Sony VAIO Fit 13A multi-flip review

14 Nov 2013

A clever, attractive hybrid design ruined by ergonomic issues and an ever-whirring cooling fan

Price when reviewed: 
1,000inc VAT
4

It's been some time in the making, but Sony has finally found its answer to Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga range of hybrid Windows 8 devices. The VAIO Fit 13A multi-flip marries a handsome Ultrabook-class figure with an ingenious, concealed hinge that allows it to transform into a 13.3in tablet.

The only clue to the VAIO Fit 13A's twin identities is the fissure running along the centre of its lid – it's here that the hinge for the laptop's dual-position display hides.

Sony VAIO Fit 13A multi-flip

Release the latch above the keyboard and the screen spins through 180 degrees, strong magnets snapping it into place. That done, you can fold the screen flat against the laptop's body and use it as a tablet, or tilt it up and use the keyboard base as a stand.

It's a party trick we've seen before in the Sony 14in VAIO Fit 14A multi-flip, but the VAIO Fit 13A multi-flip is far lighter and more portable, measuring 18mm thick and weighing a mere 1.29kg.

Sony VAIO Fit 13A multi-flip

The 13.3in touchscreen is justifiably the centre of attention. It's an IPS panel providing a pin-sharp Full HD resolution, and its 313cd/m[sup]2[/sup] maximum brightness and 826:1 contrast ratio are matched by a vivid palette of colour. This is one of the few laptop displays to cover the entire sRGB gamut.

It's very accurate: we measured an impressive average Delta E of 3.1, ensuring photos and video will look as they're meant to. There's a stylus supplied in the box, which provides pressure-sensitive inking and handwriting support. The only negative point is that the faint grid pattern of the digitising layer is visible, but given the quality elsewhere, this is forgivable.

No Ultrabook possesses an abundance of ports, but the Sony is comparatively well appointed. There are two USB 3 ports, an HDMI output, an SD card reader and a 3.5mm headset jack scattered around its slender edges, and the provision of dual-band 802.11abgn wireless, Bluetooth 4 and NFC nails most of the essentials.

Sony VAIO Fit 13A multi-flip

Spend a little longer with the Sony, however, and its flaws bubble to the surface. Performance is the first to suffer. In our tests, the Sony's cooling fans struggled to keep the Haswell CPU in check: the fans ran almost constantly in everyday use, and spun up noisily during benchmarking sessions. It was only once we engaged the Sony's silent mode that the fans went quiet, but this had a deleterious effect on performance, throttling the CPU to a maximum of 800MHz.

Even with the Sony's Performance mode enabled, we noted slightly lower performance than with similarly specified rivals: the VAIO Fit 13A multi-flip scored 0.57 in our Real World Benchmarks. We suspect this result is down to the CPU running too hot to use Turbo Boost effectively. By comparison, the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 and Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus all possess the same i5 Haswell processor and hit benchmark scores of 0.59, 0.61 and 0.64 respectively.

Intel's Haswell does its best to swell the Sony's reserves of stamina, however. With screen brightness dimmed to 75cd/m2, and Wi-Fi toggled off, the VAIO Fit 13A multi-flip lasted 7hrs 25mins in our light-use battery test. That's acceptable, but not the best we've seen.

Sony VAIO Fit 13A multi-flip

Sadly – and just as we found with its big brother – the overall design leaves much to be desired. The sharp edges of the metal keyboard surround occasionally catch the wrists, and since the metal layer slightly overhangs the Sony's sides, it can obstruct chunkier USB devices or 3.5mm headphone jacks.

Build quality could be improved upon. The base flexes readily to and fro, and the noticeable give in the keyboard panel leaves each keystroke feeling deadened and lacking in feel. The buttonless touchpad is unimpressive, too, and we often found ourselves dabbing it multiple times to register left- and right-clicks – a driver may rectify matters in time, but for now it's frustrating.

The VAIO Fit 13A multi-flip is attractive, both visually and physically, but it puts in an inconsistent showing. The elegant hinge design and glorious display are soured by negatives such as the noisy cooling fans and patchy build quality. There's promise here, but if you're in the market for a hybrid device, the Dell XPS 12 is a far better buy.

Details

Price ex VAT £833
Price inc VAT £1,000
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 3
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 2 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 377 x 254 x 18mm (WDH)
Weight 1,290.000kg
Travelling weight 1,640.0kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-4200U
RAM capacity 8.00GB
Memory type DDR3

Screen and video

Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 4400
HDMI outputs 1

Drives

Hard disk Samsung SSD
Battery capacity 3,140mAh
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
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Pointing device type Touchpad
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 0.9mp

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 7hr 25min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 21fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.57
Responsiveness score 0.84
Media score 0.55
Multitasking score 0.32

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 8 64-bit
OS family Windows 8