VAIO Z Canvas 12.3-inch Laptop (Core i7 Quad Core, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, Windows 10 Pro)
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- Intel Core i7-4770HQ 2.20 GHz
- 8 GB DDR3L SDRAM
- 256 GB Solid-State Drive
- 12.3-Inch Screen
- Windows 10 Pro
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VAIO Z Canvas is the ultimate mobile device with latest cutting edge technology integrated into small 12.3 inch tablet form. Specifications:4th Generation Intel Core i7 4770HQ Processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200,12.3 inch WQXGA+ 2560 x 1704 touch display (3:2 aspect ratio)
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I also own the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 i5/8GB RAM/256GB SSD so I will do a comparison (although the Vaio out specs the Surface Pro 4, this is the only comparison of a Windows tablet that I can make).
First impression of the Vaio Z Canvas… EPIC! The specifications are what caught my attention, but that’s not it, it’s very aesthetically beautiful; it is organized and sleek.
The pen feels like a real art pen (I’m going to call the stylus a pen), I love the button placement and the grip, although I would have still liked to have seen them add an extra button/eraser… and some tip options would be really nice. Even with the couple drawbacks, I prefer drawing and editing photos, and all around navigating, with the Vaio pen. The Pro 4 pen is nice, but the coating (although pretty) really irritates my hands. I have an aversion to certain textures and if my hands are dry, the Pro 4 pen feels terrible… but their tip selection is nice.
Keyboard… they keyboard is sufficient, I enjoy the keyboard, actually, so it’s more than just sufficient. I think they could have put a little more effort into it by possibly making it light up, but, at least it comes with the system and you don’t have to pay $100+ for a darn keyboard! It is wireless, but not Bluetooth, I only notice a light response delay while scrolling web pages. A big plus (comparing it to the surface) is that you can move it around… this might not sound like that big of a deal, but if you’re actually using your tablet for drawing and/or photo editing, then it’s much more comfortable to be able to move the keyboard to the left of the tablet and use the shortcut keys while you draw then have it physically tethered to the bottom of the tablet. But I think that the Microsoft cover is probably the closest experience to a laptop/chicklet keyboard around. It’s very nice and solid while the Vaio keys have some play and feel kind of “loose.” Some people complained about it disconnecting and stuff, well, mine never does, this may have been repaired in the drivers or maybe mine is a newer version.
Ports… actual ports! Two USB 3.0 ports, mini display port, FULL SIZE HDMI, FULL SIZE SD, Ethernet… what!? This, to me, is a true laptop replacement. You don’t need to carry around a docking station, you have everything you need… and if not, then you may want to bring around a little USB hub. The Pro 4 is really lacking ports. A USB 3.0 and a mini display port, along with their proprietary plug (which you can order accessories for, like the docking station, I ordered a cheap car charger with home charger and a Microsoft to DC plug to charge from my 32000mAh battery). I feel like Microsoft is doing the Spartan thing here and trying to be like Apple. Microsoft… don’t be like apple… you should have at least put an extra USB 3.0 type C on there is space was an issue. Access to the micro USB is a pain in the butt on the Pro 4 if you use a case. I don’t think the engineers planned on people actually installing and removing the media very often.
Fan/heating/cooling… I won’t be able to do a direct comparison here due to the processor difference, but I will anyways. The design of the Vaio is better for cooling than the Pro 4, it’s a little larger so there is more space (can be a con if you really need something super small, in that case the Pro 4 is slightly smaller, but I think the difference is miniscule). I thought that the Vaio would be much louds, especially considering that it has 3 fans. I was way wrong on this one. Even though I think the fan runs constantly on the Vaio, it is very quiet, I have pretty good hearing and I have to put my ear over the top vents just to hear it, and it’s a low whirl instead of a high pitched wine. Even under high load (I haven’t benched the Vaio under full load, but I have 3dmark and something else to test with later), but it never gets as loud as the Pro 4. The pro 4 fan seems to either be off, or about to explode (not really that bad, but it’s noticeable). The outside of the Pro 4 gets fairly hot also. Performance does take a hit when the Pro 4 heats up (which happens from simple stuff like streaming a video to my wireless TV dongle from Microsoft), but I haven’t noticed any difference on the Vaio yet, I’m sure it will happen under full load, and since this is a faster and better processor, I can’t do a direct comparison here. The Vaio cools down much more quickly and efficiently and never gets as hot on the outside.
Screen… I think, on paper, the Vaio is better than the Pro 4. I don’t think it has quite as brilliant of viewing angles, I’m talking about a 1-3% drop-off in comparison when you shift the angle from 90%. It’s very miniscule, but the color reproduction seems to be beautiful, really it is beautiful on both.
Stand… Ok, so here is a complaint, I really like the design of the stand on the Vaio, but they kinda failed, why wasn’t it made as a “T” instead of a lowercase “l” lol. I ended up creating a ghastly mod so that I can use this on my laptop, I realize that it’s a tablet, but being a laptop replacement, I would have liked some more functionality out of the stand. I do love how it actually operates, it’s smooth and you have any angle you want (I’ll upload a picture later, but basically, I taped a ruler perpendicular to the lowest line on the stand so that it would rest across my legs). I don’t much trust the Surface Pro 4 stand, but, it gets the job done. I feel that it may easily break and could cut into my legs, but I didn’t use it much because I used a case… which leads me to the next section.
Case/accessories… Microsoft wins, they’re a market leader and I’m sure they had their dimensions out to third parties many months before the tablet hit the market… this is also the fourth rendition of the Surface so they have built a following. With that, you have more options for third party products. I absolutely love the case I got for mine… it’s the UAG case, look it up and get it from Amazon or from their site. I’m very disappointed that I can’t find a case for the Vaio. I contacted UAG but there are no plans to make a case for the Vaio since the market demand isn’t there (or, the market isn’t aware that they make good cases… I’d spend $100 on one of their cases in a heartbeat if they make sure not to block any vent holes). I use UAG cases for my phones (Note 3 and Note 4) and they are great. Maybe some more demand from potential or current customers will help sway them into making a case for the Vaio Z Canvas. This is not the fault of the device or the manufacturer, though this is something to consider before you make an investment in a tablet.
Battery life… I think the Pro 4 wins here, but this is another one of those comparisons that isn’t on an even “playing field” since the i7 uses (or can use, in order to accomplish a computation more quickly) more electricity than the i5. I don’t feel like looking up the specs, but I think the Vaio has a higher capacity battery, even with that, it seems that the Vaio discharges more quickly. I keep my specs up on both of the tablets though and keep the brightness up and use them more like laptops than tablets. Microsoft is quick to throttle down for heat issues and to save power, so that’s probably a big factor as well. I don’t feel like timing this real-world conditions change the factors so drastically that a bench from one day of my tasks won’t even match up to a bench of the next day of tasks. I think a big external battery would behoove anyone traveling with any electronics.
Price… Both devices will cost you, the Vaio started out at what I consider, a high price point (I think it was $3,100) but dropped. I don’t remember what the Surface 4 came out at but this isn’t about the Surface, it’s about the Z Canvas, lol, j/k. The Vaio high end model has a quad-core i7-4770HQ 2.2-3.4GHz compared to the top Pro 4, which has a dual-core i7e-6600U 2.6-3.4GHz. It’s true that all applications aren’t optimized for quad-cores yet, but I still like to see those extra cores with that high clock-cycle. I’m sure there is an advantage of the i7e (I’m going to go ahead and guess that it’s power-consumption which is also directly proportionate to heat production, this uses something like 15w compared to I think 47w) but I’m fine with the laptop processor (which is actually faster than my few month old Asus laptop that has a 4750HQ)… I don’t get out much, and when I travel, I have extra electricity with me. The reason I bring up price and the specs again is so that I can compare, price-to-price of similarly performing machines. I got the Vaio Z Canvas for roughly $1,650; the Max spec’d Microsoft Pro 4 is still going for $2,600… you’re spending nearly a grand more for, what I dare to call, an inferior product (I’m allowed to say this since I own both, lol).
Custom Software… I like the extra flare of the Vaio software, you have more customization options, little things that some people might not pay attention to, such as changing the max charge to 50% or 80% to extend battery life. They didn’t fill it up with “bloatware,” these are functional programs that are very lightweight.
Extra buttons… what man doesn’t like to press buttons! Anyhow, there are two extra buttons on the top, upper left and upper right, near the main exhaust vent. The upper right button enables and disables the capacitive hand response, this is nice if you find yourself accidentally messing up your art with your palm when you’re drawing, the pen disables the hand response within the right proximity but some people draw differently which means they remove the pen far enough from the surface that the touch response is reactivated. The upper left button pulls up some keyboard-type quick commands… I see this as a way to fulfill the roles of Wacom devices, pretty handy stuff. I think all of these are customizable as well. (There is a cool radial type menu program that you can download for Windows, just to put that out there, it resembles the Wacom stuff.)
**Microsoft Fail… My Pro 4 crashes. Yup, crashes, on a daily. I reimaged it from a fresh image directly from Microsoft, and it still crashes. It’s the touch response driver. I see that the Pro 3 had this issue that was supposedly resolved, well, mine crashes, and I end up having to hard-boot my tablet. Sometimes it fails to a black screen, sometimes I have a screen, but keyboard, pen and touch responses do nothing (mouse as well). This bothers me beyond Amazon appropriate words. I even disabled sleep mode as was suggested… still fails (no need to use sleep anymore with Windows 10 and fast-boot, hibernate is much better). Oh, and even right after boot, my processor would throttle (I didn’t notice a performance drop, but I thought it was a strange thing to see in the logs).
Where Microsoft let me down, Vaio smiled and kept on surprising me. I’m not a Vaio fan-boy, I never owned a Vaio when they were part of Sony (although I enjoyed other Sony products); but this tablet really is a full laptop (possibly even desktop) replacement. And that’s what I think most of their target market is looking for, that and the great touch response… along with reliability.
Below are the Proficiencies and Constraints for those of you, who, like me, skip all the other stuff and get to the bullets.
• Sturdy design and feel
• Pen design and button placement
• Removable (wireless) keyboard
• Ports… all of them (2xUSB 3.0, one USB charge compat, headphone/microphone port, Full size SD, Full size HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, LAN, Vaio power port) nice to have dual 4k output support
• Thermal stance (how well it deals with heat through active control and passive design)
• Screen color and vibrancy
• Touch response (big ups here and the main purpose of any tablet, especially for artists)
• Price (the price I got mine for, this may change though)
• Integrated software (lightweight, useful and customizable)
• Reliability (it has been rock-solid in all my tests and uses so far, no hard crashes or failures).
• Stand (while using on a table or flat surface)
• Wireless 802.11ac 2.4/5GHz (yes, it’s time to have this on EVERY device)
• Lack of tip options for pen (like they ran the whole marathon and passed out a foot before the finish line on this one), I’m hoping to see some options later on, either by Vaio or a third party. The pen itself is fantastic though.
• Keyboard doesn’t light up and has a little bit of a cheap feel while typing (although the outer shell/label of the keyboard is pretty flashy).
• Stand, while on lap (I had to mod mine with tape and a ruler, I may drill a few holes and mount a small rectangular piece of aluminum or steel on the stand later on, but my mod works and is reversible), this is another thing that they kind of missed, but as I said, it’s an easy fix.
• Battery life (using the older i7 which uses 47w takes its toll here, the battery life here is probably closer to an 8-cell laptop than a tablet, which is still good, but you won’t have the same kind of freedom that you will have with crap, I mean products, like iPad).
• Lack of third-party-support, this is not Vaio’s fault, but it is a constraint to consider. I am very wishful about someone making a move and producing cases for these (not sleeves, but wearable cases)… I don’t think it’s going to happen though. I have a feeling, what you get now, is all there will be for this device, so if you think you need an extra pen, search for the correct 1024 touch response pen, and order one now (It will accept pens from other manufacturers that are built for this type digitizer, like Microsoft Surface pens).
I am biased because I really like my Vaio Z Canvas… I feel like it was the best of the available options for my purposes. If you want the best battery life while saving the 1024 touch response and having a Windows 10 device, I think the low-end Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is a better deal (although there are other options, I would personally stick with the bigger names, with hopes that they will have future tech/warranty support if needed)… as long as it doesn’t crash like mine (hoping for a hotfix or something from Microsoft, I don’t think this will be a long-lasting failure).
I will try to upload a picture of my mod later, it looks terrible, lol, but it is functional (maybe someone else can provide a better suggestion).
P.S. There is one more thing to mention, this isn't a big deal for me but it could be if you have pets or children around. The AC/DC brick gets VERY hot... I have a picture of my laser thermometer with the reading. It read as high as 153 degrees... that is literally hot enough to burn (I couldn't hold it for longer than a few seconds). Not a big deal but I'd be a bit cautious... being that Vaio still uses the same type charger that they did while they were part of Sony, you can find replacement adapters and stuff all over the place for it (my portable battery came with a tip right in the kit, for Sony stuff).
I have attached some pictures, one of the thermal reading, and three of the ruler mod, I know, it looks like crap, but it works.
This is a superb machine with one major flaw- its screen backlight!!!
- super powerful and portable size
- keyboard and stylus in the box
- very quiet fans and manages heat extreamly well
- everything loads in blazing fast
- good screen resolution and decent screen brightness
- build quality of the tablet, not so much the keyboard but it's fine with me
- no backlight keyboard- not a deal breaker for me
- a little heavy (heavier than the SF Pro 4)- it doesn't bother me
- BUT all four edges of the screen have issues with light distribution - a heartache for me ;(
left, top and bottom - bright light bleed, where right side- unsufficient backlight.
I am so in love with it but keep thinking I need to send it back.. I looked all over and saw many people reporting same/similal issues. I probably watched all reviews on youtube trying to see if all those units had the same issue- 90% yes. I am a person who likes to baby my toys and have them serve me for many years but I am not sure if I can deal with this problem for that long.
Yes, I could ask for a replacement unit instead of returning it and that is what I would probably do... cause I really enjoy my Vaio Z Canvas and it is everything I want in one.
I will update this review again and pray I get to give it 5 stars next time :)
Hope my review was helpfull to someone and please use the pictures for reference.
I have had no problem with the keyboard either using it or attaching it to the rest of the system. The keyboard feels good when typing and outside of the mouse pad, works very well. It magnetically attaches to the rest of the system securely and I have had no problem moving the system around. I purchased a carrying case along with the system and that has provided additional protection for the unit.
The display is bright and very clear. It does have a problem with detailed work on photos. Working with selecting specific areas of a photo works best with a stylus and the supplied one was just adequate before it broke. I have read that the unit can use other manufacturer's stylus. I will investigate this. It is a shame that although sold as a premium system, it has weak spots and poor service, which is not what I expect from a premium system.