Sony VAIO Pro 13 review
Sony pushes the boundaries of the Ultrabook concept with its slim, powerful, ultra-light VAIO Pro 13
Review Date: 15 Jun 2013
Reviewed By: Sasha Muller
Price when reviewed: £982 (£1,178 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
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.
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.
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/m2, 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.
Lets hope that now they have managed to make a decent Ultrabook they will try and make a decent business laptop.
By tirons1 on 15 Jun 2013
Precursor to the new Z series?
Kudos to Sony for stealing Apple's Air thunder.
By imaginarynumber on 15 Jun 2013
Not an Air beater
Nice try Sony but the latest Apple MacBook Air with Haswell is still better built, has longer battery life and is not hampered by Windows 8, which is the only reason it needs the touch screen!
And to top is all off the Apple is actually cheaper.
By bernardm3 on 15 Jun 2013
Different Pros and Cons
I don't want this to be a 'versus' type comment but simply each has pros and cons.
The two big things the Pro has over the MBA 13 is 1) better screen - 1080p IPS LCD
2) lower weight
both of which matter to me a great deal.
Both machines have great battery life, the fact the MBA now gets 10 hours rather than 7 matters not to me. I view battery life generally as a hygiene factor - a certain minimum is necessary but beyond what I need for my use, I don't really care about it.
Windows 8 - that's a personal choice. A number of people (including PC Pro staff I believe) have said that a good touchscreen laptop and Windows 8 work quite nicely together. I like Windows 8 on my non-touchscreen already.
Build quality - this matters a bit especially as I am travelling. But I would take care of any laptop I owned. My current, 5-year old cheap and plasticky laptop would not be considered to have good build quality, the plastic flexes when pushed and yet I consider it to be a tank and there's not so much as a scratch on it despite having travelled with me on a daily basis for four years to all sorts of places. So yes the MBA build quality is better but I'd rather have the lower weight.
By TheBigM72 on 16 Jun 2013
Magnificient piece of kit, just such a shame there is no Thunderbolt. It would be great to take this on the road and then at home plug the Thunderbolt to a big screen, HDs and an external GPU. I am just waiting for such a machine so I can get rid of my desktop PC once and for all.
By TheMegamale on 17 Jun 2013
No docking station port!
Over the years, a distinguishing feature of business laptops has been the presence of a docking station connection, making it easy to connect up Ethernet, power, USB and screen when you return to base. Both the Z and TZ models had this, so the Vaio Pro models are not adequate replacements.
By ngpday on 20 Jun 2013
Dear Sasha, I would like to know how the new triluminous screen, non touch version, compares to the 'old' display premium that the Z series and mine, F series has. Do you think there has been and improvement? I believe the quality has been reduced, I hope I am wrong. I think in a way the quality of the laptops regarding the screen is going backwards, at least with Sony just to save money and make laptops more competitive or affordable. If so, it is a pity since I think Sony display premium 1080p is very nice indeed as the one I am using now to write this comment.
By josito66 on 22 Jun 2013
Nobody seems to have noticed the HD-5000 IRIS in the MBA
I don't like Apple much, but Apple did manage to include a Haswell processor with an HD-5000 IRIS GPU. That makes a huge difference compared to the lame HD-4400 in the Vaio pro.
Now, if Apple would only make a little more of an effort to get Windows to run well on their machines, and quit purposely preventing user upgrades, we could talk...
By Touko on 6 Jul 2013
I just bought the pro 13 with the touchscreen, i5 processor, 8gb ram, 128gb ssd and windows 8 home.
The laptop i was replacing was my 5 year old HP 530, i like to watch films and videos online and i expected the sony vaio pro 13 to stream smoothly, instead i cant watch youtube videos and stream movies without waiting 10 mins for it to load. My old hp can load and stream the video instantly and will not stop throughout.
Can anyone help and this isnt great seen as the reviews have said its such a graet laptop.
By willbrooksyy on 22 Aug 2013
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