- ProsExcellent performance. More than 12 hours of battery life. Innovative hinge hides keyboard. Pressure-sensitive stylus included. Terrific screen image quality.
- ConsExpensive. Lacks stylus storage. Finicky latch for convertible screen. Power plug too easy to detach.
- Bottom LineThe VAIO Z Flip is a pricey premium convertible-hybrid laptop that will primarily appeal to graphic artists and hobbyists who need computing power and a versatile screen.
Joel Santo Domingo
The VAIO Z Flip (starts at $1,799; $1,999 as tested) is a premium convertible-hybrid laptop. It has a current-generation Intel Core i7 processor, a large-capacity 512GB solid-state drive (SSD), and a 13-inch pivoting touch screen. It’s pricier and more powerful than our current top pick, the Lenovo Yoga 900, but it’s also a lot more specialized and aimed toward those who create and manipulate images for a living. If art is your vocation or a serious hobby, the VAIO Z Flip is worth checking out, but most general users will probably want something a little more affordable.
- Sony VAIO Flip 15 (SVF15N190X)
- Sony VAIO Flip 11
- Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch, Retina Display (2015)
- Lenovo Yoga 900
- Microsoft Surface Book
- Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 P25W-C2300-4K
- HP Spectre x360 15t (15-ap012dx)
- Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (4th Gen, 2016)
- Razer Blade (2016)
- Asus Chromebook Flip (C100PA-DB02)
- Lenovo IdeaPad 100S-11 (80R2003XUS)
- Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series 2-in-1 Special Edition (3153)
- Acer Aspire R 14 (R5-471T-52EE)
- Razer Blade Stealth (QHD)
- Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 260
- Dell XPS 15 Touch (9550)
- Origin EON17-X
Design and Features
When Sony left the PC market, we surmised that it was possible we would never see a new VAIO PC in the United States. Thanks to new owners who have bought the brand and adopted its industrial design, the Z Flip is here, looking very much like the last few VAIO convertible laptops we tested back in 2013 and 2014. It’s clad in black-painted metal, with a VAIO logo molded into the lid. The system measures 0.66 by 12.8 by 8.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 2.95 pounds. That’s a reasonable weight for a convertible laptop, seeing that the Yoga 900 is only a tenth of a pound lighter.
View All 8 Photos in Gallery
As on the previous VAIO Flip 11 and VAIO Flip 15, the screen has an extra hinge bisecting the top lid, so as you flip the screen around that hinge the keyboard always faces up rather than flipping over and out of the way (as on the Yoga 900). In Stand and Tablet modes, the screen covers the keyboard completely, while it’s accessible in Laptop mode. There is no equivalent to the Yoga’s Tent mode, since it’s just the screen, not the system, that flips completely around. Because of this flipping mechanism, you can easily switch between Laptop mode and the easel-like Stand mode that’s easier to draw on. A minor drawback is the sliding latch button: It sometimes feels as if you need three hands to unlatch it if you’re carrying the laptop around. You’ll need to put the laptop down on a flat surface, so you can disengage the latch with one hand and flip the screen with the other. Convertibles that don’t use a locking mechanism, like those in the Lenovo Yoga series, are easier to flip around into position.
The 13.3-inch IPS screen has a 2,560-by-1,440 (QHD) resolution, which gives graphic artists and photographers more room to work than a run-of-the-mill 1080p HD display. Text and graphics look clear on the bright screen, another boon for the mobile artist. That said, some larger screens, like the one on the HP Spectre x360 15t, have a higher 4K (3,840-by-2,160) resolution that offers even more room. The pressure-sensitive stylus has left and right mouse buttons built in, along with a pocket clip. It doesn’t have an eraser-like top button the way the stylus for the Microsoft Surface Book does, so you’ll have to open OneNote or any other frequently used program the old-fashioned way. Another nit is that there’s no stylus storage, as there is on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga.
The system has 8GB of RAM and a remarkable 512GB of SSD storage space—plenty for your programs and several projects. If that’s not enough, there’s an SD card slot on the left side and two USB 3.0 ports on the right. There’s also an HDMI port and headset jack on the left side of the laptop. The Power plug is a barrel-shaped connector, but it’s shorter than usual, with a spring-loaded clip holding it in the jack. It’s designed to disengage if you trip on the cord, but it pops out with very little pressure and it doesn’t feel as secure as the MagSafe 2 connector on systems like the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro. The Z Flip has a one-year warranty.
The model we reviewed comes with an Intel Core i7-6567U processor with integrated Intel Iris 550 graphics. That’s a higher specification than on most laptops with Core i5 and i7 processors. (The base version of the Z Flip comes with a Core i5-6267U processor, also with Iris 550 graphics.) As a result, the system returned an excellent score of 3,011 points on the PCMark 8 Work Conventional test, far ahead of competitors like the Microsoft Surface Book, Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 P25W-C2300-4K, and Lenovo Yoga 900.
See How We Test Laptops
Likewise, the system was the top scorer on the 3DMark Cloud Gate (8,517 points), Fire Strike Extreme (680), and both Heaven (33 frames per second, or fps) and Valley (42fps) game tests at medium quality settings. The Heaven and Valley frame rates meet our 30fps playability threshold; all of the VAIO Z Flip’s competitors returned unplayable results in the mid teens and low 20s. This is no doubt due to the Z Flip’s more powerful Iris 550 graphics.
Multimedia performance is excellent as well. The Z Flip took a short 2 minutes, 1 second, to complete the Handbrake test, the leading time, and likewise topped our charts with 368 points on the CineBench test. It scored second place on Photoshop (3:41), a bit behind the Surface Book (3:07) but still ahead of the competition that needed between 4:17 and 5:35 to complete the same test. Basically, we’d recommend this system even over the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro and Lenovo Yoga 900 if you’re a mobile graphics professional.
Battery life is another high point: The Z Flip lasted 12 hours, 11 minutes. That’s enough for the outbound and return legs of a cross-country flight, with some time to spare. That outlasts the MacBook Pro (11:10) and Yoga 900 (10:56), though the Surface Book is the overall champ (15:41), thanks to its dual battery packs.
If you’re a graphics professional, the VAIO Z Flip delivers class-leading performance, a long-lasting battery pack, and a convertible screen mechanism that helps you interact with your art up close and personal, in a tactile manner. But at almost $2,000, it just costs too much for most general users, even well-heeled ones. At $500 less, the Lenovo Yoga holds remains our Editors’ Choice for high-end convertible-hybrid laptops because it has a higher-resolution screen, the same amount of system memory and storage, comparable multimedia benchmark numbers, and only slightly less battery life (almost 11 hours).
By Joel Santo Domingo
Joel Santo Domingo is the Lead Analyst for the Desktops team at PC Magazine Labs. He joined PC Magazine in 2000, after 7 years of IT work for companies large and small. His background includes managing mobile, desktop and network infrastructure on both the Macintosh and Windows platforms. Joel is proof that you can escape the retail grind: he wore a yellow polo shirt early in his tech career. Along the way Joel earned a BA in English Literature and an MBA in Information Technology…