Sony has been quite late to the Ultrabook party, possibly because it already offered a range of slim and light laptops with the likes of the stunningly thin and powerful Sony VAIO Z. Unexpectedly for what is generally a premium laptop brand, it has not only entered the game, but done so with a budget-oriented entrant, the 13-inch Sony VAIO T13.
The VAIO T13 isn’t your average Ultrabook either, thanks to styling that sets it apart from the crowd. Where most Ultrabooks are wedge-shaped anorexics, the T13 is a chunky little beast that’s not afraid to throw its weight around. To be fair, the HP Folio 13 did chunky first, but its angles are nowhere near as aggressive as the T13’s.
On the specs side of things it’s more conservative, with your choice of Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge Core i3 processors, but what really sets it apart from the crowd is that it’s the cheapest big-brand Ultrabook on the market, at a mere £580 for the base model – that’s cheaper than the previous big-name budget champ, the Acer Aspire S3.
Design and Build
As mentioned, the Sony VAIO T13 is a pretty angular beast, with a lid that overhangs at the front, and transitions into a chromed rear hinge section. It’s constructed using several bits and, though these are stylishly joined together, it’s no MacBook Air or Samsung Series 9. On the other hand, it’s not trying to be, and deserves credit for originality. In its own right, the VAIO T13 is quite an attractive laptop, thanks mainly to its brushed aluminium lid.
Again, build quality isn’t up there with the best of the rest but is very good all the same. Everything is tightly fitted with no open seams and hardly any flex or creak. Frankly, the Sony VAIO T13 is a far nicer Ultrabook than you might expect given its low price.
Despite its pronounced angles, there are no sharp edges like you would find on a MacBook, as these are subtly rounded. In yet another unique design touch, opening the laptop up raises the back slightly thanks to two feet that reside on the back of the lid when the T13 is closed. This supposedly gives a more comfortable angle for typing, though we prefer a flat keyboard.
If there’s one disadvantage to the VAIO T13’s design, it’s that it’s a bit on the heavy side for an Ultrabook, at 1.53kg. Not a millstone by any stretch, but for a 13-inch ultraportable sans optical drive or dedicated graphics we feel this is getting a little too weighty.
Thanks to its chunky body, the Sony VAIO T13 can accommodate a nice selection of full-size connectors. At the right you’ll find the power jack, a USB 2.0 port and a USB 3.0 port, while the left sports a headphone jack, Memory Stick/SD(XC) card reader, HDMI and VGA for video, and Ethernet. Wireless duties are handled by the usual Wi-Fi N plus Bluetooth, while an HD webcam takes care of video chatting.
Sony has a bit of a mixed record with its laptop keyboards, and unfortunately the T13 is no exception. Its chiclet keyboard isn’t backlit, but that’s expected from a budget Ultrabook. Less forgivable is that, though keys are well-spaced and feel pleasant, feedback is so shallow as to offer a rather nebulous typing experience. In other words, it’s usable but not pleasant.
We have no complaints regarding the touchpad though. While not as large as the massive glass pads on many premium Ultrabooks, it offers a pleasant surface and responsive action, with a nice click to its integrated ‘buttons’.