Review Price £579.00
Sony VAIO T13 Ultrabook Hands-on
Sony has finally entered the Ultrabook market with its T Series. Available models include the 11in T11 and the 13in T13, which goes up against similarly sized models from every other major manufacturer. We went hands-on to see what its chances might be.
If you’ve become used to Ultrabooks being the definition of slim and light for their screen size, forget about that with the silver T13. It eshews the wedge shape of so many competitors for a flat profile, while at 17.8mm thick and weighing a relatively whopping 1.6kg it’s well past Intel’s original ‘guidelines’ for a 13in Ultrabook (but within the new expanded ones). Basically it’s more of an HP Folio 13 than a Samsung Series 9 900X3B, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – especially since Sony is also following the Folio’s lead in beating most Ultrabooks on price at launch, with an MSRP of under £700.
While we have to say we’re not as fond of this design as the bulky but more streamlined Folio, the VAIO T13 is nonetheless an attractive ultraportable that stands out from the crowd thanks to its shape and unusual chromed hinge. Its lid is brushed aluminium while the palm rest and keyboard area are composed of a magnesium alloy, which gives a softer, warmer surface for your palms to rest on while typing. Build quality throughout is very good with closely fitted panels and no unwanted creak or flex.
Connectivity leads the Ultrabook pack since the VAIO T13’s thicker chassis and flat profile allow plenty of room for full-size connectors across the board. The left houses a USB 2 port and a USB 3.0 connector with support for sleep charging – in other words, you can charge devices even when the laptop is turned off. On this Ultrabook’s right you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack, SDXC/ProDuo card reader, HDMI, VGA and Gigabit Ethernet.
The wireless side of things is also well catered with Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 4.0, though if you want 3G you’ll need to step up to a more expensive model in the VAIO ultraportable range.
Typing isn’t everything it could be. The VAIO T13’s chiclet keyboard sports large, well-spaced keys, but their feedback is too shallow for comfort. The buttonless touchpad also seemed to have a few issues, as the cursor would jump around erratically on occasion. However, this may have been a temporary software issue with the display model.
Likewise the screen is on the average side. It’s a pretty standard 13.3in TN panel with a 1,366 x 768 resolution and attractive semi-glossy finish that picks up the occasional reflection but does help to improve perceived black depth and colour vividness. Viewing angles are decent but not great, with the usual contrast and colour shift visible from the sides and top.
We didn’t have the chance to test the speakers but supposedly the xLOUD and Clear Phase technologies Sony has used in the T13’s speakers should ensure good audio by Ultrabook standards.
Internals cover the usual range of Ultrabook specs. The basic sub-£700 VAIO T13 configuration comes with an Intel Core i3 CPU backed by 4GB of RAM and a 32GB SSD plus 320GB HDD hybrid for storage., but this can be upgraded. As the initial samples will use Sandy Bridge, graphics are still of the HD3000 variety unsuited to much 3D gaming.
The single most impressive factor about Sony’s first Ultrabook is a claimed battery life of nine hours, at least if you opt for a model with pure SSD. If this comes close to holding up it will be a huge plus. Given this VAIO is also the cheapest Ultrabook on the market after the £670 Acer Aspire S3 (which doesn’t give you USB 3.0), we can definitely see the VAIO T13 making an impact at the budget end of the premium Ultraportable market.
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