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Feature Design VAIO X Series
[ 2009.12.18 up ]

Uncompromising design, undisguised thinness

Graceful, perfectly flat surfaces show you just how marvelously thin this notebook is, at about 13.9 mm. Attention to design is evident in every detail. Many pleasant surprises await you in this new VAIO. What's behind this Sony success story? Read on for some insight from the designers.

Takahiro Tsuge
Takahiro Tsuge
Sony Corporation
Creative Center
Senior Producer
Yujin Morisawa
Yujin Morisawa
Sony Corporation
Creative Center

A big engineering dream, 13.9 mm thin

Tsuge:I've supervised development of many different notebooks, coordinating VAIO design, but this project stands out from the rest. Unlike other projects, before any plans for commercialization, some of our engineers took the initiative and explored the kind of VAIO they truly wanted to make. They even created a mock-up. By the time we first saw the mock-up in the design group, it had already persuaded project planning to go ahead with commercialization.

The model was about 13.9 mm thin. At that stage, the engineers knew the general approach for the main components, and they were confident about somehow working out the details later. Now I've been involved in VAIO design for many years, and I could tell right away that development wouldn't be easy. I knew that without hard work, we would never turn this model into a real product.

VAIO 505 Extreme notebook

But once commercialization had been decided, based on the mock-up, we couldn't very well go back and request to make it thicker for a little leeway. Our success would depend on designers capable of in-depth discussions with the engineers who had developed the blueprints for this notebook. Fortunately, just the right person stepped forward: Yujin Morisawa, a contributor in VAIO 505 Extreme design a few years ago.

Ironing out the technical wrinkles for smooth surfaces

Morisawa:When designing the 2003 VAIO 505 Extreme, we faced technical limitations and a tight development schedule, and we had to resort to external network and display adapters. I regretted this and wished we could have offered built-in interfaces. I saw the new VAIO X as a good opportunity to overcome the limitations we faced last time.

First, we focused on the Ethernet and VGA ports. In both interfaces, we could not use standard components, which were thicker than the body itself. Should we make the body thicker at these positions? Or should we require adapters, as we did for the VAIO 505 Extreme? Both options were unacceptable to me.

Ethernet (left) and VGA (right)

The only real solution was to develop new parts. Working with our engineers, we incorporated an Ethernet port that opens and closes. It's noteworthy that the cover itself forms part of the interface. When closed, the cover conceals the gap that would otherwise be exposed, and when open, it reveals the port so you can connect a cable. I was concerned about the strength of the cover, but we avoided problems by having the cover detach before the breaking point (a tip from our engineers). And with that, we had redesigned the Ethernet port.

The VGA port was also difficult to design. These components are normally encircled by metal bands that are crimped, which sometimes leaves ugly wrinkles or warped edges. Because we insisted on a perfectly flat surface, there was no room to conceal the VGA port in the body. So we decided to develop a port that's beautiful and sleek despite being exposed. We took a cue from HDMI port design and studied how to wrap a metal band around the interface. As for the result, I invite you to see for yourself. Only Sony would see it as a second chance to develop an older but still important legacy interface.

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