Noisey Review: The VAIO Z Canvas

VAIO Z Canvas
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Back in 2015, I reviewed the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 for Adorama and was very quickly convinced that Microsoft was definitely onto something. Possibly even make me consider making the switch from my Mac. In the year since that review, there’s been no shortage of new convertible/two-in-one’s available to consumers looking for the tablet/pc experience but many have fallen short of what Microsoft promised with the Surface line of computers. Vaio, the spin off of Sony’s old PC business, recently released their very own two-in-one tablet/PC promising all the polish, portability, and power that made them once king of the PC hill, but does it deliver?

Specs (taken from VAIO website)

Operating System

Windows 10 Pro 64bit

Processor

Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-6567U Processor
3.30GHz with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology up to 3.60GHz

Graphics

Intel(R) Iris(TM) Graphics 550
4096 x 2160 maximum resolution

Memory

8GB (Fixed On Board), LPDDR3

Display

13.3″, WQHD, 2560 x 1440, Wide(16:9), Capacitive Touchscreen

Storage

256 GB

Inputs and Outputs

SuperSpeed USB (USB 3.0) with Charge :1
SuperSpeed USB (USB 3.0) port :1
HDMI® Output(s) :1
Headphone Output + Microphone Input :1
Wireless LAN
IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compliant
Bluetooth
Bluetooth(R) 4.1 compliant
Card Slot
Secure Digital (SD) Slot : 1

Keyboard dimensions

1.2 mm x 19 mm

Battery Life

Up to 11hours and 30 minutes

Dimensions (Approx.)

8.4764″ (W) x 12.7638″ (L) x 0.6614″ (D)

Weight (Approx.)

2.96 lbs

Design

The VAIO Z Canvas is built like a sleek modern slab that harkens back to the old Sony days where these computers were objects of desire long before Steve Jobs made computers cool. The first thing that jumps out when unboxing is that this is intended to not only be a workhorse but also a conversation starter.

Being a two in one, the VAIO Z Canvas had a very detachable keyboard that doubles as a cover and is easily the thinnest we’ve ever tested. The Keyboard easily outlasts the battery life of the tablet itself and can be charged when used as a cover. The keys are responsive for a Bluetooth keyboard, which almost always offer compact solutions but sacrifice comfort and response time. When in landscape orientation, every possible connection from two USB 3.0 ports, an SD Card reader, HDMI and From an ergonomics point of view the VAIO Z Canvas’s ultra slim profile can be a bit of a pain to work with. Unless you plan on only working at a desk, preferably with a keyboard drawer that allows for an incline, the included keyboard cover can become a bit difficult to work with for extended periods of time. If you’re on the go or a flat surface is just not within reach, we highly recommend that you use the included stylus to work.

The Screen

Easily one of our favorite features on the VAIO Z Canvas is that gorgeous WQHD display. It’s bright, sharp, and has incredible color rendering that begs to be used to edit photos and video (which was what we primarily used it for) as well as watching Netflix (there’s an app for that as well). The 13.3-inch touch display is a joy to use and is reasonably responsive, unfortunately we did not have a stylus included in our review unit and had to make do with our Wacom Bamboo Duo. This omission would be the cause of us losing some functionality that’s only available with VAIO’s stylus like one-button initializing of One Note and VAIO’s screen clipper; it’s not a deal breaker but we definitely didn’t get a chance to really see how it compares to Microsoft’s Surface Pro option.

The soft-keyboard works superbly well for what it is; although my preference is for the use of a physical keyboard, the soft-keyboard’s ability to be moved and reconfigured to working the screen’s surface made it handy in a pinch. This is a nice touch that more of company’s offering all-in-one’s should be designing better.

How it Stacks up

The spec sheet lists a battery life of 11 and a half hours total and we’re comfortable that if you’re primarily using this machine for spreadsheets, web browsing, and general tasks you will likely need to charge the keyboard long before you’ll be charging the laptop. That said we were primarily found ourselves working with the VAIO Z Canvas as a multimedia workhorse – image editing, video editing, and some light audio editing; the result was somewhere in the neighborhood of about 5 hours under heavy processor usage – realistically longer than any possible application you can think of.

Over the course of our review period we used the VAIO Z Canvas as our only computer; there were no backups and it had to deliver. Whether on a photoshoot, video editing, or writing a blog post, the VAIO Z Canvas was our only option. Too often laptops claim to be desktop replacements without being able to fully dependable for critical tasks. The biggest stress test using the VAIO Z Canvas we could come up with was using it for video editing using Adobe Premiere for down-sampling 4K video into Full-HD videos. The VAIO Z Canvas was able to handle most videos thrown at it, even longer strings of clips, however, we did notice a significant slow down when it came time to preparing any of the clips.

The slow down really isn’t a deal breaker here. It’s a bit unfair to expect a laptop with non-discrete graphics to handle the weight of a job that really should be done on a workhorse PC but often times that’s what using the VAIO felt like – a computer that should live on your desk.

Often when using the VAIO felt like an exercise in compromise. It’s a full-fledge computer that will run full versions of the software we need to get work done but can often be difficult to actually use comfortably as a tablet. Where the Microsoft Surface Pros come with the Type Cover to easily convert it into a laptop, the VAIO Z Canvas’ keyboard is unruly if used on anything other than a flat surface. If this computer was only meant to sit at a desk, it would easily be one of the most elegant 2-in-1’s we’ve seen.

Final Thoughts

After spending a considerable amount of time on this extended review we’ve learned to embrace many of the quirks of the VAIO Z Canvas. As a PC, it is more than able of handling the stress of the demands of working design pros, video editors, and photographers. The VAIO Z Canvas will handle most graphic intensive functions this side of high-end gaming, all in a beautifully designed 2-in-1 PC/tablet. That said, the high cost of entry is a barrier that will make most consumers think twice before choosing the VAIO over the far more popular Surface Pro.