In our latest review we have the new VAIO Duo 13 from Sony. Before we begin the review which usually includes taking the laptop a part bit for bit and judging it, let us admit that it appears that Sony took to heart the last review it got on its Duo 11. The previous slider was launched last year and carried a lot of flaws and therefore deserved all the sod reviews it got. So before we jump on to the bandwagon of praises simply because of what Sony claims this time around, we need to take a closer. The second attempt by Sony is not only a tad more expensive, it looks more sleek than its predecessor along with offering a more spaced out keyboard layout and the touch pad is a big improvement. So if we are willing to look past the $200 premium, should we say that the device is all that Sony says it is? Let’s take a closer look.
We can start with some basic facts; the new machine certainly is a more sleep and well rounded version of the previous Duo. The previous one was bashed unceremoniously due to its sharp point edges (not quite literally ofcourse), this one is a lot better. The display is larger too with the display being a good 13.3 inches. Now despite the fact that this power house is slightly bigger than the old one, it is almost the same weight which is all thanks to the carbon fiber construction. The previous was using magnesium alloy. With the new model Sony has also ensured that you will not damage your wrists to look like you escaped death by suicide by making the display and the keyboard base inline – kudos to that we say. Another good thing about the new design which will be loved by a lot of users is that the hinge design has completely changed and looks more chic now simply because all of the cables are now hidden from view. Sony promises a mechanism known as the Surf Slider mechanism with this machine. This basically means that the user should be able to pull up the screen with just one hand to convert to the laptop mode from the tablet mode and the transition should not seem wobbly. The company has certainly lived up to its words by ensuring just that so that when ever you make a transition, it feel stable and sturdy rather than jerky!
Moving on from the basics into the machine itself we see that right on the front of the slider you have the Windows 8 Start button. Along with that there is a frontal camera with 2 mega pixels. When you pull up the display you find the VAIO logo on the keyboard. Sony branding is also present on the front of the slider. The VAIO logo is also visible more prominently on the hinge – technically placed there to look aw-inspiring to the onlookers. Traditionally, VAIO is embossed on the back of the screen but since that was a little impossible with this design, Sony thought of a better way which goes in favor of the latest design. Another new thing about this design is the fact the sides of the laptop are completely bare; no USB ports, HDMI, SD card slots, or power and voice jacks. All of these are in the back. This is surely going to get Sony an appreciative nod from the graphic designers who prefer a clean surrounding while working. Sony also claims that they preferred this arrangement to the previous one for the sheer ease it offered when the device is being used as a tablet! Perhaps we will have to use this one to know the benefit for ourselves. After defining where they are located we might as well enlist whatever is included and that shall be two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, SD card slot, power connector, head phone jack, and the Assist and Volume buttons are underneath the machine for which you will have to flip it over! Last but not the least, we are sure you are waiting to know about the camera so yes, a great quality 8 mega pixel camera is present but not in the usual center but slightly to the left.
KEYBOARD, TRACKPAD AND STYLUS
Continuing with design, we move onto the keyboard, the trackpad, and the stylus that comes with the Duo 13. By definition all of the slider screen designs are bound to have less keyboard space which how the company manages to adjust the sliding screen. We totally appreciate how Sony tried its best in this design to give as much space to the keyboard as possible so that when we took a typing test, it resulted in fewer errors as compared to the previous design. Previously the keyboard was very squishy and in comparison this one looks like little islands instead if little keys especially since the keyboard is backlit! Another difference is that the entire touchpad is, well, a touch pad with no left and right buttons. Now ordinarily this should be a relief but in actual, no not quite so much. The touch pad allows you to move around and pinch to zoom etc. but when you need to copy and paste, the little space demands a lot of compromise and strategic use that becomes quite a challenge – and very irritating sometimes! The new model also comes with a stylus or the N-Trig digitizer. This digitizer is no way as sensitive to pressure as it should be when compared to other gadgets for the same purpose but it fulfills the purpose. It allows you to doodle and to transcribe with relative ease on both pen tips. In the previous Duo 11 model, the stylus needed to be handled separately but with this new model you can either clip it to the side of the screen itself or hook it in a holder that slides out from one side which will make it look like you are dipping the stylus in an ink pot before using it, such is the angle of the tilt. However, one little drawback is that you will need to be careful with the clip thing because you can easily loose this little stylus holder. Other than that, all is good. We also consider it worthy to mention that the new model comes with a “pen wake” function which basically means that as soon as you remove the stylus from its holding place while your computer is asleep, it will wake up! It is as simple as that! It obviously uses a sensor to do that but the good thing is that you can customize a certain program to launch as soon as the stylus is removed thereby increasing efficiency. Quite handy we say!
DISPLAY AND SOUND
Let us start with the sound. Now remember how we mentioned that the speakers are on the underside of the laptop which will obviously lead to a comprise on rich notes and dialogues drafting up to your ears but none the less, the sound quality is quite admirable. If you are sitting in a medium sized room, you will be able to watch movies and listen to songs as a sound that is comfortably audible and loud enough.
With that said we move on to the display. We must make a note here that the display is not movable to the right or left but that does not mean that if you are not viewing the screen from dead front, the images won’t be clear. Even if viewed from the left of the screen or the right, the display is bright and the imaging is visibly clear. Another fact worth noting is that the latest VAIO Duo 13 uses the Triluminos tech for its display, a technology that was first introduced in the Bravia TV series by Sony. One factor of competition might be that the latest Windows 8 products that are being churned out promise a better display with more pixels.
PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY LIFE
More or less, when speaking of such machines, the battery life is almost always hhthe same for nearly all different models. But here were are talking about the latest from Intel in processors namely the Haswell processor! So what we are saying is that the Duo 13 has a Core i5 -4200U CPU under its hood. The turbo boost is as high as 2.6 GHz which is mighty we tell you. When the laptop was tested alongside its predecessor, we saw marked improvement in every respect! The general performance was no shockingly different than the Duo 11 but in graphics the Duo 13 even out matched other models like Acer Aspire S7 with Duo 13 scoring 6,047 in its graphics test in comparison to 4,807 scored by Duo 11. As far as the reading speeds are concerned, the new Duo 13 registered 546 MB/s of reading speeds. The reading speed however was a tad slower registering only 138 MB/s. On the battery test, where we played a video and looped it, turned the WiFi on, and the display brightness was set to 70% the new Duo 13 lasted for an amazing amount of 9 hours and 20 minutes! That means it beats the Ultrabook average on the market!
We can safely say for now that the machine looks good and performs well. Another plus point is the fact that Sony has fixed the accelerometer which was quite an issue in the previous model. The screen switch takes barely three seconds which is a marked improvement. Whereas booting into Windows takes around 8 seconds and other than that the machine ran smooth on its test run.
SOFTWARE AND WARRANTY
The software on the machine is nearly the same with the previous models having Skype, Hulu Plus but an annoying addition would be Kapersky for which we would advice you to disable all the pop ups immediately if you want an easy life. Other applications might include the Note Anytime which was bound to come with the stylus! If you are a US owner of the VAIO Duo 13, in-house services will be included along with a one year international warranty.
Now we come to the cameras. Like we mentioned earlier, the new VAIO Duo 13 has two camera’s, the one for frontal shooting is 2 mega pixel and the one in the rear is 8 mega pixel. Both of these include Exmor RS for PC image sensor. This feature comes hand when you need to shoot documents using the Cam Scanner app or if you are trying to film or capture in low light conditions. Despite the awkward positioning of the 8 mega pixel camera, the image and video results were quite reasonable. The laptop shoot in 1080p mode which is appreciative and clear even if not expressively detailed.
CONFIGURATION OPTIONS AND THE COMPETITION
The unit that we are reviewing is for $1400 starting 9th June and comes with:
- 1.6 GHz Core i% – 4200U Processor
- 4 GB RAM
- Intel HD Graphics 400
- 128 GB SSD
- AT & T LTE for $150
If you are wishing for better than pay $2728 and get the following upgrade
- Core i7 CU
- 256 or 500 GB SSD
- 8 GB RAM
- 8 gigs of memory
- Windows 8 Pro
- Intel Graphics 5000
- AT & T LTE
This sleek machine will be available in carbon black and carbon white.
For people who are trying their best not to carry a laptop and tablet separately, this is a very good option in the market! However, the fact remains that the touch pad is a little too small and the camera is at a weird angle and the most important factor is that Haswell chips are on their way and you should wait for what the tech geeks churn out before you bid your money on this one! But if you must, then for the time being, it is safe to say that it is a compelling and impressive design even with its inherent shortcomings.