It’s been awhile since we saw a machine with such an interesting concept, but once you open the notebook, and actually start using it, you can’t help but feel slightly shortchanged. Sure it looks nice with a touch of designer influence all around the matter interior. Sure the accompanying matte screen is very sharp, with an industry-leading full HD (1920x1080 pixels) resolution for a 13-inch screen. There is also a nice engineering design touch which we like about how the notebook opens up. You can effectively lift the lid up with just one hand, while the bottom half stays anchored to the surface (unlike most notebooks requiring a two-handed operation to open the lid and hold the base). Once the lid is fully open, the keyboard is also slightly lifted to a comfortable typing position. But despite all the nice design aspects on the Sony Vaio Z, the issue we have here is the same as the one we have with the exterior, which is essentially build quality.
We know it uses a tough carbon fiber material, but with that amount of flex present throughout the machine, it really doesn’t command any sort of confidence about its build quality. So again, the promise of the Sony Vaio Z having “no compromises” is called into question. We’re fairly sure that to keep the Vaio Z nice and light, you’d have to use less material. So don't get sweet talked about its build material as from our experience, it's clear that carbon fiber requires some minimum thickness or a different composition to get the kind of rigidity and durability often associated with it. Sadly, you won’t find it on the Vaio Z. That's not to say it's weak. Surely Sony has done enough internal testing to figure out what should work for them, but the thought of having a flexing machine doesn't exactly invoke confidence from someone who doesn't know anything but what he sees and experiences at face value. In fact, some might even pass it off as a plastic build with metallic finish if they're not observant enough.
The chiclets keys on the keyboard were also somewhat a let down. While it’s good that the Vaio Z features chiclet keys (and they’re back-lit!), they are also extremely shallow with little key-travel. They lack the type of bounce you would normally associate with keyboards, for that very important tactile feel, making you feel as though you were typing on a touchscreen's software keyboard with haptic feedback . The palm rest layer on which the keys are on, is made of aluminum, which is supposed to be fairly rigid. Unfortunately we found the keyboard area to flex a fair bit as well.
Lastly we have the trackpad, which is covered with an aesthetically pleasing pattern, and has a fingerprint reader at the bottom that doesn’t get in the way. There aren’t any buttons, but the click-able space is clearly marked out by the area which ceases to have any pattern. Pressing on the 'buttons' was fortunately fairly comfortable, with just the right amount of click - not too mushy and not too hard. The only drawback here is that it's too small, and could gain much more usability if the trackpad area were somewhat larger.
So we checked it's build, usability and screen quality? What about its sound quality to complement videos? Unfortunately it's not worth mentioning and it's also barely audible at all. Given that it's a premium notebook, we were expecting more, but its slim frame wasn't suitable of supporting anything noteworthy. So if you're a stickler for good sound, you can always plug in your headphones or connect it to desktop speakers. Again, this is also a compromise of sorts.