Sony's VAIO Z finally arrives in the US, goes up for pre-order starting at $2,000

Well, it's about time! It's been months since Sony pulled the 13-inch VAIO Z from its website, and since then we've had to sift through vague leaks and watch mournfully as other parts of the world scored the next-gen version of this premium ultraportable. Finally, Sony has announced that it's available for pre-order in the US, starting at a princely $2,000. As you'll recall when we got hands-on at an event in Taiwan last month, this year's model weighs in at 2.5 pounds (down from three last year), giving the 2.8-pound Samsung Series 9 a run for its money. As the cream of Sony's crop, it's fashioned out of better-than-average materials -- namely, aluminum and carbon fiber -- and you'll find it in two colors besides basic black.

The big story, of course, is that rather than build a laptop with switchable graphics as it has in the past, Sony is instead relying on the Power Media Dock, an external, Lightpeak-enabled peripheral that houses an AMD Radeon HD 6650M graphics card and 1GB of video memory (not to mention, HDMI- and VGA-out, three USB ports, and a slot-loading optical drive). The laptop itself only packs Intel integrated graphics, which means Sony is assuming you'll wait until you're plugged in to start gaming, editing photos, and whatever else you power users fancy. On its own, the battery promises to last eight hours, but, as with Sony's S series, you can pair it with an external sheet battery, which claims to extend the battery life to a max of 16 hours. Rounding out the spec list are standard-voltage Core i5 and i7 processor options, up to 256GB 512GB in solid-state storage, up to 8GB of RAM, and a 13.1-inch panel with either 1080p or 1600 x 900 resolution. In case this thin beauty slipped under your radar the first time around, we've re-posted our hands-on photos below, along with a walk-through video past the break.
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VAIO Z Series Laptop Packs a Heavyweight Performance Punch into Featherweight Design

Sony's new flagship VAIO® Z Series ultra-portable laptop packs high performance features, wireless hotspot functionality and quick boot with dual solid state drives – all into a sleek 0.66-inch, 2.5-pound aluminum and carbon fiber chassis.

"This new Z laptop builds on the attitude that an ultra-portable can also pack high performance into a slim profile," said Mike Lucas, senior vice president of Networked Technology and Services Division at Sony Electronics. "The Z Series is ideal for performance demanding road warriors who need excellent battery life."
Z Series plus Power Media Dock™: the Perfect Pair

The Z Series incorporates a bold, new concept – the Power Media Dock™ system. This "performance factory" docking station delivers the power of an AMD Radeon™ HD 6650M graphics card with 1GB VRAM, slot loading optical drive, three USB ports (1 x 3.0 and 2 x 2.0), HDMI® and VGA ports. When paired with the supplied dock, the Z Series transforms into the ultimate workstation and can even support up to four full HD displays (including the system LCD).

High Performance; Low Footprint
Thanks to its engineering design elements, the new Z Series laptop is lighter than its predecessor by half a pound without the Power Media Dock.. The core is comprised of a carbon fiber matrix – the same material used to build Formula 1 race cars – to add flexibility and durability without adding extra weight. A seamless piece of solid aluminum forms the keyboard and palm rest deck for an elegant look and feel. The Z Series is available in three color options: carbon black, carbon indigo, and premium carbon black.

The Z Series laptop is fully flat, abandoning protruding ports, unnecessary seams and bulky batteries for a slim profile that delivers up to 8 hours of battery life. Users looking for even more flexibility can purchase an optional large-capacity sheet battery that attaches flush to the bottom of the computer and extends the battery life to up to 16 hours. The thin profile doesn't mean the VAIO Z Series makes any compromises in performance. Second generation standard voltage Intel Core i5 and i7 processors with Intel Turbo Boost with clock speeds of up to 3.40 GHz power the new Z Series, while dual-channel solid state drives with RAID technology (select models) ensure quick boots, fast application launches, and ample durable storage.

Security is also enhanced with Symantec VIP. This service creates a hardware-based number computed between the PC itself and participating web sites that require heightened security like online banking. Access to these sites is only granted when these numbers match, and the number changes every 30 seconds, helping keep private information safe.

Select models feature mobility solutions including integrated Mobile Broadband, which offers a secure connection through carriers such as AT&T and Sprint. Additionally, the Z Series features Sony's exclusive Share My Connection™ technology, which turns the laptop into a mobile hotspot for up to five PCs or Wi-Fi enabled devices such as smart phones, cameras or media players.

Multimedia Monster
Sony brought its prowess in developing HD televisions to the Z Series' LED backlit displays, available in1920x1080 and 1600x900 resolution levels. The display's 16:9 aspect ratio is ideal for viewing Blu-ray Disc™ movies (select models) with the accompanying Power Media Dock™ system. The display also features anti-glare coating and deep, rich colors for more true-to-life images, and less light reflection.
With new built-in Intel Wireless Display Technology, the Z Series can send movies, videos and photos stored on its drives or home network to a television in full 1080p HD and 5.1 surround sound (TV adapter required and sold separately).

Three capacitive touch buttons provide quick access to software. Users can launch directly into Sony's own Media Gallery™ software by pushing the designated VAIO button on the keyboard and create high-quality home movies. The ASSIST links directly to VAIO Care™ software to help maintain and troubleshoot any issues, and WEB accesses to the internet without a full boot up into Windows®.

The VAIO Z Series comes equipped with the latest select Windows® 7 operating systems. The laptops will retail for about $2,000 and will be available for presale at today.