Friday, 14 December 2012

Sony Vaio Duo 11 review

Sony's first attempt at a laptop-tablet convertible

Product Sony Vaio Duo 11
Website Sony Europe
Specifications Intel Core I5 or I7 CPU, up to 8GB RAM, 1920x1080 11.6in capacitive touchscreen, integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics, 128GB or 256GB SSD storage, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.0 with USB charge, VGA out, HDMI out, Memory Stick Duo and SD memory card combined slot, one front-facing and one rear-facing webcam, Windows 8 Professional, 320x199x18mm, 1.3kg
Price £849

THE VAIO DUO 11 is Sony's first attempt at luring those in the market for both a laptop and a tablet to save money and buy a device that is both.

Unveiled at the IFA electronics expo in Berlin back in August, the Vaio Duo 11 runs Windows 8 and transforms from a tablet to a laptop via an HD display that slides up in what Sony calls a "Slide Surfer" style to reveal a full size QWERTY keyboard hidden underneath.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 laptop tablet hybrid tablet
Sony Vaio Duo 11

The Sony Vaio Duo 11's most obvious selling point is that it is a hybrid device that has two different modes: laptop and tablet. When in tablet mode, this transformation is achieved by supporting the back of the lid with one hand while pushing the front of it backwards so that it pops up via a hinge, exposing a keyboard and mouse track button underneath.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 laptop tablet hybrid hinge
Sony Vaio Duo 11

Going from one to the other isn't the easiest transition we've experienced on a hybrid device, nor is it the smoothest. Your first try with the Duo 11 certainly won't be the last attempt before the display lifts up. Unless you're completely used to and have developed the knack for opening it correctly, it's going to take a few attempts before getting it right first time. We think Sony should have spent more time developing a less fiddly sliding mechanism that is easier to operate, such as a slide button for instance, so that you don't have to use both hands to open it up. However, this might just take some getting used to.

The mechanism used on the sliding action also doesn't feel as sturdy as we would like when moving from tablet to laptop mode, and this worries us a little.

Design and build
Aside from the weak feeling slide mechanism, the Vaio Duo 11 is nicely finished and projects a premium but minimalist style. Its all-black chassis has a high gloss shine to it, with sharp edges that make it look stylish and worth the £850 it costs.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 laptop tablet hybrid side
Sony Vaio Duo 11 laptop tablet

Weighing 1.3kg, it's heavy enough to feel expensive while not feeling too heavy to carry around in a bag. Measuring 320x199x18mm, it does feel a little chunky when in tablet mode, which is a shame, and if it was just a few millimetres thinner it would feel better to use.

KeyboardThe keyboard is perhaps our least favourite aspect of the Vaio Duo 11. This is because there is no track pad. When typing we found our fingers naturally wanted to move to a track pad due to the location of the mouse buttons. The mouse button is irritating to use and doesn't provide an enjoyable experience.
Sony Vaio Duo 11 laptop tablet hybrid keyboard overview
Sony Vaio Duo 11 laptop tablet

Seated and using the Vaio Duo 11 at a desk, it can also feel a little restrictive, as the small keyboard doesn't offer space for your hands to do the usual swift movements on a larger sized keyboard. However, those looking to use it for long periods of time at a desk can always invest in a full size portable USB keyboard and mouse to accompany it.
Sony Vaio Duo 11 laptop tablet hybrid keyboard
Sony Vaio Duo 11 laptop tablet

Though it looks and feels well built, it's fair to say the keys are a little too far apart and also quite small, meaning you can miss certain letters occasionally while typing. We can't help but think that Sony could have made the Vaio Duo 11 keys bigger and thus closer together to improve typing accuracy.

One of our favourite features of the Vaio Duo 11 is its touchscreen display. This is due to its Opticontrast panel, which means it has a special resin layer that Sony says helps to absorb any diffused light delivered from the backlight for high contrast and natural colours. The 11in display panel also reduces glare from light sources, with little light reflected when in use.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 laptop tablet hybrid overview
Sony Vaio Duo 11 laptop tablet

The Vaio Duo 11's screen resolution is set at 1920x1080 and though it provides brilliant viewing for movies, for general use it feels a little too high for its 11in screen. Text appears tiny so if your eyes aren't great, it's probably worth changing it to 1600x900. However, it is worth noting that the screen doesn't seem as crisp overall at this setting. 

The Vaio Duo 11's built-in accelerometer, which ensures that the screen display rotates to whatever viewing angle you are holding the device, is not as responsive as in other tablet/hybrid devices we've seen, such as the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13. It takes a while to turn around from one position to the other and you sometimes have to go out of your way and lean it forward for it to come back to a horizontal view.
Sony Vaio Duo 11 laptop tablet hybrid connections
Sony Vaio Duo 11 laptop tablet

One other downside to the screen is that it attracts smudge prints a little too easily. Though this is expected with all touchscreen devices, in our tests we felt it showed them up a little more than other screens on the market, which made it look rather greasy. This isn't really an issue when the screen brightness is turned up, however.

Performance and OS
Running the Windows 8 operating system, the Vaio Duo 11 is powered by a choice of Intel Core I5 or Core I7 processors and up to 8GB of RAM. It costs £849 for the most basic Core I5, 2GB model, with prices jumping up by £320 for a Core I7 processor, and another £30 for 4GB of RAM, or £100 extra for 8GB. Windows 8 Professional is also available for an extra £40.

Our review model was an 8GB Core I7 processor model and scored a Windows Performance Index score of 5.6. The score is determined by the lowest sub-score, in this case desktop graphics performance, and not an average result of the performance of components.
The sony vaio duo 11 performed pretty well in the windows index score
sony vaio duo 11

Though the score was pulled down by the Vaio Duo 11's Integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics power, all other results scored much better, with processor calculations per second scoring 7.1 out of 9.9, disk data transfer gaining a 8.1 score and RAM operations per second earning a score of 7.9.

Unless you're using the Vaio Duo 11 for gaming on high graphic settings - which the device hasn't been built for anyway - you're not going to notice much lag, as in our tests both touchscreen and non-touchscreen operations seemed fluid, with the Vaio Duo 11 responding very quickly to commands. As an ultrabook convertible device, we found it will perform all your daily needs effortlessly. However, we tested a more powerful configuration of the Vaio Duo 11, so cheaper options might not perform as well as our test model did.

Overall, the Vaio Duo 11 handled the Windows 8 OS very well, with very little lag when swiping between pages, and programs popping up almost as soon as we selected them. However, after installing a good number of applications and storing a sufficient amount of data, we can imagine it will slow a bit.

Connectivity, storage and battery life
In terms of battery life, we thought the Vaio Duo 11 performed pretty well. When starting on full charge at 11am, it ran out of power at 5:30pm, and that was while in continual use performing general tasks. This included watching movies and web browsing without letting the screen turn off or go into sleep mode.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 laptop tablet hybrid back power
Sony Vaio Duo 11 laptop tablet

There's also a variety of connectivity options available on the Vaio Duo 11, which is unusual for such a portable device. There's your standard 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 alongside one USB 3.0 slot and one USB 3.0 slot with USB charge so that devices can be charged even when the device is turned off. There's also a VGA out, HDMI out, and a Memory Stick Duo and SD card combined port. There's even a dedicated Ethernet port for those who rely on a wired internet connection.

The Vaio Duo 11 comes with either a 128GB or 256GB SSD drive to store all your data. Prices reflect these accordingly, with the larger of the two storage options costing an extra £180 on top of the £849 starting price.

In Short
The Vaio Duo 11 looks better on paper than when you test it for yourself and use it in real life situations. In tablet mode it will probably be a little too bulky for most people, and the hinge doesn't feel as strong as it should when sliding it into laptop mode.

As a notebook, however, it does perform really well, and the HD screen is high quality, and very clear and enjoyable to use with Windows 8. The small keyboard is a big factor here though, but if you can live without a trackpad, you will most probably just get used to its more compact design. But for £849 for the least powerful configuration, we think it is a little too expensive for what you get.
The Good
Vibrant display, portable, well built.

The Bad
No track pad, a little chunky, not great as a tablet.

The Ugly
Weak feeling sliding mechanism makes it difficult to operate.

Bartender's Score

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