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Review: VAIO Z Canvas

VAIO is going after the artist here. They’re attempting to capture that pure sense of creativity you get when looking at a blank canvas, while also utilizing the powerful hardware of Intel and a remarkably sophisticated stylus to digitally represent the creative spirit.

The Z Canvas is not a typical 2-in-1. It’s not a transformable, or a traditional detachable, this is a whole different animal entirely. It’s essentially two pieces – a powerful tablet with a kickstand and a wireless keyboard.

It’s not the cheapest 2-in-1 on the market, but it promises big things. Let's find out if it delivers.

You can pick up the VAIO Z Canvas for $2,400.

A Case for Metal

The first thing I noticed when removing the Z Canvas from its packaging was the weight; it weighs in at a hefty almost four pounds. Part of that is due to the metal case; the entire tablet and keyboard are coated in silver metal. It looks really nice, and the case definitely adds a sense of durability and quality. Using the tablet can be a bit challenging at times due to the weight, but that sense of durability more than makes up for it.

Built into the back of the display is a metal kickstand that allows the canvas to be used at a variety of angles. The idea is to emulate a canvas by propping up the screen so you can use the included stylus. In order to make it strong enough to withstand the pressure of work without collapsing, the hinge of the kickstand is very stiff. It’s not really a problem, though it can be challenging to pull it open.

Overall, the design of the canvas from an aesthetic and functional perspective is stellar, and definitely puts it in the upper echelon of 2-in-1s in terms of quality.

The Screening Process

Since the Z Canvas is primarily a tablet used for content creation, the screen is super important. VAIO went with a six side tempered glass display that runs at 1280 x 852, and has remarkably vibrant and clear colors.

The touch response is stellar, and the included stylus works extremely well once you get the hang of it. I can definitely see this screen being a good fit for artists or people in creative industries. The stylus/pen has a nice thickness and feels great in the hand.

The strange thing about the stylus is the awkward placement on the side of the tablet. The small piece of plastic (which is removable) that holds the stylus sticks out in a somewhat unattractive way, and definitely disrupts the otherwise sleek aesthetic of the Z Canvas. Where to keep the stylus is a struggle many 2-in-1s have, but I was hoping for a more elegant solution from VAIO.

Other than that, the stylus and display are top notch, and it’s one of the prettiest 2-in-1s I’ve tested.

The Key to the Design

The keyboard is where things get unusual.

Most 2-in-1s have detachable keyboards, so that’s not that strange. What’s interesting about the Z Canvas is that the keyboard is wireless, and though it does connect magnetically with the tablet portion, you can’t use the keyboard while it’s attached. Think of it more as a cover for the screen that you can use as a keyboard.

The keyboard also charges directly from the face of the tablet via the same magnetic port that keeps them together, so when the keyboard is covering the display, it’s also charging.

A simple switch on the detached keyboard turns it on and off, and I had no trouble connecting instantaneously. It is pretty cool to be able to use the keyboard whenever you want without having to physically attach it.

It’s a shame, then, that the keyboard isn’t better. It too has an aluminum case, but the keyboard itself falls a bit short. The trackpad is too shallow, and the recessed keys (so as to not scratch the screen) don’t have a very good feel. It's perfectly functional, and I’m glad it was included, but this is definitely a tablet designed for artists, not for writers.

Still, though, it’s a rather ingenious idea, having a wireless keyboard that doubles as protection, and the way the magnets snap it into place is endlessly satisfying. 


The Z Canvas is being marketed for creative users, but that requires power. So what is the Z Canvas packing?

The CPU is an i7 4702HQ running at 2.20GHz, and it comes with a relatively hefty 16GB of DDR3 RAM. For storage we’re looking at a 500GB SSD, and for graphics the Z Canvas uses Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200.

This certainly isn’t a gaming computer, but it’s true that it’s significantly more powerful than many other 2-in1s on the market right now.

Another way the Z Canvas stands out from the pack is with its plethora of I/O options that rival even some laptops. On the right side of the display is the stylus holder and the power and volume buttons. On the left is a headphone jack, two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, an HDMI and mini DisplayPort output, and even an Ethernet port if you want to be hard wired. That’s a pretty impressive collection for a small laptop, certainly unusual in a 2-in-1, and it does show VAIO’s dedication to making sure the Z Canvas can be connected in many different ways.

An Empty Canvas

VAIO set out to create the ultimate creative platform in the Z Canvas, and for the most part they succeeded. It’s not as powerful as a dedicated laptop, but the stylus and tablet functionality, coupled with the excellent screen and a wireless keyboard, make it a contender for one of the most unique and desirable 2-in-1s on the market.

The wireless keyboard, while far from perfect, is an elegant way to protect your screen and make keys available when you need them. You’re not going to be writing a novel on this 2-in-1, but that’s why it’s called a Z Canvas, not a Desk.

The Z Canvas is for those of you who check your email and then spend hours working in Blender. It’s got the power and design to get your creative juices flowing, but if you’re looking for a more traditional 2-in-1 or laptop experience, there are probably cheaper options.