Sony introduced its new line of entry-level laptops on Tuesday. The new Vaio Fit series starts at around US$550 with the Fit E, which offers Intel’s Core processors, discrete Nvidia graphics processors, and hybrid hard drives, as well as a full-sized keyboard and trackpad. The step-up Vaio Fit, at $649, offers an aluminum chassis.
The Fit models utilize Sony’s Exmor R sensors, which enable a webcam that can capture respectable images even in low light. They have near-field communication capability for quick exchange of Web URLs, as well as the option to enable Bluetooth and WiFi direct connections to compatible NFC devices.
Although large enough to include an optical drive, the Fit notebooks are smaller than most thin and light laptops.
“It’s interesting that Sony [isn’t] classifying these as an ‘Ultrabook,'” said Craig Stice, senior principal analyst for compute platforms at IHS iSupply.
“Now whether or not Sony just decided not to, or if there are actually specific specs within the new Vaio Fits that don’t meet Intel’s Ultrabook requirement, I don’t know,” he added.
“This could also be a trend that we might start to see more of,” Stice told TechNewsWorld, “meaning, an ultrathin-designed system with powerful features, but maybe misses one of Intel’s Ultrabook specs so they can’t call it as such — but this in turn allows for a lower-priced unit.”
Prices Trending Down
The Fit lineup is available in 14- and 15-inch models in black, silver and pink. The Fit 15 features an HD 1920×1080 display resolution, while the Fit 14 has 1600×9000 resolution. The Fit E provides 1366×768 — enhanced definition level resolution — in both the 14- and 15-inch models.
“Overall, the Vaio Fit looks like a stylish, extremely serviceable laptop that should be an attractive option for numerous consumer and work applications, especially considering its pricing,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
The Fit suggests makers are looking to go ultra small and sleek, even with machines that may not meet Ultrabook specs.
“It does appear to be a nicely packed system with good performance features at a very reasonable price point,” added Stice.
“One might consider this the next wave of the ultrathin class of Mobile PCs — and what I mean by that is the PC OEMs are finding ways to create a strong performing ultrathin PC, with touch, and at price points that aren’t going to turn away heads,” he explained.
“Six months ago, these types of systems were in the $1,000 price range, but seeing these down now in the $650 range as it appears the entry Fit 14 will be, it is a good sign that the trends are going in the right direction,” Stice said.
Lightweight and Light on the Pocketbook
Sony’s new Vaio Fit lineup features the company’s ClearAudio+ technology, along with a virtualized surround sound experience. The step-up Fit models come with ArtRage Studio, a touch-oriented painting program that takes advantage of Windows 8 touch-enabled functionality.
For the price, the Vaio does seem like an affordable alternative to a tablet with a few more productivity options.
“The Sony Fit is one of the first of a new wave of Windows 8 Touch laptops at price points that the market is ready to accept,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
“At launch there was a huge separation between high-quality products and the price people were willing to pay for them,” he recalled. “Average prices were in the $1,100 range and the market was far closer to $650. This release brings quality touch products down into the price ranges where people are willing to buy them.”
Sony’s brand has taken some hard knocks in recent years; could products like the Vaio Fit help get the company back into fighting shape?
“These are attractive thin and light products that are surrounded by Sony’s Apple-like build quality — and unlike Sony machines of the past, they aren’t full of crapware destroying the user experience,” Enderle pointed out.
However, “Sony doesn’t have the funding they once had,” he observed, “and that suggests that marketing could be underfunded — and without strong marketing, these won’t sell to their potential.”
Road to PC Tablet?
The release of Sony’s Vaio also comes as Microsoft’s Bill Gates predicted that the iPad and Android tablet users might make a move to PC tablets, as the latter offers better productivity options. Windows 8, which has not exactly been a smash hit, nevertheless has passed the 100-million-license mark — and devices such as the Vaio Fit could help further convince people to give the touchscreen-enabled OS another look.
“Touch-enabled products like the Vaio Fit could help Microsoft significantly,” Pund-IT’s King told TechNewsWorld. “In fact, though Sony is certainly ahead of some PC competitors, I expect to see numerous notebooks similar to the Vaio Fit as the year progresses.”
Given that Microsoft is giving Windows 8 a makeover with Windows 8.1, aka Windows Blue, users could find fewer problems with it and more to like.
“These products (such as the Vaio) will be followed by offerings from other vendors who don’t have this marketing shortcomings, suggesting the hardware for Windows 8 is getting sorted,” said Enderle. “While much of the market may still wait for Windows Blue expected later this year, these moves should significantly improve Windows 8 adoption rates.”