch and 15.5-inch models (they start at $899.99 and $999.99, respectively) as well as the "premium" 13.3-inch S, which now starts at $1,119.99. The series has always shared a design philosophy with the Z series, but all of these models still have slot-loading optical drives and are thicker and heavier than their exclusive cousin. Of course, each and every one has been upgraded with standard-voltage Ivy Bridge processors. The base CPU is the 2.5GHz Core i5-3210M across all of the models, and they're available with Nvidia GT640M LE switchable graphics or Intel's far-improved integrated HD Graphics 4000. Other than the processor change, Sony is bringing larger, buttonless trackpads to its VAIO lineup (excluding the VAIO Z), and in practice we were pleased with them — they're not the best we've seen, but they're improved.
VAIO T ultrabook
Sony Europe has already spilled the beans on the company's entry into the ultrabook market, the VAIO T, but here in the US the company has held off in order to include Ivy Bridge processors in the machines. The 3.54-pound, 0.71-inch thick ultrabook comes in only a 13.3-inch version on this side of the pond, and it is powered by a 1.7GHz Core i5-3317U processor. The system has an aluminum-clad lid and lots of plastic on the bottom, but it may be a worthwhile tradeoff: the T series ultrabook costs a very reasonable $769.99. Of course, a few more corners had to be cut to get that price: the minimum-spec system has a 320GB hard drive + 32GB flash storage hybrid drive for quick boot-times, and the screen has a mediocre 1366 x 768 resolution. Why did Sony decide to make its ultrabook a low-priced alternative? We were told by the division's product manager that the company didn't want to compete with its 13-inch S and Z series models, and instead used Intel's specifications to make an affordable alternative. Thankfully, the ultrabook has a full-sized HDMI and VGA ports, as well as an SD card slot and two USB ports (one 3.0). There is a piece of bad news, however: to increase key depth and stay within Intel's guidelines, the T series doesn't have backlit keys.
Sony has also teased us before with its new mid-range VAIO E series laptops and their new "wrap-around" design, but we now have more specs and pricing information on the new models. The 14.4- and 15-inch VAIO E series laptops now start at $549.99 and $449.99, respectively, but at that price they only have last-generation Core i3 processors — you'll get a Core i3 Ivy Bridge processor if you go for the "premium" 15-inch version, which starts at $699.99. All now have backlit keyboards, other than the AMD-equipped, 11-inch VAIO E, which starts at $449.99.
VAIO L all-in-one
Lastly is the L series all-in-one, which starts at $1,299.99 and comes with integrated graphics and a Ivy Bridge Core i5-3210M processor at that price. There are two other, higher-specification versions of the all-in-one, but all three share a 24-inch, LED-backlit 1080p capactive touch display. The most expensive of the three supports glassesless 3D playback, but it'll cost you $1,999.99. Options include 8GB of RAM, Nvidia GT 640M discrete graphics, and a quad-core i7-3610QM processor. Sony is marketing the updated all-in-one as a TV / PC hybrid — every model includes a TV tuner, and there is picture-in-picture as well as webcam-based gesture controls, too.
All of Sony's updated models (other than the 3D L series AIO) are available to order now from Sony's website and a expected to ship on Tuesday, June 5th.