Sony announces VAIO Flip PC, looks to steal the IdeaPad Yoga's thunder

We knew a novel VAIO form factor was bound to be announced at IFA when Sony dropped a origami-inspired teaser video last week. And look what we have here: in Berlin, the PC maker unveiled a new line of VAIO Flip PCs.

Like the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, this Ultrabook can be used in a variety of modes; the machine works as a standard clamshell laptop, but the display can also be collapsed down over the keyboard for use as a tablet. Finally, you can reverse the screen so it's facing outward, away from the keyboard, in "viewer mode." The Flip will be sold in 13-,14- and 15-inch flavors, compared to the 11- and 13-inch sizes for the Yoga. Does Sony have a strong contender on its hands? Read on for specs and impressions.

Sony's made no secret about it: now more than ever, it's looking to make itself quite competitive with its PC offerings. To that end, the company has tricked out its base-configuration features across all new VAIO products -- and the Flip's spec list especially benefits from this generosity. All models sport an aluminum lid and palm rest, along with a backlit keyboard, a 1,920 x 1,080 IPS display and a variety of Haswell processor options. Only the 13-incher comes standard with an SSD, but all models can be configured with one. The 15-incher can be ordered with a dazzling 2,880 x 1,620 resolution display (paired with a 2GB NVIDIA GPU) -- and honestly, why would you ever settle for anything less?

Naturally, Sony's also gunning for the "lightest Ultrabook distinction," as the 13-inch Flip's 2.5-pound weight undercuts the MacBook Air. There's also built-in active digitizer support, letting users get to work with Sony's N-trig-powered pen -- a pen that supports Adobe Photoshop CC / Illustrator CC, no less. Port-wise, the 14- and 15-inch models both offer a USB 3.0 connection along with an Ethernet port, while the 13-incher sports two USB 3.0 connections and a mini-HDMI port (incidentally, this form factor is the only of the three to offer a rear-facing camera as well).Those perks are matched by an attractive package, with a diamond-cut VAIO logo and tasteful brushed aluminum on the Ultrabook's palm rest and lid. The spacious, backlit island-style keyboard also seems quite promising, as keys offer a satisfying amount of travel.

The real appeal here, though, is the Flip's ability to, you know, flip -- and Sony's come up with a clever switch system to do just that. Slide the nub from "unlock" to "release" position, and the screen will pop up and out to extend over the keyboard. Magnets on the inside of the Flip's lid help guide the screen back into laptop position when you push the panel back up. Moving the display into viewer mode works pretty much the same way; you just push the screen away, rather than toward, you. Unlike on the IdeaPad Yoga, the VAIO Flip PC's keyboard isn't exposed when it's in viewer mode (that was one of our main complaints about Lenovo's machine). There's a learning curve inherent with any unconventional notebook like this, but the flipping mechanism feels reassuringly sturdy -- in other words, you won't break it while figuring out how to operate this guy.

Sony is only sharing European pricing initially (stay tuned for that), but we expect availability for the US market to follow soon. For now, check out our hands-on gallery.

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New Line Features Full Range of Elegant Convertibles and the World's Thinnest Windows 8 Tablet PC With Intel® Core™ Processor Family

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, September 4, 2013 – Sony today introduced a bold new line for fall including a new form factor PC, VAIO® | Flip PC, featuring the flexibility of a convertible with the computing power of a traditional clamshell PC, the world's thinnest Windows 8 tablet with Intel® Core™ Processor family, the VAIO® Tap 11 Tablet PC*, and the next evolution of the mobile all-in-one PC, VAIO Tap 21, encompassing portability, power and beautiful design.

"Consumers want the portability and convenience of a tablet but don't want to sacrifice PC power, said Pedro LaFarga, SVP, Sony VAIO & Networked Products Division. "With Sony's new VAIO | Flip PC and VAIO Tap 11 form factors, they don't have to. Sony will continue to lead the fast changing PC industry, offering new experiences in both productivity and play while always incorporating the best technologies from our display, imaging and audio groups."

Distinctly Sony

Drawing on Sony's TV heritage of delivering the best picture quality, the new VAIO | Flip PC and VAIO Tap models feature TV technology resulting in a sharp and gorgeous Full HD 1920 x 1080 display (select models with have a high resolution 2880 x 1620 display with 4K HDMI output ). The TRILUMINOS™ Display for mobile technology recreates incredibly rich natural colors. With a wider color range, the technology renders hard to reproduce reds, blues, and greens more accurately, giving mobile devices the ability to display intense colors better than ever before.

In addition to TRILUMINOS Display for mobile, the new VAIO PCs employ Sony's picture engine, X-Reality™ for mobile, which analyzes each image and reproduces lacking pixels to optimize quality for the sharpest videos. The combination of these technologies ensures that VAIO users experience a level of video quality that exceeds expectations.

The front-facing camera powered by Exmor R® for PC CMOS Sensor developed by Sony, captures sharp, clear images even in low light conditions. Fused with Sony's ClearAudio+ technology, the new PCs deliver a louder and clearer sound that is distinctly Sony. With unique sound processing technologies, listeners hear dynamic bass and soaring highs with ultimate clarity and presence with less distortion for an unmatched music or movie experience.

VAIO | Flip PC

The unique design of VAIO | Flip PC maintains the full functionality of a conventional notebook PC with the ability to switch between laptop, tablet and viewer modes – the perfect blend of productivity and entertainment. Utilizing a unique 2nd hinge, the display can flip, allowing the PC to change from laptop to tablet or viewer modes. Tablet mode is best for browsing the web, taking pictures and writing with the optional Active Pen. By flipping the display over, users can access viewer mode, a form that is the best for watching videos and movies or showing the screen to someone sitting opposite.

Available in 13-inch, 14-inch and 15-inch models, VAIO | Flip PC is beautifully crafted in both black and silver aluminum and features a full pitch backlit keyboard, gesture enabled touch pad and palm rest for comfortable typing. VAIO | Flip PC includes a USB 3.0 port capable of charging personal devices on the go even when the computer is powered down or in sleep mode. In addition, there is a USB charging port housed within the AC adapter (VAIO Fit 13A | Flip PC and VAIO Tap 11 models only).
The VAIO Fit 13A | Flip PC weighs a mere 2.6 lbs. The 14" and 15" VAIO | Flip PC weigh 4.2 lbs., and 4.6 lbs., respectively.

VAIO | Flip PC models are equipped with fourth generation Intel® Core™ processors with up to Core™ i7, Solid State Drive (standard on 13") and Hybrid Hard Drive (standard on 15", optional on 14") as well as optional NVIDIA® graphics -- up to 2GB -- (VAIO Fit 14A | Flip PC and VAIO Fit 15A | Flip PC), delivering maximized performance that masters the most demanding tasks, whether you're watching a movie, creating a multimedia presentation or gaming, all with great battery life.

VAIO Tap 11

Available in both black and white options, the new VAIO Tap 11 Tablet PC is the world's thinnest (0.39") Windows 8 Tablet PC with Intel® Core™ Processor family. *Featuring an aluminum magnetic full pitch keyboard/cover with a touch pad, users can be as productive as they are on a traditional notebook PC. In addition, the keyboard uses magnets to easily attach to the display when it is not being used, providing a cover and charging the keyboard in this position.

VAIO Tap 11 models are also equipped with fourth generation Intel Core processors with up to Core i7 and Solid State Drives for powerful performance. Users can stay productive and entertained throughout the day on the new VAIO Tap 11 model with up to 6 hours of battery life , an SD card reader, USB 3.0 and micro HDMI as well as Intel® Wireless Display (WiDi), which easily streams the computer screen directly to your compatible HDTV.

Camera and Pen solutions

The 8-megapixel rear-facing camera on VAIO Fit 13A | Flip PC and VAIO Tap 11* features the Exmor RS for PC image sensor and makes it possible to take images of documents that are clear enough for the computer to recognize and process text. The Exmor RS for PC image sensor technology combined with the CamScanner application enables users to take crisp images of documents using the computer's camera as if it were a scanner and edit and organize multiple documents. CamScanner has the ability to straighten images of documents and photos taken at odd angles, allowing individuals to focus on taking photos of important material instead of lining up the perfect shot. CamScanner also uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert the words in an image to text.

The accurate pressure sensitive Active Pen allows for an even more accurate and natural writing experience. Users can take notes in the memo taking application, VAIO Paper, or easily crop an image with VAIO Clip using intelligent edge detection technology.

In addition, VAIO is collaborating with Adobe to offer the best environment for creatives. Users will be able to enjoy Active Pen in the update of Adobe Illustrator® Creative Cloud (sold separately) and Adobe Photoshop® Creative Cloud (sold separately).

VAIO Tap 21

Sony was first to market with the portable all-in-one segment with VAIO Tap 20. Its successor, VAIO Tap 21, is about 30 percent lighter. Now encased in aluminum with clean edges and a diamond cut VAIO logo, VAIO Tap is sleeker than ever.

The new tabletop PC now features a freestyle stand which allows users to easily change the angle of the screen with one hand. Thanks to the internal battery, VAIO Tap 21 can be carried around the home or laid flat on a coffee table for the whole family to play games on the large screen.
Users can also stand VAIO Tap 21 upright and use it as a fully-functioning desktop PC to work on documents, surf the web and check emails or use the device to display a presentation with the supplied wireless keyboard and mouse.

VAIO Tap 21 comes with applications that are optimized for responsive 10-point multi-touch operation, including Fingertapps™ Organizer, and a calendar app for family members to communicate digitally via posted to-do lists and recorded messages and videos. VAIO Tap 21 will be available with a Intel Core i5 or i7 processor and can be configured with a Solid State Drive or Hybrid Hard Drive.

High Level of Standard Features

With NFC (Near Field Communication) one-touch technology, users can quickly stream music, download photos, and enable Bluetooth® connections by simply tapping a compatible Android or Windows Phone smart phone or a wireless speaker to the new VAIO | Flip PC and VAIO Tap models.

The new PCs also make great partners for your TV and home entertainment system. With the TV SideView app (available for free via the Windows Store) users can search for detailed information about the movies or programs they are currently watching as well as related content. By using an optional USB IR adapter (IR built into VAIO Tap 11), users can change the channel or control the volume via the app in the same way that one would use a universal remote control. Using VAIO Remote control application, users can operate other devices that communicate via infra-red technology, such as BluRay Disc™ players and home theaters, from their PC.

Also included with both VAIO | Flip PC and VAIO Tap models is ArtRage® Studio, the premiere digital arts software. ArtRage Studio offers natural painting tools such as oil paints and watercolors, along with utilities to make painting easier for anyone who wants to paint or draw on their computer regardless of skill level.

For those who want to try their hand at video creation and music recording, VAIO | Flip PC and VAIO Tap 21 models include a pre-installed version of Sony Imagination Studio™ VAIO® Edition software, about a $200 value, including four powerful Sony applications: Movie Studio Platinum, ACID™ Music Studio, Sound Forge™ Audio Studio software.