PRODUCT: Z Canvas
- beautiful aluminum design
- great looking 95 percent Adobe RGB color gamut accurate screen
- great for on-the-go renders and video editing
Over the last year I’ve been asked to review quite a few mobile and desktop workstations. From Dell to HP to more DIY custom workstations by Cerise, they have all been monsters in terms of power and speed. From systems with 20 cores to touchscreen UHD screens, I have been seeing some awesome systems. When asked to review VAIO’s entry back into the professional workspace, I was all ears. A long time ago, I worked at Best Buy in the computer department, where I had to lug those huge purple CRT monitors off the top shelf to go along with their matching towers. It was crazy. Now with the VAIO Z Canvas, you have more power and better picture quality weighing around 2.5lbs!
First off, let me tell you that I love this tablet. I took a few extra weeks with it because I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t missing something (also to be selfish and play with it longer, sorry VAIO). In the end, this is my favorite tablet. It’s a little on the expensive side, with prices ranging between $2,199 and $3,099, but I’ll get into that a little more later. The build quality, screen quality, and responsiveness are awesome, but my favorite part, other than the computing power, is the stand. It’s the sturdiest stand I’ve used.
You may also remember that Sony was originally the company that ran the VAIO product line? Well now VAIO is its own entity — no longer part of Sony — and is making its entry back into the US market with the Z Canvas. It’s a really strong first showing for VAIO in my opinion.
I was sent the middle range version of the VAIO Z Canvas, which contains a 512GB PCIe x4 SSD hard drive and 16GBs of hard wired DDR 3, meaning it’s not upgradable. The VAIO boasts a quad core Intel Core i7-4770HQ, which runs on the low end at 2.2GHz but can burn at around 3.4GHz with Intel’s Turbo Boost Technology, and contains a 6MB cache (not really the cache I would like for a multimedia powerhouse system, but it is a tablet after all, so I can’t be too critical, I guess). While I really love this tablet, if I have any complaints, they are about price and battery life. The battery is a 63Wh-rated battery. If you are using the VAIO for Internet surfing and occasional picture sorting, you could easily get some life out of this battery. Unfortunately, if you use the VAIO Z Canvas for what it was built for (high-end multimedia work), you aren’t going to get more than three or four hours.
If you are around an outlet then you will be just fine, but if you are on a plane and forgot your charger, be careful when compressing those 4K videos for YouTube in Adobe Media Encoder — you might run out of juice. Keep in mind, that this “tablet” is packed with high-end features including the gorgeous 12.3-inch WQXGA+ 2560x1704 glossy display with 95 percent Adobe RGB color gamut, meaning your colors will be accurate, but on a display with a 3:2 aspect ratio. If you edit or watch a 16:9 (widescreen) movie at full screen, you will see black bars on the top and the bottom of the picture. In addition, you get all the latest WiFi connections from 802.11a all the way up to 802.11ac. It comes pre-loaded with Windows 10/64-bit.
On the outside you get the standard headphone jack, which I found oddly placed in the upper left as I commonly plug speakers into my tablet, which leaves the cable hanging a little. Not sure what kind of placement would be better, but I feel like it needs a new one. Also featured are two USB 3.0 ports, an SD memory card reader, a mini Display Port, an HDMI output, an Ethernet port, and a power port. On the other side there is a power button, volume rocker, and spot for the stylus to live when not in use. The only other thing I wasn’t fond of was the power connection. Besides the power brick being a little cumbersome, it needs to be fully seated and thus if accidently kicked out, there could be a catastrophe. I would really love some sort of magnetic connection like the Mac Pros, but I guess we can’t be too picky because I’m sure there are some huge patents on that type of port.
The stylus on the VAIO Z Canvas is powered by a AAA battery and can be rested on the side of the tablet via its magnetic connection. It is skinnier than the standard Wacom pen and, to be honest, doesn’t have the girth I like in my stylus, but that is strictly a personal preference. Wacom makes a skinny stylus that a lot of people love to use. I found that the stylus skipped a little bit when I had it at an angle. Overall, the stylus is nice though and wouldn’t take me too long to love it. It would be a nice feature though if it could use a passive pen such as one from Wacom, as people like me often switch between their workstation with something like an Intuos and a tablet.
An additional included accessory is the keyboard/cover. The keyboard has a great charging feature, when placed on the screen it acts as a protective cover while also being charged by the tiny connection point on the keyboard and screen. If you need to charge the keyboard while in use you can connect it via micro USB. In addition, the keyboard is not connected to the tablet since it communicates over Bluetooth, which also means that you can place it to the side of the tablet to not get in the way if you are drawing directly on the screen. Furthermore, you can hit the button on the upper right of the tablet, which disables the touch screen but continues to allow the stylus to work. A great feature for anyone that has had to deal with palm rejection (or the lack thereof in some instances).
During my review I constantly asked myself to find the negatives in the VAIO Z Canvas. It was really hard to find anything negative even when compressing QuickTimes or running Cinebench to test. In fact, I was constantly comparing the Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 and the VAIO Z Canvas. I really liked everything about the Z Canvas a little more except for the levels of detail in the stylus pressure (VAIO = 1,024 levels and Cintiq Companion 2 = 2,048 levels). I was really able to feel confident that if I took the VAIO as my only computer, I could do almost anything I needed to in Adobe Premiere, After Effects, and Media Encoder, then transfer to my workstation at home if I needed some more render power later.
When testing the VAIO Z Canvas, I ran it through a practical transcoding test, Crystal Disk Mark — a disk speed test — as well as the standard Cinebench test that focuses on testing geared towards 3D animation, particularly Maxon’s Cinema 4D.
- OpenGL 54.71 fps (not the best score)
- CPU 648 cb
- CPU (Single Core) 132
Crystal Disk Mark
- Sequential - Read: 1,569MB/s - Write: 1,562MB/s
- 512K - Read: 1,086MB/s - Write: 1,534MB/s
- 4K 39.20
So the VAIO Z Canvas is definitely a fast tablet, but it won’t beat out your HP z840 or other 20-core, 128GB DDR 4 with an Nvidia K6000. In addition, I really love how Adobe has started to enhance their touch-screen access inside of apps like After Effects and Premiere with their stacked windows. It really allows someone on a tablet to feel like they are free to work like they would on a full workstation.
IN THE END
In the end, I can’t fully express how much I love the VAIO Z Canvas. Although the price is high, you definitely get a quality machine with six-sided tempered glass, aluminum body, and three ultra quiet fans that keep this beast running super cool compared to other Windows-based tablets. I loved this tablet so much I tried to stretch this review out as long as possible...sorry VAIO. While I did love it, I wish there was a better power supply connection, longer battery, and an AMD or Nvidia graphics card to embrace the CUDA cores when encoding and transcoding media. If you’ve got the money, I can say you won’t be disappointed in this multimedia tablet from VAIO.