The Sony VAIO Flip 15 ($1,199) totally belongs on the set of a high-budget, high-concept science fiction movie. Its mid-lid hinge design lets you perform the convertible tablet/laptop acrobatics that seem clunky on other designs. It’s a power users’ system, to be sure, and is a good fit for those who sketch, edit, shoot video, and paint as their profession or passion. Once they work the few kinks out of this design, Sony may have something great here.
Design and Features
The VAIO Flip 15 measures about 1 by 15 by 10 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.84 pounds. Its aluminum and glass construction imparts a feeling of sturdiness even though the screen itself is quite thin. The VAIO Flip 15 has a hinge in the middle of the screen, allowing the screen to flip around the lid, giving you the same sort of screen position options that you can get on the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13$1,099.00 at Lenovo ($999) and Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S$849.00 at Lenovo ($999), but since the acrobatics are limited to the lid, the VAIO Flip 15 still covers its keyboard and trackpad when the lid is closed. A manual switch on the laptop controls the latch, so you’re not inadvertently flipping the lid around every time you close the laptop. Unlike the Yoga laptops, the keyboard stays in the same protected orientation, while on the Yoga systems the keyboard flips over to the bottom of the laptop, where you can feel it in tablet mode. While more complex than the Lenovo Yoga, the innovative hinge lets users quickly perform the acrobatics while the laptop itself lies flat on a table. You have to pick up the Yoga brothers to do the flip maneuver.
You can hold the VAIO Flip 15 in your arm while the system is in tablet mode, but with an almost 5 pound system weight, you won’t be holding it for long. The 15-inch length of the system also compounds arm fatigue a bit. On a flat surface, you can use the system easily in tablet mode. Also, you can flip the screen around and use it in viewer mode, which is equivalent to the Yoga’s stand mode. This mode is where the screen is close to you, and the keyboard is on the other side of the screen, away from you. The built-in accelerometer makes sure the screen is in the correct orientation. The only mode that the VAIO Flip 15 doesn’t have that the Yoga laptops have is the so-called tent mode, but that mode is of questionable utility, especially when stand/viewer mode is more useful. Like the Yoga laptops, the VAIO Flip 15 has the most options for finding a comfortable and ergonomic position to use the PC.
The screen on the VAIO Flip 15 is a bright and clear 15.5-inch IPS display with a standard 1,920-by-1,080 resolution, though you can buy VAIO Flip 15 configurations with a higher than 1080p (2,880-by-1,620) resolution. The screen on the VAIO Flip 15 is one of the cleanest and smoothest looking in terms of quality for a visual arts student or professional. To get a higher quality screen, you’d have to look at professional workstation displays. The screen has 10-point capacitive touch and a digitizer built into the panel, which means users can use capacitive or active digitizer styluses in addition to your fingers. The $39.99 Sony stylus is standard on 2,800 by 1,620 resolution models, but is an added option on our test unit. The stylus is more accurate than a capacitive stylus on drawing and paint programs like the ArtRage Studio 3 app that is pre-installed on the system, and Sony has an app it calls Sony Paper that lets you write and sketch as if you were using pen or pencil on paper.
The VAIO Flip 15 has good connectivity, including three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, SD, and NFC. The system comes with a few pre-loaded apps like Amazon, Kindle, Skype, Evernote Touch, etc. However, the notable pre-loaded software includes the aforementioned ArtRage Studio, Sony Movie Studio Platinum, Acid Music Studio, and SoundForge Audio Studio. This system is ready to go out of the box for the budding creative student or hobbyist, and thus rivals systems like the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Mid 2012) ($1,799) and its siblings in terms of being well suited to photo, music, video, and graphics art production. The system’s keyboard is LED backlit as you’d expect, and the keys are relatively easy to get used to, with only a little bit of slipperiness. The keys are the same bright silver color as the keyboard deck without too much contrast, so you may want to give it a tryout in a store if you’re a hunt-and-peck typist.
The specs on this system are impressive. It includes an Intel Core i7-4500U processor with Intel HD 4400 graphics, 1TB hard drive with 16GB cache solid-state drive (SSD), and 8GB of DDR3 memory. These specs gave the system competitive benchmark scores, particularly on the multimedia benchmark tests like Handbrake (1:12) and Photoshop CS6 (5:07). The VAIO Flip 15 is faster than the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14 ($999) which has a Core i5 processor and SSD combo, though the VAIO Flip 15 is left in the dust by the Editors’ Choice for midpriced desktop replacement laptops, the Asus N550JV-DB72T$1,039.00 at Amazon ($1,079), which has a faster Core i7 processor and enthusiast level Nvidia GeForce discrete graphics in it. On the whole, however, you’ll be happy with the VAIO Flip 15 as a multimedia creation laptop.
On the battery life test, the VAIO Flip turned in a respectable five hours (5:07), which is an hour longer than the Asus N550JV-DB72T. However, the IdeaPad Flex 14 lasts three hours longer (8:06), and it’s not hard to find a touch-based system that also lasts all day in the $1,000+ price range, like the Vizio 15.6-inch Thin + Light Touch (CT15T-B1)$1,469.00 at Microsoft Store ($1,350) (8:40). The VAIO Flip 15 will get you most of the day battery life, though you may be able to stretch that with judicious use of the sleep command.
On the whole, we are bullish on the way Sony handles the convertible laptop conundrum with the Sony VAIO Flip 15. The mid-lid hinge solves a lot of the problems that the Yoga-style flip introduces, and is much more modern than the old swing and pivot hinge on older convertible tablet/laptops. The overall weight and bulkiness of the unit needs to improve if this method is to become the form factor that users accept.