UPDATE February 1: MobileTechReview has published a companion to the video below focusing specifically on the Flip and pen applications.

ORIGINAL POST

Despite some of their limitations (weight, fan noise, N-Trig), I'm a big fan of the Sony Flip series and think the 15A in particular is a very good value ($1299 with active pen).

In case you my previous write-ups haven't convinced you, my favorite video reviewer Lisa Gade of MobileTechReview has just posted an excellent and lengthy look at the convertible. Enjoy!

Lisa Gade reviews the Sony Vaio Flip 15, a 15.5" Windows 8 convertible Ultrabook. This is the largest Flip model and it's a thin and light mainstream laptop that works well as a main PC.


Posted
AuthorRick Rodriguez

UPDATE March 20, 2014: N-Trig today published 64-bit version of its Wintab driver. See this post for details.

* * *

ORIGINAL POST

Sony and N-Trig have taken a major step closer to Wacom-equipped competitors with the release of a hotfix for VAIO devices with active digitizers.

The "Pen Pressure Update Software" installs a driver named N-Trig Wintab x32 that enables pressure sensitivity in 32-bit versions of Adobe Photoshop. I've confirmed that the update works with Adobe Photoshop CC on my Sony VAIO Flip 15A. Other users on the Sony Community site have reported success with 32-bit versions of Photoshop ranging all the way back to CS2.

Available for download from Sony's eSupport site here, the update is dated September 26, 2013, but curiously Sony does not link to it as part of machine-specific updates. In fact, the link to the list of Applicable Products on the download page is broken. I can't fathom why the manufacturer would keep this a secret, because users of Duos, Flips and other N-Trig enabled VAIOs have all reported success with the software.

Installing the software requires a reboot and doesn't create a Control Panel entry. The only indication that the software has installed correctly is in the Programs and Features control panel, which will list the driver.

Although limited to only 256 levels of pressure, the results in 32-bit Photoshop CC are still impressive.

Without a control panel to adjust the pressure curve, it takes a bit of concentration to achieve the lightest strokes.

Without a control panel to adjust the pressure curve, it takes a bit of concentration to achieve the lightest strokes.

I haven't tested the driver with other Wintab applications, but 32-bit versions of programs like Corel Painter should also benefit from the update.

UPDATE January 10: From my limited testing with SAI 1.2 Beta 5 and ZBrush 4R6, it appears only Photoshop recognizes this driver.

UPDATE January 16: The latest version of Adobe Illustrator CC released yesterday now supports Microsoft's Ink API. I tested the 64-bit version (17.1) on the Sony VAIO Flip 15A. See this post for more details:  http://surfaceproartist.com/blog/2014/1/16/new-adobe-illustrator-cc-improves-surface-pro-windows-tablet-support

Demanding professional users will likely miss additional levels of pressure and the lack of 64-bit support is disappointing, but for hobbyists or doodlers, this update puts the Sony VAIO Flip 15A towards the top of our list of Windows 8 convertibles. It's hard not to fall in love with its ample 15.5 inch display which makes even the unscaled Photoshop UI accessible to touch.  For more details on the Flip, see our earlier post here.

Thanks to Google+ follower +IvorThomas for the heads up about this update.

Posted
AuthorRick Rodriguez
9 CommentsPost a comment

UPDATE November 24: I'm relieved to report that the touchscreen issues described below appears to have been resolved by a firmware update released on Sony's tech support site. 

Kudos to TabletPCReview forum poster Miles Wolf, who first spotted the fix. 

I installed it yesterday morning from Sony's Japanese tech support site and haven't experienced the problem since. The bios update is now available on Sony's US eSupport site. 

* * *

ORIGINAL POST

As much as I want to keep the Sony VAIO Flip 15A for its beautiful 15.5 inch screen, today I've encountered a crippling defect that makes it useless as a tablet.

Transient

The problem had occurred a couple of times before today, but I did my best to ignore it because I was more focused on getting the laptop set up and so that I could answer the pressure sensitivity question for a few apps.

But today, the issue has occurred so many times that I'm tempted to just give up, pack it up and return it to Best Buy tonight (maybe I'll use the refund to pick up a PS4 instead).

The issue is that the tablet service will randomly stop running, making the Flip unresponsive to either pen or touch. A workaround is to run the calibration program again, which restarts the service.

This ridiculous inconvenience might be tolerable if you only had to perform it once or maybe twice a day. But I've had to do this no fewer than six or seven times today and I've only used the laptop for a couple of hours.

Normally, I'd give Sony the benefit of the doubt and assume I just got a bum unit, but careful reading of various reviews online all mention having had the problem at least once.

For example, here is a quote from Engadget's review of the Flip 15: "Also, while the touchscreen mostly worked as it was supposed to, it occasionally failed to respond to our taps or it registered our finger input incorrectly. "

And on the Sony Community, there is a growing thread on the problem. And just like they've done on complaints regarding fan noise, the response from Sony has been total silence. 

So if you were thinking of picking up a VAIO Flip, my recommendation is definitely to wait until Sony releases either a firmware fix or issues a recall.

Despite its 3-inch smaller screen, that Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga is looking pretty good right about now.  

Posted
AuthorRick Rodriguez
12 CommentsPost a comment

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 

* * *

ORIGINAL POST

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.

Posted
AuthorRick Rodriguez
16 CommentsPost a comment