The VAIO Z Story Continues…
A PC that recognizes the human potential to bridge the boundary between thought and creativity.
We wondered how the VAIO Z was fitting into the lives of early adopters, so the VAIO Corporation created a more efficient way of collecting user’s comments and reviews to supplant the old way of collecting them individually. You could call it a “tweet clipping system” that searches all tweets related to VAIO so that anyone in the company can access them at any time. And the effects of this advancement are already being felt.
“I can’t help myself from smiling as I use this because my level of satisfaction is so high.” When you see tweets like this you automatically want to reply “Thank you!” But you also have to address those that are dissatisfied with the device. When a product defect appears on social media, a team forms automatically and they get right to work. We have always considered the voice of every user an opportunity to take advantage of improving VAIO’s product development.
The 2-in-1 device with a “multi-flip” feature in the VAIO Fit series was improved and adopted for the VAIO Z instead of the “Surf Slider” concept used in the VAIO Duo 13. While the VAIO Duo 13’s Surf Slider had a good reputation among users, with a LCD display easily adjusted to a set angles, from a business user’s perspective, the inability to completely adjust the angle of the LCD display and the size of the touchpad made it less than user friendly.
“To target the level of productivity needed for business, we needed to maximize the utility of the clamshell silhouette while still being creative with the overall design. We determined the multi-flip feature was most suited to make this possible,” explained Kasai, the project manager.
Clamshell PCs are the norm, but once you switch to tablet mode it becomes a digital notebook that can be used with a stylus. And if you flip the display over it becomes a presentation-style monitor. The revolutionary rubber hinge centered on the back of the LCD display supports the feature, and allows users to explore other ways to work more freely.
“We were obsessed with the durability of this feature, focusing on two aspects – the hinge’s ability to pass repeated open-and-shut tests, and resist overall deterioration. To meet these requirements we chose a high performance rubber material,” explained Harada.
When we talk about trying to create the ultimate PC business tool, most people only consider the performance and forget that durability is also a requirement for ease of use. That’s how VAIO thinks. “Even though the part is identified as the same ‘rubber hinge’ in previous models, we have improved its quality to the extent that it can be considered a new component compared to what was used in the past,” said Kasai.
To showcase this improvement in durability we performed the “multi-flip tensile strength test” at the VAIO Meeting 2015 demo exhibition. We attached a 5kg dumbbell to the open LCD on the VAIO Z and let it hang there for more than 10 hours during the event. The VAIO Z remained unbowed. We could almost hear our fans internal screams of “Is this much durability really necessary?” For the VAIO Z the answer is “yes”.
You learn the most from those most invested in their work.
Anticipating the creative side of our users, VAIO was one of the first to pursue implementing a digitized stylus for a notebook PC with the VAIO Duo 11. While we had evolved this feature continuously with each model, the VAIO Z development team chose a different approach. We wanted to address the changing nature of how notebooks with styli are used, and more specifically, the relationship a “power user” has with their device and stylus.
Power users are really tough on their devices, using them in ways the manufacturer would have never dreamed of. Having this pool of users as a reference point, we sought to create a business digital notebook that met every level of performance. Our research discovered that many people use their device just to organize thoughts before actually writing the down. And was not just limited to their thoughts – information gleaned from the internet, photographs, whiteboard-style graphics and charts, and regular letter-sized documents to later paste into OneNote were also mentioned. In short, they make the notebook fit their personal needs.
Fujii, VAIO’s software planner, is a self-acknowledged power user, as those that work with him can also attest. “I was in charge of implementing the digitizer stylus into the VAIO Duo 11, and have used it myself ever since. Before then, I never even used a paper notebook and pen to take notes. I actually typed up everything on my keyboard. I found that using digital note simplified my organization of complicated tasks, and it has led me to believe I am now more open to ideas that pop up because the rest is already organized,” explained Fujii, the software planner.
Helping the user connect ideas with their creativity, and predicting a new type of business use, VAIO Z comes fully equipped with a pressure-sensitive digitized stylus, the digital notebook app “One Note”, and an 8 M CMOS sensor to scan documents.
The feel of the stylus used for drawing and handwritten notes has to be unique. We took into consideration the needs of business users who would demand a pen that conveyed the same feeling of writing on paper when using their device. We added a special resin between the LCD and the glass to minimize pen tip parallax – the spatial difference from where the pen tip touches the screen and where the actual line for drawing or writing appears.
Additionally, to simulate the feel of a real pen to match each user’s preference, we built in a pressure detecting sensor. It had previously been difficult to replicate the analog feel of a pen for a digital stylus because it’s not simply a matter of just improving your device. You have to consider what sort of grip stress a user exerts on a pen with they write on a screen, and then how to achieve the same satisfaction as writing on paper.
Since the sort of tasks and usage can vary according to user, we focused on the most effective and beneficial improvements to complement the device. Moreover, our concern that creating an analog feel for the stylus was correct. This is an example of not becoming impatient when adding features and benefits just because it may take longer to develop. Some aesthetic values cannot be rushed for the sake of expediency.
Brighter but without increasing power consumption.
High resolution displays are not just pretty to look at, did you know they can actually effect stress levels for the user? It is easy to become accustomed to the beauty of high resolution on a TV or smartphone, but the eye becomes stressed if the definition of fonts or script are a low value. To combat this, VAIO Z was developed to have a desktop monitor quality display in a notebook form.
At the start of development, we engaged the expertise of our LCD vendor to create a display with the pixel count resolution of WQHD 2,560×1440 on a 13.3 inch display. But we also tasked them to create a high resolution display that still managed to conserve power. Generally speaking, higher resolution can appear dark unless the backlight increased, which then leads to more power consumption. This issue can even cause an LCD display to consume more than half of a PC’s battery life while in use. Our development team worked in tandem with the LCD vendor for the first time to create a notebook display that can not only be used for a whole day on a single charge, but actually minimize the effect of high definition on the battery life.
If we were any ordinary PC manufacturer, we would have provided the necessary specs to the LCD vendor and been done with the process. But our development team dealt directly with backlight, LED, and color component vendors to satisfy the battery consumption requirements. And this turned out to be a meaningful partnership for VAIO and our component vendors.
“For example, although we want to increase the level of brightness, we are restricted to increasing it obliquely. By listening to each other’s needs face to face, and debating them point by point, we were forced to share information and concerns that would have been overlooked. This was the only way to create the LCD display most suited for the VAIO Z,” explained Furukawa, the LCD designer.
Choosing to embrace these unfamiliar development processes, VAIO selected a high concentration backlight and had it implemented into production by the LCD manufacturer. We eventually achieved a power savings of approximately 40% with our high resolution specs compared to that of the WQHD panel commonly in use.
The ultimate tool no matter whether it is powered on or off.
Speakers tend to be a neglected component on notebook PCs, but not on the VAIO Z. Rather, we saw an opportunity to increase the value of business presentations by improving our audio capabilities. Project Manager Kasai often uses video to instruct the development team of his plans, and he felt inconvenienced carrying around large, bulky speakers all of the time. Since we were creating the ultimate business tool, we wanted our audio capabilities to reach the people standing in the back of big rooms when presentations were made.
What was needed was increased sound pressure. All of the space available beneath the battery was co-opted, and despite the shape being unconventional, we were able to create a speaker with approximately twice the capacity of a comparably sized notebook PC. Placing speakers on the bottom front right and left sides of the casing made the sound rise up easily and naturally from the grip of the anti-slip rubber feet. With this ingenious plan to improve sound pressure, the VAIO Z was able to achieve speaker legibility for up to a 100 people in a presentation situation.
The speaker not only has a high level of performance when powered on, but also when powered off. The dynamic sound and quality are from sound pressure never achieved before. “Ultimate power while on is also the same when powered off, and this isn’t something just limited to our audio capabilities,” Kasai explained. “VAIO Z has mastered its response time down to the last second, even while you’re on the go, so it’s always ready when you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re at home, traveling, taking a break, playing games, or editing videos from a smartphone or tablet. It is the ultimate tool you’ll want by your side at all times.”
It has been a little over a month since the announcement, and the VAIO Z has shipped continuously from the factory in Azumino since then. Using social media platforms such as Twitter, and making sure to listen to the reviews of early adopters, the development team has already taken the steps necessary to create the next ultimate business tool. In fact, development never really stopped. Kasai is mapping the “evolution of customer happiness” – the excitement people experience when they encounter and use new products for the first time.
As use continues and the appearance of the new product deteriorates, the performance and new features impact are beginning to be taken for granted. This can be said about any product, and that’s why VAIO keeps evolving. “The pulse of excitement you experience at the purchase point should continue forever. We want to realize ultimate customer happiness too – but how we do that will be kept a secret,” said Kasai.
To find out more about the VAIO Z, click here.