Sony VAIO Pro 13 Ultrabook Review

With the introduction of the new Haswell chips from Intel, it’s now easier for notebook manufacturers to achieve the thin, powerful, and battery-efficient design that people crave on laptops.

Such is the case of the Sony VAIO Pro 13, the slimmest and lightest touch-enabled ultrabook in the market right now. I’ve been eyeing this laptop since two months ago and it really piqued my interest as a worthy consideration for an ultra-portable notebook with powerful specs.

Design

First thing you will notice when you see the VAIO Pro 13 is how slim it is. Second thing is when you pick it up, you will immediately notice how light it is. For a 13-inch notebook, at just 2.4 lbs, it’s actually lighter than 11-inchers out there including the 11-inch MacBook Air. The weight of the VAIO PRO 13 is due to the durable carbon fiber chassis.

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The lid has a brushed finish that doesn’t attract fingerprints and it has an angular edge and sharp corners with a silver metal strip on edge near the hinge for additional style.

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Opening the lid will force its edge to rest on the surface and raise the keyboard at a slight angle for a more comfortable use.

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As for ports, most are found on the right side which has an HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, earphone/mic combo jack, and an SD card slot. An HDMI to VGA adapter is included in the package. The left side has the AC port and the exhaust vent.

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The underside has some rubber strips to prevent sliding off the surface and also has catches to fit a battery slice for more juice.

Display and Audio

Opening the lid you will be greeted with a Full HD touchscreen display with Sony’s TRILUMINOS display which is found on their new Bravia TVs. TRILUMINOS allows for a wider gamut of colors especially on the reds, greens, and blues. You’ll see more hues as compared to traditional displays and it’s really discernible. It has excellent viewing angles and also bright even when outdoors although there’s the problem of glare on a glossy screen.

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I watched a 1080p version of Will Smith’s After Earth and the picture was just stunning. The film shows a lot of greens and the VAIO Pro 13 outputted lush greeneries not to mention sharp and detailed pictures including in dark areas. The display on this laptop really made viewing videos more enjoyable.

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On the inside edge of the keyboard near the hinge you’ll find the speaker grill. Although audio quality is crisp and detailed which we like, it lacks power so it’s really not made for blasting music for everybody in the room to hear. You might want to use portable speakers or headphones on this one.

Keyboard

On the keyboard area, there aren’t a lot of extra keys present. There’s the Power button on the upper right edge and the VAIO Assist button on top for troubleshooting.

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The keyboard offers full-sized keys except for the arrow keys which are quite small for my taste. It provides decent travel although the key press is on the shallow side. It also detects ambient light which switches the backlighting on when needed.

What I don’t like about is the lack of dedicated buttons for the Page Up, Dn, Home and End which requires the use of the Fn key together with the arrow buttons. Same with the volume control which should have their own keys instead of using it with the Fn key.

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The palm rest has that brushed aluminum finish and at the center is the generous-sized trackpad that was able to handle multi-finger gestures quite well. I did notice a bit of flex when pressing down on the palm rest.

Performance

The VAIO Pro 13 that I have here runs on 64-bit Windows 8 using a 4th Gen Intel Core i7-4500U dual-core processor with 4GB of RAM and 256GB SSD. The processor is of low-powered type and there’s only the Intel HD Graphics 4400 for your games to play with.

Anyway, here’s the Windows Experience Index for reference:

WEI

Not bad actually for a laptop with an integrated graphics. I tried a bunch of games and here’s what I found. Left 4 Dead 2 which is not exactly new played well despite going for Full HD resolution. Skyrim was choppy every now and then on Full HD medium settings. Metro Last Light was unplayable even on its recommended settings. Haven’t tried DOTA 2 or League of Legends but those should be playable in this machine.

The SSD here uses the PCIe interface by the way making it perform much faster than traditional SSDs. You can really notice it in how fast the laptop wakes up from sleep or from a reboot. It only took just about 10 seconds to do a cold boot before the login screen appeared (3 seconds from Sleep). Even applications install and opens really quick.

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What odd though is the fan which kicks in even when you’re just watching a video online or sometimes just browsing. The temp threshold seemed to be set really low so you’ll be hearing a lot of the fan while using this machine. I searched online and it seems to be a common problem for the VAIO Pro although a BIOS update fixed it for some people. The left portion under the keyboard gets comfortably warm under heavy use, not to the point that you can’t place this on your bare lap.

The VAIO Pro 13 also supports NFC and it’s located on the touchpad. However, it only seems to work with NFC speakers or headsets. It doesn’t support transferring of files like photos and videos straight from your handset.

Battery Life

Regular usage (surfing mostly) with Balanced power setting, medium brightness, and WiFi on nets me about 6-7 hours on a single charge. Pretty impressive for its size and power thanks in part to Intel’s new Haswell chips. I also liked how it only took about an hour before the laptop becomes fully-charged.

If you need more lasting power, you can purchase a battery sheet that you can attach underneath it to double the battery life.

A thing of note is that the charger brick has a USB port on it so it also acts as a USB power adapter to charge your USB devices. Cool!

Conclusion

The Sony VAIO Pro 13 is one of the first Intel Haswell Ultrabooks made available in the market and the size and weight made it really appealing for those looking after ultra-portability. What we don’t particularly like is the shallow keyboard, the soft speakers, and the fan issue. Other than that, it’s a pretty capable and powerful notebook for its class with exceptional battery life and really gorgeous display.

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The Core i7-4500U Sony VAIO Pro 13 with 4GB RAM is available in black with an SRP of Php79,999. A Core i5 version is also available in Black and Silver for Php59,999.

Sony VAIO Pro 13 Specs:
13.3″ Full HD IPS touch display with TRILUMINOS display
4th Gen Intel Core i7-4500U (1.80GHz / 3.00GHz) dual-core processor
Intel HD Graphics 4400
4GB DDR3 RAM
256GB SSD
Windows 8 64-bit
1.0 MP HD Web Camera powered by Exmor R for PC and microphone
Intel High Definition Audio with ClearAudio+
HDMI, 2x USB 3.0, SD card reader, mic+earphone combo jack
WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0, NFC
2.4lbs
SRP: Php79,999 (Php59,999 for Core i5 version)
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  • Griswold

    drool. That looks really pretty. Nagtataka lang ako, may dual-core na Core i7 pala. nakakalito na.

  • jego207

    huge price jump from i5 to i7. the weight is pretty impressive though.