Sony has used the Z model naming scheme for its high-end ultraportable notebook computers since 2000. Unlike other Sony models, the Z has always been manufactured in Japan or in the United States for some models (i.e. VGN-Z540). Sony has stated that production of the Z series will cease at the end of 2012.
The model numbers for these computers have been PCG-Z (2000), VGN-Z (2008), VPC-Z1 (2010), VPC-Z2 (2011), SV-Z1 (2012).
The ultra-portable niche was eventually taken over by low cost netbooks. For differentiation, subsequent Z models proceeded to include high-end screens, CPUs, GPUs and on-board DVD/Blu-ray drives etc.
Z5xx (US), Z1x (Europe, Asia) - launch models ~ July/August 2008
Z6xx (US), Z2x (Europe, Asia) - October/November 2008 - minor hardware (CPU, hard disk, RAM) improvements
no new model (US), Z3x (Europe, Asia) - minor hardware upgrades, as above
Z7xx (US), Z4x (Europe, Asia) - different colour palm rest, minor hardware improvements
Z8xx (US), Z5x (Europe, Asia) - new model for Windows 7, minor hardware improvements, enabled VT support in BIOS
Z11 - 2010 post-CES model. Core i5 and i7 CPU options. SSD-only. Nvidia GT330m GPU.
Z12 - September 2010, updated iXXX series CPUs, sim card holder added to North American models
Z13 - October 2010, added i7-640M CPU, TPM options, keyboard updated.
Z14 - January 2011, added CTO 1TB SSD option
Z21 - July 2011 - Sandy Bridge (i7 2ndGen), 0.66" thickness, slate battery, external AMD graphics/power dock, lightpeak, USB 3.0, 1.3 Mpx webcam, new Flash SSD
The original Z featured a color 12" TFT screen with 1024x768 resolution, Firewire (i-Link), a USB 1.0, and a PCMCIA slot and external CD and Floppy Drives, and weighed 1.5 kg. It had a Pentium II processor running at 366 MHz. It ran Win98 and included Sony's DV-Gate software for importing video from DV camcorders.
In 2008 the first series of VGN-Z was introduced. Second series was introduced in December 2009 as a part of the Intel Centrino 2 launch. They fall into the ultraportable category, with a 13.1" screen and 1.47 kg weight (3.4 lb) (dependent on configuration). They were configured with Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs.
Compared with the SZ series, the Z is slightly lighter (200 grams), with a slightly smaller (13.1" vs. 13.3") screen, which was switched from 16:10 to 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. In comparison to the SZ, which was available only in 1280×800 resolution, the Z series come with a choice (model-dependent) of screens, originally 1366×768 and 1600×900; and more recently models 1600×900 and 1920×1080.
As with the SZ, the Z has hybrid graphics, originally NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS as well as Mobile Intel 4 Series Express 4500MHD chipsets; more recently the Nvidia chip is a 330m. The user can switch between the Nvidia (for better graphics performance) and Intel (for longer battery life) via a 3 way switch above the keyboard.
Newer options with the Z series are an integrated Blu-ray Disc drive, built-in HSDPA support and the use of an SSD (including RAID configuration, for better performance) instead of a hard drive for storage.
Other features include a 0.3 megapixel webcam, Bluetooth, SD and Memory Stick reader, fingerprint sensor and Trusted Platform Module support.
As with the SZ series, the Z is equipped with standard, rather than ultra-low voltage (which are slower, but produce less heat and provide better battery life), processors. The CPUs are generally Core 2 Duo P- (mid voltage) CPUs, but also T- (standard voltage) CPUs.
Intel VT-x support was intentionally disabled in the laptop's BIOS, resulting in the use of hacked BIOSes by some users. Sony claimed VT had been disabled for security reasons, but eventually enabled the feature in November 2009.
The Z series was updated in light of the new Core i5/i7 CPUs from Intel. The new range offers an i5 or i7 (although it is not clear if memory is dual port or triple port for the i7; it seems likely to be dual port, since varying the memory portness in the motherboard by CPU is a big change and because the memory choices remain 2/4/8, rather than changing to 3/6/12), a keyboard backlight, revised chassis and a Blu-ray writer. The first SSD models (VPC-Z1xxx) all use non-standard form-factor drives (due to lack of internal space) sourced from Samsung specifically for the Vaio; they cannot be replaced with standard third party 1.8 or 2.5 inch drives. The SSDs in the refreshed models (VPC-Z12xx, VPC-Z13xx & VPC-Z14xx) can be replaced with 1.8" drives from Intel or Crucial, provided the Vaio is a dual RAID model and not a Quad-RAID model. The caveat is that the outer casing of the Intel or Crucial SSD must be stripped off of the SSDs in order for the SSDs to fit in the Z. The second, third and fourth refresh models still use proprietary Samsung drives on the Quad-RAID models. In order to replace the SSD drives in a first generation (VPC-Z11xxx) model, or any generation Quad-RAID model, the cable for the SSDs will need to be replaced with Sony part # A-1781-464-A.
Custom Z series models which are built with a hard disk (i.e. non-SSD) and no optical drive are manufactured with a standard 2.5" hard disk fitted into the empty optical bay. These models can have the hard disk replaced by a standard 2.5" SSD. The adapter in the optical bay expects a 12.7 mm high 2.5" drive. At least some 2.5" SSD drives (such as the Intel X-25e) are 9 mm models. Proper fitting requires a shim (a piece of cardboard about 4 mm thick cut to the shape of the drive will do).
In these cases, the unit can be opened up by unscrewing every screw on the back. The battery must be removed first and there are five screws covered by the battery; a group of three holding down a plastic rail and two which screw into the back part of the chassis. The two screwed into the chassis need to be removed. Opening the unit up appears not to void the warranty (no stickers broken).
Sony has officially announced its new Ultra-Thin 13-inch Z series laptop the Sony Vaio Z in Europe on June 27, 2011. The highest custom configuration available includes a 2.7 GHz second generation Intel Core i7 (Sandy Bridge) processor, 512 GB SSD in RAID-0 (Newer SATA III Generation 3 SSD), 8 GB 1333 MHz Fixed On-board (Irremovable) DDR3 RAM and a 1920×1080 13.1" screen (a 1600×900 screen is also available).
The new Vaio Z is also compatible with Sony's Power Media Dock, which includes an external AMD GPU and a DVD or Blu-ray drive and connects to the laptop through Sony's implementation of the Light Peak Technology.
15th Anniversary Edition Exact same design and weight from VPC-Z2 processor change from i7-2640M to i7-3612QM cache from 4 to 6 MB, HM67 chipset to HM77 chipset, GPU AMD Radeon HD 7670M (exact same model with AMD Radeon HD 6650M)? DDR3-1600? Intel HD4000 from HD3000.
Most Sony Vaio models with hybrid Intel-nVidia graphics are affected with vast number of bugs present in every accelerated 2D (DX, DS) graphics, 3D graphics and power management of the video-system. Yet Sony doesn't provide any driver update or fix leaving customers on their own. Some enthusiast-made Intel-nVidia hybrid graphics driver updates solving general gaming performance problems can be found in the Internet although Sony keeps stating that use of those drivers is the pretext to cease the warranty or extended warranty (damage insurance).
While Sony was positioning Z1x series as equipped with nVidia Optimus graphics actually resource sharing between Intel and nVidia subsystems was never supported leaving the graphics system in legacy switchable mode. And as far as the provided software doesn't support automatic graphics switching during most multimedia software running, the user is left the only option to switch performance modes manually, making the multimedia software crash or behave unexpectedly.
Z1x series notebooks metal frame could be twisted by an imperceptible angle during operation, causing failure of cooling system and other unpredicted effects.