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Sony VAIO S11

by Sony

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The Vaio S11- Vaio’s First Premium PC with Thunderbolt 3

In the face of intense competition from Korean and Chinese electronics firms, "Japan Inc." has been busy restructuring its key semiconductor industries by consolidating companies into its own national giants.  Since 2009, "Japan Inc." became real through the formation of INCJ (Innovation Network Corporate of Japan), a corporate entity controlled by Japan's Ministry of Economics, Trade, & Industry.  INCJ was instrumental in merging companies to form Japan's semiconductor giant Renesas and display giant Japan Display.  

Now the private equity fund JIP (Japan Industrial Partners) is following in INCJ's wake to consolidate the Japan PC market.  JIP, who already purchased the Vaio PC business from Sony, has announced they are trying to merge Toshiba and Fujitsu's PC business with Vaio, creating a giant that can better compete with NEC Lenovo in Japan.  

If there is any indicator for where the future of this new potential Japan PC giant is headed, Vaio has clearly stated its strategy to sell to premium business users who want an Apple-like quality experience but on a Windows platform.  With Sony and Apple having a close relationship in the past, it's not surprising that Vaio is focusing on a strategy to emulate Apple's success with its Mac products.

With the Vaio S11, Sony has focused on a practical design well suited for the Japanese business user.  Like Apple, the S11 has focused on industrial design and a superior user experience.  Unlike Apple which upon the release of the S11 still only supported Thunderbolt 2 (20 Gb/s) and USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5 Gb/s), the S11 has adopted Thunderbolt 3 (40 Gb/s) and USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gb/s) over USB Type-C.

I purchased the Vaio S11 at Bic Camera in Shin-Yokohama, Japan.  The pricing of the Vaio S11 was over $1300 US dollars and was actually priced higher than similar Apple Mac products sold in the store.

Like many other Windows PC's, Sony Vaio S11 comes in a plain cardboard shell.  

Inside the cardboard shell, the black Vaio S11 box is also simply designed.

Inside the box, Vaio S11 comes with a AC power brick and cord and instruction manuals.

The AC power brick also has a USB Type-A port allowing you to conveniently charge your mobile device or accessory while charging your Vaio S11.

The Vaio S11 industrial design is sleek while practical for the business user.  The S11 doesn't have the aluminum metal casing that has become popularized by the Apple Mac products.  Instead, it is made out of a much lighter material making the Vaio super light weight and better suited for Japan's public transportation centric and heavy walking lifestyle.

Functionally, the Vaio S11 is packed with a unique set of interfaces that are useful for demanding business users.  The Vaio S11 supports the most advanced interface standards available with Thunderbolt 3 (40 Gb/s), USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gb/s), and DisplayPort 1.2 all over the slim USB Type-C port, as well as SD 4.0 UHS-II , the fastest SD cards available on the market.  Surprisingly, the S11 also supports legacy interfaces like Gigabit Ethernet and VGA which are becoming harder to find on today's notebooks despite still being useful in the office or when on business travel.

On both sides of the Vaio are standard USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5 Gb/s) Type-A ports which can be used for most USB peripherals out there in the market.

When closed the Vaio S11 lays flat like any notebook.  Once you open up the lid of the S11, the back of the notebook lifts up which raises the keyboard to a comfortable position.

The Vaio S11 keyboard and touchpad is well designed and of similar quality as what you would find on Mac keyboards.  Despite the smaller sized keys which is well suited for the Japanese market, the keyboard is very usable and responsive.  The touchpad multi-finger tough interaction is natural and smooth, and pressing down the touchpad to click has just the right tactile feel.

Starting up the Vaio S11 is basically the same process as other Windows 10 based PC's.  Since this Vaio was purchased in Japan, all the Windows startup settings are in Japanese.  Even if you change everything in the initial Windows setup screen from Japanese to English, Windows still displays all its settings and menu items in Japanese.

Once you accept the Windows legal agreements, you'll be asked to set up your WI-FI network.

When connected to the Internet, the Vaio will begin to go through the update download process.

After the updates are installed, the Vaio will reboot and you'll be asked to log in with your Microsoft account and set up a PIN.

From here Windows will complete the setup process on the Vaio.

The initial Windows 10 setup process didn't take that long and you can start using the Vaio S11 in no time.  

The keyboard backlight comes on automatically once you tap the keyboard.  If you don't touch the keyboard for a few seconds, the backlight will eventually dim to darkness.

While the Vaio S11 has the fastest data, video, and SD card technology available through support of Thunderbolt 3 and SD UHS-II.  This allows creative professionals to easily handle large media files such that they can be quickly from cameras, edited on the Vaio, and stored on external storage.  

For creative professionals, industrial design is also very important and the Vaio S11 has focuses on a design optimized for the mobile Japanese professional user.  The Vaio S11 is light as a feather making you wonder if there is really a battery inside.  At any angle, Vaio S11 will look great on any professional's desk or while presenting on the road.

In the same way Apple learned from Sony's success with its Walkman and PC industrial design, perhaps Vaio especially if combined with Fujitsu and Toshiba can emulate Apple's success with Mac to dominate the Windows professional business segment in Japan.  The Vaio S11 is a good example of what this strategy can achieve by combining industrial design, the latest technology innovations, and features that are perfect for their target market.

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