Sony Shakes Up Notebook Lines, Adds AIOs



Sony Electronics will load up on new notebooks and all-in-one PCs at International CES, but has pulled back on the netbook front.

The company will also expand the retail presence of its high-end Signature line of laptops and AIOs by adding several regional retailers and specialty chains in the coming months as it rolls out new products in that line, said Brian Nowlin, product manager for Sony’s networked technology and services division.

However, while expanding the availability and number of higher-priced models, Sony is turning away from the netbook category, Nowlin said.

“We are just not focused on it any more. The market is different from a year ago,” he said.

Instead, Sony is rolling out the new YB series of ultraportable laptops. The 11.6-inch-screen models will be powered by AMD’s new line of Fusion processors. Nowlin said Sony went with AMD because its processors are outperforming Intel’s Atom for this level of product.

Nowlin said Sony intends to put downward pressure on the netbook category with the YB models, which will have a $549 starting price point yet deliver a fullfunction notebook experience.

The YB notebooks lack an optical drive, weigh about 3 pounds, and are intended for students and those who need a fully functioning notebook.

Stepping up from the YB models is the S130. With prices starting at $899, these models are powered by Intel Core i3 and i5 processors, offer discrete graphics and have an optical drive bay.

In the next price band is the SA series, replacing Sony’s well-respected Z Series.

These feature an aluminum/carbon fiber chassis and new hinge design and offer Core i5 and Core i7 processors, discrete graphics and an improved 1.3-megapixel webcam.

Two other major changes were made from the Y series. The first is the inclusion of a hard disk drive on the entry-level priced models, whereas the Z series only came with solid-state drives. Nowlin said this was done to help keep the price down to below $1,800.

The other feature is an optional “sheet” battery. This is an 8mm-thick battery that fully conforms to the bottom of the laptop and simply snaps on. The $199 battery doubles the 6.5-hour battery life, Nowlin said.

Sony will show two new laptops and an AIO in its expanded Signature series. Over the last few years the Signature models’ exteriors were designed by well-known artists and sold through Sony Style stores on a very limited basis. This had been done to make a design statement and raise money for a charity.

This concept was somewhat expanded last fall and it will be taken to a new level in 2011, said Kevin Sather, Sony’s product manager, IT and portable audio division.

Sony will introduce at CES two new chassis, the CA and CB, each featuring a staggeringly bright fluorescent color scheme.

The 14-inch CA and 15.6-inch CB come in bright green and orange, along with a more subdued black. Each features an HD webcam, high-end graphics and processors.

These will only be sold through Sony’s Signature Dealers program, which includes stores like Micro Center, Fry’s Electronics and Datavision, Sather said.

Sony will also offer a spring promotion with these laptops, which has the company’s Imagination Studio 2.0 preloaded onto the machines.

Pricing has not been set, but the CA is expected to cost just more than $1,000, while the CB is just below that price tag.

The Signature rollout includes one AIO model, the L210. This has a 24-inch multitouch screen, wireless keyboard and mouse.

Sony expanded the touchable area on the screen to the black glass section near the bezel. Each portion can control a specific often-used function like on/off and swapping between applications. Sather said this was done to cut down on fingerprints marks on the more heavily trafficked parts of the viewing area.

Other options include in and out HDMI ports, TV tuner and hand gesture software that works in conjunction with the webcam.

This is connected to the media applications and allows users to change songs or photos by swiping their hand back and forth in front of the camera, like turning the page on a book.

There is also a non-Signature version of the AIO that has a slightly different industrial design and will come in at a lower price point.

Sony’s computer segment will also test the 3D waters for the first time at CES with the addition of the F210 laptop. It has a 240MGz, 16-inch display, is bundled with one pair of glasses and will carry a $1,699 suggested retail price.

Sony believes 3D laptop owners will use it more for 3D content storage and editing, as opposed to consumption, said Sather. The growth of 3D digital and video cameras will require a computer for editing and personal content creation, he said.


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