Tuesday, November 27, 2012

SONY Vaio Duo 11

Why You'll Dig it:

WINDOWS 8 is designed to work equally well on tablets as on laptop or desktop PCs, so it’s perfect for Sony’s new Vaio Duo 11 ultraportable tablet hybrid. In its closed form, the Duo is a 21mm-thick tablet. Its sensitive, glossy 11in IPS touchscreen picks up fingerprints a little too easily, but its color reproduction is brilliant and the 1,920x1,080 display can play video in glorious HD. Move a tab on one side of the tablet and the screen hinges open on a plastic support to reveal a narrow keyboard with small, widely spaced keys.

Whether it’s in tablet or laptop configuration, the screen rotates its contents freely, using a combination of accelerometer and gyro sensors to work out the correct orientation for the screen at any point. This sometimes meant the screen switched to portrait mode when we were using it with the keyboard open. Fortunately, Sony has anticipated the problem and includes a small button on the back of the Duo that enables and disables autorotation. You can also disable rotation manually in the Screen Resolution settings.

The keyboard may be small, but we were pleased to find that it’s comfortable to use and allowed us to touch-type quickly and accurately. The keys are flat, but the wide space between them makes it easy to strike the right letter. There’s no numeric keypad, but there are cursor keys at the bottom-right of the keyboard and a full set of function keys. The keyboard is backlit for ease of use in dark environments.

Video Review (MobilTechReview)

Finer Details

There’s no trackpad, but there are plenty of other options for controlling your pointer. The capacitive touchscreen responds readily to multitouch gestures with your fingers, but Sony has also provided a double-ended conductive stylus complete with buttons. This is better for fine control on the small, high-resolution display, making it easier to complete delicate tasks such as selecting and dragging folders within a directory tree.

Where To Get it?

If you’re uncomfortable with touch controls or you’d rather not lift your hands from the keyboard while typing, you can use the touchstick controller, which is nestled amid the B, G and H keys, along with three rudimentary mouse buttons beneath the space bar. You can use these to right-, left- and middle-click just as you would with a more traditional input device. On the back of the Duo, behind the keyboard, is a pair of volume control buttons, which rest next to one of the integrated stereo speakers. These sound far richer than you’d have any right to expect from their size, although they’re still a little tinny.

If you demand more from your audio than these speakers can provide, you can use the stereo line output to connect headphones or a pair of speakers. The Duo isn’t exactly overburdened with ports, but those it has are useful. There’s a memory card slot that can handle high-capacity SDXC and Memory Stick HG Duo cards, as well as a Gigabit Ethernet port. HDMI and VGA video outputs make it easy to connect a projector, TV or a second screen, and there are two USB3 ports for high-speed external storage devices.

This is particularly handy as the Duo’s SSD provides a little less storage space than you’d expect from a hard disk in a comparatively priced laptop, although it’s significantly faster and more robust. Once you’ve accounted for the space occupied by the operating system restore partition, there’s 208GB of disk space. That’s enough for a fair number of programs and a decent amount of data, and because it’s an SSD it boots exceptionally quickly.

The rest of the specification is also pretty impressive, as you’d expect at this price. The processor is a dual-core mobile Core i7-3517U that runs at 1.9GHz. It has integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 graphics processing capabilities, which means it can play most 3D games if you reduce the quality settings enough. It managed around 30fps in Dirt 3 at 720p and High Quality with anti-aliasing disabled, but we could only squeeze 20fps out of Crysis 2 at high quality.

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Crunching Gear

When it comes to raw processing power, our application benchmarks gave us plenty to be pleased about. An overall score of 59 makes this one of the most powerful Ultrabooks you’re likely to find. Despite its massive power (we’re used to more modest Core i5 processors in our ultraportable laptops), the Duo ran for around seven hours in our battery tests, and it’s remarkably quiet, with a fan that you can only hear if you press your ear to the bottom of the chassis. It didn’t get very warm, either, even after hours of constant use.

As a tablet, the Duo isn’t as light, stylish or comfortable to hold as Apple’s iPad, for example, but it’s a lot more powerful, has a bigger screen and runs a proper desktop operating system. It’s still reasonably comfortable to hold as you read the paper, watch a film or pass it around at a meeting, but its tablet features feel secondary to its capabilities as a laptop. Transforming it from tablet to laptop is awkward and the stand that hinges out to support the screen in its upright position feels a little fragile. The Duo benefits from the new touchscreen applications and features in Windows 8, making it feel far less awkward than previous Windows tablets. Dual-band Wi-Fi, an integrated GPS receiver and Bluetooth support round out the portable-friendly side of the specification.

Taken purely on its merits as a powerful ultra-portable laptop, the Vaio Duo 11 matches Asus’s award-winning 13in ZenBook Prime UX31A. However, its 11in screen, awkward unfolding mechanism and slightly bulky feel in tablet mode mean that, although it’s a good piece of kit for power users on the move, it’s not quite slick enough to win an award.


PROCESSOR 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U
GRAPHICS Intel HD Graphics 4000
DISPLAY 11.6in widescreen LCD touchscreen (1,920x1,080)
DIMENSIONS 21x322x200mm, 1.3kg
POWER CONSUMPTION 1W standby, 12W idle, 42W active
WARRANTY One-year collect and return

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