Sony VAIO Pro 13 review

15 Jun 2013

Sony pushes the boundaries of the Ultrabook concept with its slim, powerful, ultra-light VAIO Pro 13

Price when reviewed: 
1,178(£1,179 inc VAT)
5

The Sony VAIO Pro 13 rises from the ashes of the VAIO Z Series, Sony’s legendary ultraportable. With Intel’s Haswell processors and a Full HD touchscreen packed into a 13in chassis that weighs only a little more than a kilogram, the VAIO Pro 13 is an attempt to redefine what we expect from a lightweight, portable laptop.

It’s a subtle evolution rather than a dramatic redesign, though. The same silver flash slashes across the laptop’s rear; the same VAIO logo is writ large across the jet-black lid; and while the VAIO Pro shares its predecessor’s sharp, elegant design, Sony has softened the VAIO Z’s squared-off physique to create a sleeker, more streamlined appearance.

Sony VAIO Pro 13

More dramatically, the redesign sees the VAIO Pro emerge as the lightest 13in Ultrabook ever to grace PC Pro’s Labs. Although the addition of a touchscreen means the chassis is a hair’s breadth thicker than the previous model (18mm rather than 17mm) Sony has trimmed down the weight to a featherweight 1.05kg.

As you might expect, there’s a price to pay for such a pared-down design. Despite the liberal use of super-strong carbon fibre, the VAIO Pro’s lightweight frame feels much bendier and more flexible than the Apple MacBook Air or Dell XPS 13. Admittedly, yanking a laptop’s body to and fro is no scientific measure of a laptop’s toughness, but in a field where quality is synonymous with heft and rigidity, the VAIO Pro 13’s ultra-flexible chassis is a mite disconcerting.

In all the key areas, however, the VAIO Pro oozes quality, and Sony has clearly been hard at work improving on the VAIO Z Series’ ergonomics. The Scrabble tile keyboard is far more responsive and comfortable than before, as each key now has noticeably more travel and feedback, and the small, moderately fiddly touchpad has made way for a much larger one with a buttonless design.

Sony VAIO Pro 13

The good news continues elsewhere. Accommodating a touchscreen in a 1.05kg laptop is a feat in itself, but the VAIO Pro’s Full HD touchscreen is as good as they get. The Windows 8 Start screen bursts forth in a riot of colour, and reacts instantly to the lightest brush and sweep of a finger, tiles sliding by with delicious fluidity.

The Sony’s 13in display is technically excellent, too. Brightness reaches an ample 345cd/m[sup]2[/sup], and thanks to the panel’s excellent black levels, the contrast ratio of 932:1 is up there with the very best Ultrabooks. The panel’s colour temperature and gamma are a mere whisker away from perfection. Viewing angles are wide and colour accuracy is very good – the VAIO Pro 13’s display produced an average Delta E of 3.1, which is excellent by laptop standards. The only minor niggle is that the Sony’s touchscreen layer adds a slight graininess to images, but it isn’t distracting.

The VAIO Pro 13 packs ample performance into its stick-thin chassis. Our review unit partnered one of the latest Intel Haswell processors – the dual-core 1.8GHz Core i7-4500U – with 4GB of DDR3L low-voltage RAM and a 128GB SSD. In everyday use, it’s just as responsive as the best Ultrabooks, with ultra-quick start-up times and enough power to whip applications into view in the blink of an eye.

For raw application speed, though, Intel’s Haswell processors are no quicker than their Ivy Bridge predecessors. Performance in our Real World Benchmarks was broadly similar, and the VAIO Pro 13 returned an unremarkable score of 0.62.

Details

Price ex VAT £982
Price inc VAT £1,178
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 2 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 322 x 216 x 18mm (WDH)
Weight 1.050kg
Travelling weight 1.5kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-4200
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 1

Screen and video

Screen size 13.0in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 4400
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 128GB
Hard disk usable capacity 119GB
Hard disk SSD
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek 8112L
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 10hr 32min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 39fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.62
Responsiveness score 0.81
Media score 0.66
Multitasking score 0.38

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 8 64-bit
OS family Windows 8