The Sony VAIO Z series was Sony's top-of-the-line laptop range that was originally introduced in 2003. The VPCZ1 was released in 2010, and is the third main refresh of the Z series.
They were built very well, with carbon fiber, aluminium and plastic, and had the iconic cylinder power button design unique to VAIOs. Two different lid styles were offered. The lid on the higher-end (Premium) models have more of a carbon fiber look (that looks a bit like glossy VAIO SVZ models, without being glossy) than the lower-end VPCZ1s. We do not know if the lower-end models have a carbon fiber lid, but we are sure the Premium ones do. Two color options were offered, black/gray, and silver, silver being considerably rarer.
The VPCZ1s were one of the first VAIO laptops to feature 1st Gen Intel Core CPUs, which was a significant upgrade over Core 2 Duo CPUs. Its predecessor, the VGN-Z, had an NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS GPU, and people wanted better. That's why Sony included an NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M which is a big upgrade, however it is still a mid-range card (see Daily Usage Today section for more informations). They offered lightning fast Quad-SSDs running in RAID, or a standard SATA HDD for lower-end models, which took the space of the optical drive.
One of the VPCZ1's selling points was the Dynamic Hybrid Graphics System (DHGS), which allowed you to switch from the Intel GMA, to the dedicated GPU, without needing to restart the computer. There was also an automatic system which would select the best GPU depending on your current needs.
The screens on the 1080p VPCZ1 models are excellent. They look stunning and very sharp, and have an excellent color space. The keyboard is also excellent, it has a very good feel to it, and typing on it for hours on end is a pleasing experience. They also included a webcam and an ambient light sensor for automatic brightness adjustments. Speakers are good enough for watching videos or playing games, however headphones are recommended for applications that require a high-quality sound. Battery life was good, with around 4h 17min of Wi-Fi surfing in Stamina mode (as tested by NotebookCheck).
Processor: Intel Core i5-520M or i7-620M (soldered); Other markets also offers Core i5-540M and i7-640M
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M (1GB VRAM) and Intel GMA HD Graphics
Memory: DDR3-1333 (max 8GB), 2 slots
Storage: 4x 1.8" LIF SSDs (one module is 2 SSDs, 2 modules installed), or 2.5" SATA for HDD models (uses DVD drive space, no 2.5" SATA on SSD models)
Display: 1600x900 or 1920x1080 13.1" LED backlit LCD panel
Weight: around 1.4 kg
Daily Usage Today
The VPCZ1 series of laptops are still very usable today. Office tasks, web browsing, and even light gaming is very doable on these machines. Watching videos, especially on the models with the 1080p display, is a wonderful experience. Frames do slightly drop here and there on 1080p60 YouTube videos, but overall it is okay. The GPU is a bit downclocked, but it still can play some light or older games.
The VPCZ1 is a great laptop to buy used today to get into the VAIO madness, or simply to have a good, powerful enough device with a stunning design you can carry with you. These devices are worth quite a lot now, you can expect to pay around +350€ for a Premium model, but sometimes, cheaper ones pop up. If you can find one for under 100€, you should definitely buy it.
You can download VPCZ11Z9E recovery discs here. It has been reported that even on the same model number, but a different unit, the recovery discs refused to install. The VAIO Library team is looking for a solution to make these discs compatible with every single VPCZ1 models. An image of the original recovery partition will soon be available to download to try to fix the issue.