UPDATE: Additional testing of the Flip has surfaced a much more serious issue than pen pressure or fan noise. I must recommend that you avoid the device until the issue is corrected. See this post for more information: http://surfaceproartist.com/blog/2013/11/14/the-real-dealbreaker-for-sony-vaio-flip-15a-frequent-loss-of-pen-touch-control 

* * *


To try to settle the Wacom vs. N-Trig contest once and for all, I decided to pick up a new Sony Vaio Flip 15A convertible laptop to test out. (Please pardon the grainy images accompanying this post; I was in too much of a hurry to get this story written to worry about lighting.)

On paper at least, this thing destroys a comparably priced Surface Pro 2: 15.5" full HD display, fourth generation (Haswell) Core i7, 2GB dedicated video RAM, discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 735M, 8 GB RAM, and 1TB (5400rpm) + 16GB NAND flash hybrid hard drive. Maximum battery life is decent at 5 hours. 

My first impressions: the screen is huge and display is gorgeous with rich, saturated colors and excellent contrast. The black surface is a fingerprint magnet so it will be difficult to keep the Flip looking pristine. The screen flipping is very stiff and somewhat awkward. It's certainly not fluid to switch display modes.

At over 5 lbs, you risk injury trying to hold this in one hand. Perhaps you may be able to cradle it under one arm, but even so, it is a brick

The fan is LOUD and I haven't done anything with it yet besides installing a hideous number of updates for an operating system less than a month old. (UPDATE: Ack! Just realized this thing ships with Windows 8. An update awaits.)

The big question mark is the N-Trig digitizer. Users are reporting that the technology has been vastly improved in the last year, but I'll try to run tests side by side with the Surface Pro's Wacom digitizer to get a better sense of its strengths and weaknesses. 

It's interesting to see Sony positioning its products to compete so effectively on price. I believe it's the first time I've ever seen the company do this. I've always avoided Sony devices because I'm unwilling to pay their markup.

Or perhaps the pricing seems fair due to the high cost of Microsoft's peripherals. 

Undercutting the Surface Pro 2 8/256 configuration + type cover + mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter by $170 and adding a much larger screen, faster processor, and four times the storage, the Flip 15A is priced extremely aggressively at $1249 + $40 for the stylus.

And the 13- and 14-inch versions of the Flip family begin as low as $899, 

With a display as large as this, I could see foregoing a separate tablet monitor, assuming the N-Trig delivers. Stay tuned! And if you have any specific questions you'd like me to investigate, please ask away in the comments section below.

  Although this is definitely a Flip PC, Sony creates a little bit of confusion by also labeling this as a Fit 15A. The previous generation of Fit laptops did not have active digitizers.

The box contents are pretty sparce: the Flip, a power supply and power cord and a few thin manuals. 

In laptop mode, the Flip features a spacious, backlit full size keyboard which a very large trackpad.

In tablet mode: if you've seen one tablet, you've seen them all. Very little distinguishes the tablet screen from others, except the sticker in the lower right corner illustrating the various operational modes and a smaller than usual Windows home button in the lower center.

The  switch at the top of the keyboard releases or locks the screen in place.

The right side of the keyboard has a headphone jack, SD slot, USB 3 port, Ethernet and power button.

The left side contains the power jack, fan vents, HDMI out, and two USB 3 ports.

The Sony Active Pen is sold separately for the 1920x1080 Flip 15A. It is standard with the 2880 x 1620 version, which retails for $550 more.

The newly restyled Active Pen retails for $40 and has a very nice finish and decent weight. It's much closer to the Wacom Bamboo Stylus Feel than the standard Surface Pro pen. Although I would prefer a slightly larger stylus, it is much better than I had feared.

The 15.5" Vaio screen looks massive compared to the Surface Pro's.

In tablet mode, the Flip 15A is more than twice as thick as the Surface Pro and weighs twice as much too: 5.05 lbs. vs. 2.56 lbs for the SP2 with Type Cover 2.

 UPDATE 2: While you're waiting for my review, take a look at this video review of the VAIO Flip 13 by Lisa Gade of Mobile Tech Review. It's a very in-depth look at the device and is applicable to the 15 as well.

Lisa Gade reviews the Sony Vaio Flip 13A Windows 8 convertible Ultrabook and tablet. The Flip is available in 13, 14 and 15 inch sizes and we look at the smallest model, with a base price around $1,000.

AuthorRick Rodriguez