Sony’s Vaio Pro, according to the company is the lightest 13-inch UltraBook on the planet and manages to eclipse even the MacBook Air. The question many wants to ask is that weather it is better than the MacBook Air. While the answer to that question is not as clear cut as one might hope, the final result is quite intriguing. Read on review to find out more.
Purely in terms of industrial design the Vaio Pro 13 is absolutely gorgeous and it oozes style from every corner. Its sleek, minimalist design looks stunning from every angle, but what makes the Pro 13 particularly impressive is its featherweight carbon-fibre chassis. It’s a better looker than the MacBook Air which has flaunted the same design for five years and now feels a tad boring.
It smashes the 13-inch MacBook Air in terms of weight as it just weighs in at 1.06kg while the MacBook Air is a good deal heavier at 1.35kg. Sony managed this Herculean feat by using Carbon fibre instead of Aluminum, which is a much lighter material. This difference may not sound much, but it is a deal maker in daily usage especially for ultra portable notebooks.
Sony implements a handsome metallic accent on the hinge that looks beautiful, but in practice has sharp edges that tend to poke into ones lap, which can be a bit awkward. On the left, one only gets the power cable port and the air vent which is there to dispense heat. The right side is home to the twin USB 3.0 compliant ports, a HDMI port, a SD card reader and a 3.5 audio jack. The Vaio Pro, brandishes a carbon fibre chassis which is tough as nails. It’s a rock solid product which brings a fresh design sensibility over other ultrabooks available in market.
Overall, we feel that Sony has delivered a brilliant UltraBook in terms of design, weight and looks. We kind of prefer it over that MacBook Air in this regard.
In terms of hardware, the comparison with the MacBook Air 13 has results favoring the Sony Vaio Pro 13 which is powered by an Intel fourth generation core i5-4200U dual-core processor clocked at 1.6GHz which will deliver the benefits of the Haswell architecture that include, better onboard graphics and massive battery life improvements. Additionally, there is 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD drive that keeps everything humming along swimmingly.
Sony does not equip this model with discrete graphics, so one only gets the onboard Intel HD graphics 4400. This actually the same as what one gets with the MacBook Air.
Other features include, NFC connectivity which is rare in a laptop and also the speakers on the machine are surprisingly loud especially for a product of its size. There is still is not substitute for a proper speaker system, but the speakers surely sound better and don’t sound as tinny.
It’s a Windows 8 UltraBook and there is nothing new about this. Due to the lack of compelling applications on the Windows Store one has to say that the touchscreen is not much of use. Adding to the problems is the high density of the screen, which does not play well with Windows 8, as it does not adapt to high DPI screens as well as OS X or Chrome OS.
Sony unfortunately preloads the machine with a lot of crapware, which slows it down a wee bit. You may not notice it for most tasks but f you push it for heavy use then you might face the odd lag.
These all are major issues, because the touch points become too small for the user to touch. These issues will likely get resolved with the Windows 8.1 update that is expected later in the year. User can download that update now from the Windows Store and make the experience better, but keep in mind that the update is not final and is in the form of a release preview, and one will need to probably reinstall all desktop applications once the final update is released.
The one area where the Sony Vaio Pro 13 trumps the MacBook Air is in terms of display quality. We get a 13.3-inch Triluminus display with a resolution of 1080p, which is miles ahead of the 13.3-inch LCD panel on the MacBook Air which also has a lowly resolution of 1440×900.
The Vaio has deep blacks, brilliant viewing angles and natural colors, and it’s also incredibly crisp. Its probably not in the same ball park as the 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina, but still is very good. We also get a touch panel to boot considering it runs on Windows 8.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The keyboard on the Vaio Pro 13 is rock solid. Sony has implemented an island style keyboard, which is LED black-lit. We managed to type at decent clip in excess of 60 words per minute which was actually faster than our work computer.
In our testing the keyboard was a bit shallow and the key did not have a satisfying travel but generally it did the nice job. Sony probably was forced to keep the keyboard travel shallow as the laptop itself is so thin.
The trackpad was a different story altogether. There was discernible latency in commands like pinch to zoom or scrolling or even basic swipe gestures. We also found the buttons on the trackpad to be on the stiffer side.
Honestly, there is no competition between the MacBook Air and Sony Vaio Pro 13 trackpad, and this is a problem more related to optimization of the drivers of the touchpads on Windows-based machines. This issue will be greatly resolved when OEMs start shipping Windows 8.1 powered laptops that have high precision trackpads.
As far as this product is concerned, one has to admit it offers one of the better trackpads for a Windows machine.
With the latest generation Intel i5-4200U dual-core CPU clocked at 1.6GHz, with hyper threading support built in then one rarely should worry about performance. There is 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 128GB SSD drive. This also means that start up times are super fast and generally the laptop is incredibly responsive.
In our testing we used a copy of Adobe Photoshop for some image editing, Microsoft Word and Excel for daily tasks and the Chrome browser and for these tasks, the machine performed sublimely. Gaming performance was not great and while we did manage to install games like BioShock, the frame rates were quite horrendous. Suffice to say, this is not a laptop meant for gamers.
We managed to clock around 7 hours and 30 minutes on the laptop regularly on a single charge. Sony claims 8 hours and 30 minutes on a single charge. This number would change from user to user according to usability.
Sony’s Vaio Control Centre does allow you to alter the noise of the fan, but it’s tied in with CPU performance. It comes with three options: Silence, Standard and Performance. We ran our all of our tests in Performance mode, but when we ran our tests again in Silence mode, the difference in fan noise was barely noticeable.
At price of Rs 74,990, the Vaio Pro 13, is the best Ultra portable Windows 8 powered UltraBook in the market. It also offers better features than the MacBook Air, with a much better touch display, a better design, but sacrifices greatly on battery life and touchpad performance.
If one wants the a better display for watching movies, which by the way also supports touch and perhaps a slightly better design with the underlying app library of Windows, then the Vaio Pro 13 is easy to recommend.