Sony’s VAIO range presents a broad selection of laptops with a somewhat confusing selection of names. The latest - the VAIO Duo 13 - muddies the waters further with the Duo part. The Duo signifies that it's a hybrid tablet and Windows 8 laptop, much like the recently reviewed Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 11S.
Aimed as those who want the benefits of a tablet without losing the non-touch interface of the keyboard and trackpad, the VAIO Duo we were sent has pretty impressive specifications on paper, including a dual core i7 processor, 4GB RAM and 128GB Solid State Drive, but how does it perform in practice, and does it justify its £1,492 pricetag?
Sony certainly knows how to design an eye-catching computer, and the Sony VAIO Duo has a distinct design aesthetic of its own. When closed, it looks like a fairly chunky tablet, which makes sense with its 13.3-inch screen, and a thick bezel around the sides dwarfing most 10 and 7 inch dedicated tablets. When open, the screen props up on hooks about a third of a way into the base, pushing the keyboard and touchpad down considerably, but leaving room for a couple of airvents out of sight. In this configuration it’s slightly reminiscent of the short lived ‘Pocket Surfer’, but fortunately it behaves a lot more pleasantly.
It’s very angular, deviating from the current design fad of curves everywhere, and the result is a stylish device. Our review version was in ‘Carbon Black’, but Sony also sells a dazzling white version.
Every one of its inputs is behind the keyboard, or along its longer side when in tablet mode. There’s not much connectivity to speak of either: two USB ports, an SD card slot, an HDMI port, a headphone jack and the charger point. Along the right hand side, there’s also a ‘car coffee holder’ style rest for the stylus pen that can be pulled out, though there’s no holder for when the laptop isn’t in use.
The first thing to say about the screen is no reflection on its quality, but a note to its limitations: because of the way the laptop portion has been designed, it can only ever be at one angle. It’s perfectly workable when sat at a desk, but try some lazy writing when lying in bed, and you’ll find it nigh-on impossible to view.
Fortunately, this inflexibility is mainly neutralised by the viewing angles of the screen, which are very good. In short, you have to move to well beyond an impractical angle before you can’t see everything sharply. Elsewhere, the screen fared well in our tests as well: the temperature recorded a score of 6,537 (where 6,500 is ideal), it’s nice and bright, and the contrast was extremely sharp, measuring 1122:1. The only let-down was its colour accuracy, with our DeltaE test recording a score of 4.71, leaving a slightly washed out, pale feel to photos.
Its 10-point touch-screen credentials are fine, although with a 13.3-inch screen displaying a high resolution of 1920x1080, being precise in Windows 8’s desktop mode can be a little tricky. The stylus provides additional accuracy, but more on that later.