The latest refresh of Sony's iconic Vaio laptop line is dominated by the company's first entry in the growing ultrabook category.
But, looking at the new Vaio T, you might think, "Doesn't Sony already have an ultrathin laptop?" And that's true -- the high-end Vaio Z has been around for a couple of years in its present form, and certainly is as thin and portable as any ultrabook. It was even one of the first laptops to go SSD-only.
But the Vaio Z is technically not an ultrabook (and its previous $2,000-plus price made it basically an executive laptop). Much of the Z's DNA has filtered down to a brand-new line, the Vaio T, which looks and feels very similar, but starts at under $800.
Sony has updated several other laptop lines as well, most notably with Intel's new third-generation Core i-series (Ivy Bridge) CPUs, and a very nice software package of Sony's Vegas, Acid, and Sound Forge software for video and audio editing.
Vaio E series: Now available in 11.6-inch, 14-inch, and 15.5-inch models. This budget-minded line has gotten a slick makeover, although it's still thick and heavy compared with more-expensive midsize laptops. The keyboard is excellent, and backlit on the 14 and 15-inch versions. The 11-inch uses AMD processors, the 14-inch is, for now, stuck with older second-gen Intel Core-series CPUs, and the 15-inch has newer Ivy Bridge processors and optional AMD Radeon graphics.
There's also a special edition called the E14P Boomdizzle Bundle, which includes music software from a company (co-founded by rapper LL Cool J) of the same name, and a pair of Sony MDR-V55 DJ headphones.
The Vaio E 11-inch starts at $449, the 14-inch at $549, the 15-inch at $449, and the E14P Boomdizzle Bundle at $899.
Read our full review of the Vaio E 15 here.
Vaio S series: Sony's most mainstream laptops, this upscale-looking line comes in 13- and 15-inch sizes in silver, black, and white. Physical changes here are modest compared with last year's version, but we liked the Vaio S a lot, so that's not a bad thing. The line includes a business-friendly TPM chip, which makes it a potentially useful crossover system. The 13-inch can get a dual-core Ivy Bridge Core i7, and the 15-inch can go quad-core. Nvidia graphics and Blu-ray drives are optional.
The Vaio S 13-inch starts at $899, the 15-inch at $999.
Vaio T series: Looking like a hybrid of the Vaio S and Vaio Z, the new T series is Sony's first official ultrabook. It's not the thinnest one we've seen, and the (non-backlit) keyboard is painfully shallow, but the overall design and construction are great for under $800.
The Vaio T starts at $799.
Read our full review of the Vaio T here.
Vaio Z series: This high-end, ultrabook-like laptop has always been very expensive. The most recent editions included a breakout box, called the Power Media Dock, with both an optical drive and a discrete GPU, connected via Thunderbolt. That was a very cool concept, but drove the price sky high. The revamped Vaio Z, available in carbon fiber black, gold, and a matte premium carbon black, now makes the GPU/optical breakout box optional, bringing the starting price down to $1,599 (from the original $1,999).
Sony's updated Vaio laptops will be available starting later in June.