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Sony announces first non-Mac 'Thunderbolt' laptop coming to Europe in July

Sony on Tuesday took the wraps off a redesigned VAIO Z laptop, which is scheduled to arrive in Europe at the end of July and will feature a proprietary version of Intel's Thunderbolt technology. Meanwhile, Apple has issued a firmware update to improve Thunderbolt performance.


The new 13.1-inch VAIO Z will take on Apple's MacBook Air in the ultraportable category, weighing just 2.6 pounds with a thickness of 0.86 inches. In order to reduce the size of the notebook, Sony moved the optical drive and dedicated graphics to an external box, dubbed the Power Media Dock.

Though the dock uses a proprietary version of Intel's codenamed "Light Peak" architecture, which is the same technology that Thunderbolt is based on, Sony has chosen not to market the optical connection as such. Full details on the custom connection are lacking from the company's press release, but it appears Sony has forgone the Mini DisplayPort solution that Apple co-developed with the chipmaker.

In addition to a Blu-ray optical drive and AMD Radeon graphics, the Power Media Dock will include an ethernet port, additional USB ports, and VGA and HDMI outputs.

The VAIO Z features a 1600x900 display, Intel Core i7 processors and up to 256GB of SSD RAID storage. Sony also touts a Quick Boot feature that loads Windows 7 "up to 50% quicker than conventional notebooks."

The electronics giant plans to launch the notebook first in Europe at the end of July. Sony declined to provide details on pricing or the timing of international availability, though the laptop is expected to make its way to the States.

Intel and Apple collaborated on the Thunderbolt specification, with Intel providing its then-codenamed "Light Peak" technology and Apple offering its Mini DisplayPort standard. The high-speed interconnect debuted alongside Apple's new MacBook Pros in February.

The first Thunderbolt-compatible peripherals are expected to arrive this summer. Storage maker LaCie demoed a "Little Big Disk" Thunderbolt solid-state drive last week, with read speeds of up to 827.2 MB per second. Several high end video equipment vendors are preparing breakout boxes and other devices that will take advantage of the technology.


Thunderbolt firmware

Apple issued a Thunderbolt Firmware Update for relevant Macs on Monday, providing "performance and stability fixes." for the new technology. The 486KB download requires Mac OS X 10.6.8.

The Cupertino, Calif., Mac maker has been steadily working out the kinks on Thunderbolt. In May, the company's new MacBook Pros and iMacs, currently the only Macs to support Thunderbolt, received several updates to improve performance and compatibility.