Sony Officializes Its New Z Series Laptops, With Quasi-Light Peak-USB Port

Last month saw the introduction of a new Sandy Bridge-enabled S series from Sony, and now we see their more powerful, full-on Z series get a boost. The new Zs have a standard (not low-voltage) Core i7, 256GB SSD, and a 13.1″ screen at 1600×900 (interesting resolution!). They tip the scale at just over 2.6 pounds and are 16.65mm thick, with a “full-flat” body, though the significance of that term isn’t really explained.

Perhaps most interesting is the combination Light Peak and USB port on the side there. We heard this was happening, but it didn’t show on the S series, so we weren’t sure what to expect. Sony isn’t exactly clear about it, as it’s only referred to obliquely (instead of the flagship feature it should be) while introducing the Power Media Dock2 accessory:

The performance of VAIO Z Series is taken to new extremes by the unique Power Media Dock2, a monolithic expansion module that links with VAIO via an optical cable. The proprietary port can also be used to attach regular USB devices to VAIO when it’s not docked.

So yes, it’s both USB and Light Peak. But is it Thunderbolt, or is it some extra-proprietary thing? Sony refers to it as “an optical cable” and not Thunderbolt, which may in fact be a trademarked and patented Apple interpretation of the Light Peak interface. So what’s this exactly? It’s not entirely clear. The port isn’t even labeled.

Apparently the Dock (or Dock2, rather) VGA, HDMI, an optical drive of one type or another, and some USB ports — in addition to being an external Radeon 6650M 1GB GPU. But nowhere is direct Light Peak accessory connectivity mentioned — so my guess is that the Z is only using Light Peak as a way to connect to this dock, and not (or not yet, anyway) as a standalone device interface.

The laptops look sexy with their angular design and carbon fiber build, and their cool “sheet battery” is also an option. No pricing, and USA availability isn’t confirmed, but we should hear more later this summer.

Here’s the full press release from Sony Europe:

Weighing little over a kilogram, the new VAIO Z Series notebook PC from Sony is created for mobile professionals who demand absolute performance and portability. VAIO Z blends ultra-desirable styling and premium carbon fibre with no-compromise specifications and innovative productivity features. In the office or on the road, this class-leading business notebook helps demanding users work more efficiently with the ultimate in on-the-move computing power. All-new VAIO Z takes cutting-edge styling by Sony to new extremes, with a ‘full flat’ body and display lid that are crafted in tough, ultra-light carbon fibre. At just below 1.2kg and 16.65mm slim, the new VAIO Z is the perfect partner for business travellers who demand ultimate power with less to carry.

On-the-go usability is enhanced further by the backlit keyboard with extra-wide palm rest and ergonomic new ‘button-less’ touchpad. With a resolution of 1600×900, the 33.2cm (13.1”) VAIO Display Premium features an anti-reflective coating that cuts glare from direct light sources and ensures crisp colour reproduction.

Performance is everything you’d expect from the most sophisticated VAIO notebook yet. Latest-generation standard voltage Intel® Core™ i7 processors are teamed with speedy DDR3 SDRAM and up to 256GB SSD RAID storage to blaze through the toughest workload with ease.

As an extra refinement, Quick Boot saves precious time when you’re in a hurry, loading Genuine Windows® 7 Professional up to 50% quicker than conventional notebooks. Embedded VAIO ‘everywair’ 3G WWAN on selected models connects via your mobile broadband operator.

Power Media Dock™

The performance of VAIO Z Series is taken to new extremes by the unique Power Media Dock2, a monolithic expansion module that links with VAIO via an optical cable. The proprietary port can also be used to attach regular USB devices to VAIO when it’s not docked.

Featuring high-speed I/O data transfer based on the architecture codenamed ‘Light Peak’, Power Media Dock boosts graphics performance while adding numerous extra connectivity options. It includes an optical drive for even greater business productivity and satisfying HD entertainment. The module comes supplied with a stylish design-matched stand.

With Power Media Dock added, VAIO Z can manage up to four displays (including the notebook screen) via HDMI™ and/or VGA output ports. In this configuration, VAIO Z makes a compelling choice for design, finance and science professionals who need to work across several screens simultaneously. New-generation AMD Radeon HD graphics with 1GB VRAM effortlessly handle demanding graphics tasks, from 3D CAD to gaming.

When docked, connectivity options are boosted by additional USB ports plus VGA and HDMI outputs. Power Media Dock also sports an optical drive bay that can be specified with a Blu-ray Disc™ or SuperMulti combo drive. Games and movies on DVD or Blu-ray Disc sound as good as they look with latest Dolby® Home Theater® v4.

Sheet battery

VAIO Z features the innovative ‘sheet battery’ already showcased on this year’s VAIO S Series. The notebook’s internal lithium polymer battery provides power for up to 7 hours1 on-the-go computing. It’s partnered by a second thin, flat optional lithium polymer sheet battery that can be charged separately from the PC and added without removing the internal battery. The sheet battery attaches without having to switch off the PC, boosting stamina to up to 14 hours1 for day-and-night working, even if you’re far from mains power.

VAIO Z delivers a richer communication experience if you’re staying in touch with colleagues via video conference or web chat. The HD web camera powered by Exmor™ technology ensures detailed-packed video even in low light.

There’s a full range of official accessories from Sony, style-matched to complement the looks and performance of your VAIO. Many more configuration options �� including a Full HD (1920 x 1080) LCD – are available exclusively to online shoppers at Sony Store.

The new 2011 VAIO Z Series of ultra-portable performance notebook PCs is available from the end of July 2011 (actual date of availability varies by country).

1 As measured by MobileMark® battery test

2 Power Media Dock available with selected models or as an optional accessory

[via Akihabara News]