Sony Vaio Pro 13 review

Pros

  • Very light and thin
  • Speedy performance from SSD
  • Bright and clear full HD touchscreen

Cons

  • Could use more SSD storage
  • Some keyboard flex
  • Fan gets somewhat noisy under load

The Sony Vaio Pro 13 is one of the systems you should look at if you want a full-featured 1080p laptop that weighs just a touch over a kilogram. It has carbon fibre, a fourth-generation Intel Core processor, PCIe SSD, and a dozen other buzz-worthy features. All of this results in a laptop that will give the road warrior a formidable tool on his or her travels.

It's an impressive achievement in Ultrabook technology, and will serve you well whether you're pitching a VC on the merits of your latest entrepreneurial ideas, a world traveller who must shave every gram from his travel bag, or if you're a creative director pitching an ad campaign to your firm's SVPs.

Design

The Vaio Pro 13 is certainly a thin system. Measuring about 325 x 215 x 17mm (WxDxH), and weighing 1.04kg, the Vaio Pro 13 will fit in most travel bags easily, and will fit nicely on an airline tray table. Like its little brother the Sony Vaio Pro 11, the Pro 13 is made using carbon fibre to give the system strength. It compares nicely to other systems that use a metal construction like the Apple Macbook Air 13in (Mid 2013). Our review unit had a brushed metal look keyboard deck and a black painted top lid.

The Pro 13 looks like a consumer-oriented rival to the enterprise-class Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch, as both systems use carbon fibre for lightness and strength. The Pro 13 has a very bright 1,920 x 1,080 resolution (Full 1080p HD) IPS display. The display has several colour settings, including the vivid default setting that is similar to the punchy colour setting on HDTVs. When you ramp that down to more eyestrain-friendly settings, it doesn't reduce the impact that the screen has on your visuals. The screen remains bright and clear across all its settings, making it an excellent choice if you need to critically view photos and videos.

The ten-point touchscreen is responsive, and has a good feel. We did notice that the system's auto-dimming ambient lighting sensor was a bit over responsive before we updated the system's drivers using the built-in Vaio Update app. Once we ran the updates, however, things settled down. Between that and the initially flaky Wi-Fi connection, we'd recommend running updates immediately when you take the system out of the box. After the updates, the system was much more copacetic and generally less annoying.

The Vaio Pro 13 has only a few I/O ports, but these are welcome ones. The system has two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, and a full size HDMI port on the right side. On the left is the jack for the AC adapter and a vent for the cooling fan. While Intel has claimed that the fourth-generation Intel Core processors run cooler and more efficiently, the Vaio Pro 13's fan still managed to make itself heard when under duress. When we were running our benchmark tests, the system's cooling fan spooled up and didn't quiet down until the tasks were over and the system was back at idle. This may or may not be a problem for you; it all depends on your tolerance for noise.

The system's display has a built-in riser – the back edge of the screen lifts the back of the keyboard deck up when you open the laptop up on a flat surface. This works great when you're on a table, but it can also dig into your legs when you have the laptop on your lap. Make sure you try it out first if you're the type who likes to work away from a desk or work surface.

The system's trackpad is multi-touch, so you can navigate around Windows 8 without having to touch the screen too often. The keyboard is responsive, with slightly slick keys and a smidge of keyboard flex. You're not likely to notice the flex unless you really bash the keys, but it’s still there.

Performance

The Vaio Pro 13 displayed very good performance levels due to its fourth-generation Intel Core i5-4200U processor and PCIe-based 128GB SSD. While it can be argued that a multimedia oriented user may need more than 128GB to hold video files, no one can deny that the Pro 13 starts up from both sleep and a cold boot in seconds. We didn't even have time to blow on our coffee to cool it before the system was up and ready to go.

Consequently, the Pro 13 scored some very good day-to-day PCMark7 numbers, as well as multimedia benchmark numbers that are faster than the Apple MacBook Air 13in. All in all, this machine is neck and neck with other Windows-based systems like the Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch and Dell XPS 13.

The Pro 13 has good, if not exceptional, battery life. It lasted 6 hours and 23 minutes on our battery rundown test, which certainly outdid the Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch. Unfortunately, all rivals have half the life of the 15 hours of battery longevity that Apple’s new MacBook Air 13in managed.

Verdict

The Sony Vaio Pro 13 runs neck and neck with some other very good to excellent Ultrabooks, and that's the problem. It needed to be much better than rivals to pull ahead of the pack.

The fourth-generation Intel Core CPU teased us with the promise of a much longer battery life without any drawbacks. Sony did make an Ultrabook that is as light as one of the larger tablets, that's true. However, by working to reduce weight with esoteric materials and leaving some of the battery cells behind, it doesn't last much longer than cheaper Ultrabooks with last year's third-generation (Ivy Bridge) Intel Core processors. All that said, this is still a very good machine on an overall level.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Sony Vaio Pro 13

Weight

1.04kg

Graphics Card

Intel HD Graphics 4000

Screen Type

Touchscreen

Screen Size

13.3in

RAM

4GB

Networking Options

802.11n

Processor Speed

1.6GHz

Type

General Purpose, Ultraportable, Ultrabook

Storage Capacity

128GB

Storage Type

SSD

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