Dec 6, 2013

Sony VAIO Fit 15A Flip PC - Some Initial Thoughts

Over the past few years I have thought about designing the ultimate tablet. On a previous post I outlined the elements that would make such a tablet, and I restate them on this post:

  • Powerful CPU
  • Powerful GPU
  • Up-to-date resolution.
  • Good keyboard and touchpad/trackpoint design.
  • Bezel buttons
  • Active digitizer

Quite unexpectedly Sony is now the front-runner on many of these aspects with their VAIO Fit 15A Flip PC.  The CPU is very good, a 4th gen Intel Core i7-4500U (1.80GHz base and up to 3.00GHz with Max Turbo Freq.)  Sony offers the system with Win 8 Pro 64-bit, 16GB RAM, and a hybrid drive of 1TB (5400rpm)+16GB NAND Flash.  The GPU, a 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 735M, is a vast improvement (about 4.8x) when compared to the integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics (the card would be close to the Razer Edge Pro's GeForce GT 640M).  The graphics improvement should allow smooth gameplay of modern games (although likely not on max settings), but it's likely that the graphics card will allow people to run some heavy 3D software (think Maya, 3DS Max, etc).  The 15A does have a 15.5 inch screen and luckily Sony packed it with a 2880x1620 an up-to-date resolution, which will allow it to be a better content creation system.  The keyboard is backlit but I'm unsure how the quality of the keys compare with the Lenovo Precision Keyboard.  There are no significant bezel buttons on the 15A, so the Wacom Companion still has an edge over in this aspect.  The screen allows touch and active digitizer input.  Sony calls their digitizer the Sony Vaio Active Pen, which is really N-Trig DueSense Pen 2 technology that offers at most 256 pressure levels (artists may want more, however for simple writing, math, and sketching the pressure will suffice). Although N-Trig has a bad reputation when compared to Wacom it seems that the responsiveness in N-Trig 2 has improved (source1, source2).  I'm unsure whether this improvement is enough to make me want to change from the X230T, but one very positive aspect of N-Trig is having a consistent edge experience.

Now, the VAIO Fit 15A is a larger system when compared to the Lenovo ThinkPad X230T and Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga.  This bigger size allows for more powerful components but the trade-off will be portability (in volume and a weight of 5.05lbs), shorter battery life (only about 5 hours) and increase in fan noise.  Even though the system has not yet been released in the US a few early adopters have complained about the fan noise and some touch screen stains  Regarding the fan noise it seems that Sony has already posted a fix.  Another criticism of mine is regarding the glossy screen, hopefully the screen is bright enough to overcome some of the glare.

Software wise, it comes prepackaged with Sony's Movie Studio Platinum, ACID Music Studio, and Sound Forge Audio Studio.  Overall it seems that the Sony VAIO Fit 15A Flip PC is a very good "all-in-one" convertible tablet capable of content production that could replace my X230T, my HP gaming laptop, and maybe even my Dell U3011 monitor.  I see the VAIO Fit 15A Flip PC as an example of elements that many other manufacturers will follow.  The discrete graphics in particular is something we have not seen since the Fujitsu LifeBook T901, and the HP TM2 and TX2 series of convertibles.  I do have to warn possible buyers though...  do NOT rush into buying a 15A yet and wait until more reviews become available.  $1,800+ is a big investment and early adopters will have remarks of valuable insights.

For those interested in reading more check:

Note: keep in mind that painting/sketching is very different from taking hand written notes.  When painting you have time, when writing notes (letters/words/math) you need small but fast strokes.  If N-Trig is not responsive/fast enough then the pen, and  thus the system, is useless for those tasks.

Video of the Sony VAIO DUO 13 Pen (this is a different line of systems, but it has the same pen)

More in depth review of the pen.  (AAAA battery).

N-Trig DuoSense2 Active Pens

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