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Sony VAIO Duo 13 Review

By Alan Martin



Our Score:


Sony VAIO Duo 13 - Keyboard

Despite the limited space available, the VAIO 13 manages to squeeze in a full sized backlit keyboard, minus the number pad. Comparing it side by side with an 11-inch Macbook Air shows that the keys are slightly smaller, but only be a couple of millimetres, and it’s unlikely to slow your typing down at all.

Indeed, we found touch typing on the VAIO 13 to be pretty easy, and despite the thin base of the unit, typing quickly and firmly never made the unit feel fragile.

Sony VAIO Duo 13 - Touchpad

The trouble with the stylish design of the VAIO 13 when its in laptop mode is that the screen hooks in to cover around a third of the base, meaning that everything gets pushed down, leaving only a tiny amount of space once all 85 keys have been squeezed in. That means the touchpad is just one inch tall, or roughly twice the height of a space bar.

As you might guess, this gets fiddly fast, and we’d gladly sacrifice the stylish design for an easier to use touchpad. The tight space means gestures are inconsistent to pull off, and you may find yourself wanting to plug in an external mouse quickly - or at least do everything you possibly can on the touchscreen. On the bright side, actual clicking is responsive and satisfying, with a clear area difference between left and right click functionality.

Anything else to consider?

Like the Samsung Galaxy Note family of smartphones and tablets, the VAIO 13 Duo comes with pressure sensitive stylus pen for note taking, drawing and just navigating around Windows 8. It works well for this, although unlike the Note, the lack of ability to tuck it into the VAIO itself is a bit of an oversight.

It’s also worth mentioning that the VAIO Duo 13 comes in a variety of customisable flavours on the Sony website, starting at £1,352. You can increase the memory to 8GB, up the SSD to 512GB and reduce the processor to a 1.6GHZ i5-4200U should you wish. The review model came to £1,492 using their builder (including the £40 surcharge for Windows 8 Pro).

Should I buy the Sony VAIO Duo 13?

If you’re more interested in a tablet than a laptop, then certainly not: the VAIO Duo starts at around £900 more than the iPad, and Windows tablets don’t have the support that Android or Apple ones do.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in a hybrid, then the VAIO Duo is hard to fault in its performance, if you can learn to live with the tiny touchpad - and if you’re into touchscreens to the point that you want a hybrid tablet, then presumably you can. It is expensive though, and although the performance is a little weaker the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 11S is a cheaper, lighter alternative if you’re not wedded to a 13-inch screen. The Yoga also offers a lot more flexibility with the screen, allowing you to work it from any angle while the VAIO Duo has one angle only.

If performance is all important, and you like the idea of a stylus and the aesthetics of this unique Sony offering though, you won’t be disappointed in your purchase.


A stylish hybrid laptop with excellent performance and incredible battery life. If you can cope with its incredibly small touchpad, and money is no object, then the VAIO Duo comes with a solid recommendation.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Battery Life 10
  • Build Quality 9
  • Design 8
  • Heat & Noise 7
  • Keyboard 8
  • Performance 8
  • Screen Quality 8
  • Touchpad 6
  • Value 7


August 22, 2013, 8:29 am

why do they don't put a trackpoint : if precise enough, it is easily the best ergonomic pointing device on a laptop and does not take any room.

Daily Mailer

August 22, 2013, 8:48 am

Unfortunately Windows 8 is unusable so who cares?


August 22, 2013, 11:51 am

I have the vaio duo 11 which has a trackpoint which I find fine to use, I guess they focus grouped it and switched to that mini touch pad which looks worse I'd have thought


August 22, 2013, 3:40 pm

I played with the Vaio Duo 13 a couple of times at the Sony Store and the trackpad was pretty decent. Remember also that this is a touchscreen machine. Having a full trackpad may not be needed.


August 22, 2013, 7:35 pm

Nice unit but just too expensive. If you don't need the stylus then the Yoga 13 can be had for almost half the price at the moment. Then again for this money many would be better served by either a MacBook Air or Pro Retina. Most won't miss the touchscreen and will be more productive with OS X.


August 22, 2013, 9:21 pm

I bought a Duo 13 for the convertibility. So a Macbook is really not an option. A better comparison would be the Vaio Pro 13 to the Macbooks. The Yoga 13 currently lacks Haswell and has a lower resolution screen. Yes, this is expensive, but I feel like it's worth the price.

Duo Bob

August 23, 2013, 3:44 am

The stylus is very accurate and uses an electro magnet field, not screen pressure. Much better than a track point and The track pad combined with touch is great. Lying on your back and using hand writing on the tablet works better than typing on a laptop no matter what screen angle is used.

Charlie Moritz

August 23, 2013, 6:36 am

Also if you don't like being so restricted by Apple then Microsoft is a better choice.


August 24, 2013, 9:55 am

There is no more or less restrictions with Apple than MS. In fact, since you can run Windows on a Mac, it is the other way around.


August 24, 2013, 10:06 am

But is it really worth twice the price of a Yoga? Only one screen position, when used as a laptop, is a real limitation. The Yogas slightly lower resolution is not really an issue given the way windows scales the desktop. Both the Yoga 13 and the Sony Duo 13 suffer the same problem in tablet mode of just being slightly too big and heavy to use for any length of time. A MacBook may not have a touchscreen but it does not need it! Whereas Windows 8 almost makes it compulsory, especially since few machines are kitted out with a trackpad as good as the Mac ones. The idea of a convertible is attractive but the reality, with 13" models at least, is it just fails to work. For a 13" portable machine the Macbook range is still the best choice, complemented with a 9" to 10" tablet. Then there is no compromise, except the price and having two units!


August 24, 2013, 5:17 pm

Apple won't allow their software to be installed on non Apple PCs- sounds restrictive to me.
BTW I thought Boot Camp still lacked many of the drivers for W8?


August 24, 2013, 5:18 pm

You've obviously never used it


August 24, 2013, 5:21 pm

If weight is an issue then surely the Vaio Pro 13 is a better option than the Air.


August 24, 2013, 11:08 pm

Double Post


August 24, 2013, 11:21 pm

Double Post


August 24, 2013, 11:27 pm

Well, it's not twice as much. Comparing the basic models, it's $850 vs $1400. That's a $550 premium for the Duo 13. In addition to what I mentioned (resolution and Haswell), you are also getting digitizer pen support on the Duo 13. Perhaps Lenovo is also emptying current inventory for an upcoming Haswell refresh by lowering prices. But I already conceded on price and that you will always pay a premium for Sony, just as you will always pay a premium for Apple.

I'm not sure where you are going with resolution and scaling. You're saying because of scaling it's now okay to have lower resolution screens?

I bought the Duo 13 precisely to replace my laptop AND my iPad, "the best choice" in your own words for portable computing. I am sick of this configuration. I'm sick of carrying 2 machines and I'm sick of slow browsing on my iPad (generation 3) and very sluggish web page rendering when sites get complicated. Whether this is too big and heavy? I guess I'll find out. You seem to have experience with convertibles since you say it "fails to work." That's a pretty definitive assessment of a market that's just beginning. In my opinion, that's the future of mobile computing. Unless they invent something to replace the keyboard for productivity work.

You're certainly entitled to you opinion and biases. I will factor your comments of "Macbook range is still the best choice" for 13" portable machine" and your earlier "more productive with OSX" as that. However, I certainly don't agree with you and I'm sure many don't either.


August 24, 2013, 11:40 pm

Well, we're talking about a 0.03 pound of difference, petty much a wash. Essentially both equal in weight.

EDIT: NVM, you're right. I was looking at the Duo 13 weight. The Pro 13 is 2.34 pounds so 0.62 pounds lighter than Air.


August 25, 2013, 9:49 am

Apple not allowing OS X to be loaded onto a PC is hardly being restrictive, as it does not affect an Apple user. It is like saying Windows Mobile 8 is restrictive as MS won't allow it to run on my Samsung Note 2.

Boot camp fully supports Windows 8 (using Boot Camp 5) on appropriate hardware.


August 25, 2013, 9:58 am

It is well known that Windows 8 handles screen scaling very poorly. This means when you have a small high resolution screen all elements (icons and controls) become too small for comfortable use, In the case of a 13" screen a resolution of 1600 x 900 is about the optimum for a balance between detail and usability of icons and controls. OS X handles increased screen resolutions (Retina displays) correctly so all elements, including icons, controls and text, scale so they are always usable no matter what the screen size or resolution.

Possibly the ideal combined device will appear in the future but the current crop, even with Hanswell, are not there yet.


August 25, 2013, 12:34 pm

"his eclipses even the 2013 Macbook Air’s 10 hours, 15 minutes to go straight to the top of our battery table: very impressive."

Lo and behold, journalistic naivety at its best.

The Pro 13 was already at the "top of our battery table".

The only thing Sony did with the Duo 13, was to "correct" the marketing mistake it made on the Pro 13. Instead of providing the choice of A) eclipsing the 2013 Macbook Air’s 10 hours or B) eclipsing the 2013 Macbook Air’s weight, it chose C) put the full battery inside.

It is obviously a good move marketing wise. Unfortunately, for customers of this kind of product (urban, upscale) who do not live 15h away from a power outlet anyway, that would probably be about 99.99999% of them, they do not have that choice with the Duo 13 now.

Personally I am very interested by this product for postdoc work. A 800 or 900g Duo 13, with the option to have an external battery to complement a "simple" 7 or 8h internal one, would have made it a much better product.


August 25, 2013, 1:01 pm

Totally agree with you on the "replace my laptop AND my iPad". I need to take notes during conferences, lectures and such, but also draw graphs from time-to-time or just read some books, magazines ... I hate to type on a tablet, which means I need to carry at the moment a laptop AND a tablet, hence why I am looking at the Duo 13.


August 25, 2013, 11:33 pm

I just ordered one for school, best thing is that it's MADE IN JAPAN!
It shipped out of Japan a few days ago :D


August 26, 2013, 12:16 am

I doubt a little scaling artifact is unusable, but by all means if scaling perfection is what people are looking for, by all means stay away from all Windows 8 machines.


August 26, 2013, 12:22 am

Yeah, I think this will be a great computer for those that need to take notes. So for students and professionals that attend conferences and lectures. I'm in the science field and I think this will be great to take to conferences to jot down notes at poster sessions where there are standing room only so a laptop is out of the question. It remains to be seen if even at slightly less than 3 pounds, if it is too large to haul around. I guess I'll find out.


August 26, 2013, 4:18 am

Congratulation! Mine is still "being built." Sigh...

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