Sony has just announced a new VAIO Z. Weighing a little under 1.18 Kg and measuring 16.65mm thick, it has a choice of CPUs from the Core i5-2410M to the Core i7-2620M, 4 to 8 GB of DDR3-1333, 128 to 512 GB of SSD and either a 1600 x 900 or 1920 x 1080 pixel panel for between #1454 and #3634 (all the trimmings!).
What we’re really interested in however is what Sony is calling the Power Media Dock. This additional external part weighs 685g and costs #400. It integrates a DVD rewriter (or #525 for the Blu-ray writer version) and a network Gigabit port as well as a USB 2.0 port and USB 3.0 ports.
Better still, there’s a Radeon 6650M chipset with 1 GB of GDDR3 inside which gives better performance than the Intel HD Graphics 3000 used in the Core i7 and allows you to run up to 4 screens (2 via the IGP, laptop screen included, and two via the HDMI and D-Sub outs on the Power Media Dock).
To connect the Power Media Dock you have to use the laptop USB 3 connector. While it is compatible with USB 3 peripherals, it also uses LightPeak technology (optical) as you can see in the photos of the inside of the laptop, which is a first! There’s a strong resemblance to the first demos of LightPeak which also used a modified USB port, as was the case at IDF 2009
This implementation is therefore different to that of Thunderbolt launched jointly by Intel and Apple in February
, which uses a DisplayPort connector rather than a USB 3.0 and is copper and not optical (MacBook Pro 2011). This Thunderbolt connector can give a transfer speed of 20 Gbps, the bandwidth being separated equally between two channels, one designed for the DisplayPort and the other PCI-Express. Sony may well have implemented this specific use of LightPeak to push data bandwidth without cutting down graphics performance too much, with Intel LightPeak being connected to the rest of the PCI-Express x4 system at 16 Gbps.
This looks like a good solution for connecting up an additional graphics card but being proprietary, it lacks flexibility. No way of upgrading this graphics part then, though AMD was already looking at an open solution back in 2008 with the External Graphics Platform (XGP)
. Since then things haven’t moved forward and laptop manufacturers would obviously rather sell a new machine than allow an upgrade of older ones. It remains to be seen if the forthcoming PCI-Express x4 (32 Gbps) external cables on which PCI-SIG is working will have the same fate.