As we’ve seen on previous Vaio laptops, the keyboard is something that Sony usually gets right. From the well-spaced backlit layout, to keys that are soft to touch and offer great travel, it all makes for a comfortable typing experience. Coupled with an aluminium palm rest that is an accommodating size to work on, Sony has come up trumps once again.
It’s a shame we can’t be as glowing about the all-in-one touchpad. It supports all the usual mouse functions and gestures, such as pinch to zoom, and the response is generally good, but at times it’s slow to respond. More irritating is its habit of mistaking normal use for a gesture, a fact that often results in opening the last app used by mistake. It's just as well this particularly Windows gesture can be turned off.
The touchpad has NFC support, which means you can tap a smartphone against it to transfer data like a web page and instantly see it on the VAIO Pro 13 screen. You can also use it with NFC-enabled headphones to pair quickly. Testing the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone and a pair of the Jabra Revo Wireless headphones the connection was seamless for both devices.
It’s perhaps a good point here to mention Windows 8 Pro, which adds a few security features over standard Windows 8 and Media Center for those that want it. Otherwise it's standard Windows, which means you keep features like the ability to snap apps and jump back into recent apps with a simple swipe. Windows 8 still feels a little uneven in places, however. Touch applications still appear to hang when launching, and some apps insisted there wasn’t an internet connection when there was. Apps in the Windows Store, although growing, are still sparse in comparison to Apple and Google, but this being Windows there’s no shortage on ‘non-Store’ apps to download.
There’s a 0.9-megapixel front-facing camera for video chatting, which uses a fancy sounding Exmor CMOS sensor. Video quality isn’t spectacular, but it handles low-light conditions reasonably well.
Sound quality from the stereo speakers below the 13.3-inch display is rich and clear. There’s no significant distortion, even at loud volumes, which makes them suitable enough to watch movies.
As Ultrabooks go, the Sony Vaio Pro 13 is certainly one of the finest we’ve had our hands on. It ticks all the right boxes in terms of portability and design, while the display goes some way to its £999 price tag.
Inevitably it will be compared to the 13-inch MacBook Air and top end Ultrabook offerings like the Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1 and the Samsung Series 7 Ultra. Its screen outguns them all, but without the £79 extra battery sheet its battery life - while very good - falls a long way short of the 10-hours or more the MacBook achieves.
As the first of the Windows-based Intel Haswell ultrabooks we've seen, however, the Sony Vaio Pro 13 is an exceptional effort from Sony, particularly considering it weighs less than the Microsoft Surface Pro (with a keyboard attached) and lasts longer.
For more altenatives, take a look at our best laptop round-up.
A top of the range ultrabook with an amazing screen and a light, portable body, the Sony Vaio Pro 13 is an excellent portable laptop. Its battery life suffers in comparison to the MacBook Air, but it's a great laptop nonetheless.