There’s no denying that Sony surprises its audience with off-beat designs and style. Remember the Sony Vaio P, a PC that could easily slide in your pocket? Not to mention the slick, ultra-slim digital cameras from Cyber-shot T-series and the incredibly colourful Vaio C-series notebooks. Sony’s hybrid laptop, the Vaio Duo 11 follows suit with a striking design that helps it transform from a tablet into an Ultrabook. Let’s find out what it packs under the hood.
Doesn't it remind you of the Asus Eee Pad Slider?
Design and features
While it may come across as unique, it’s not the first time we’re seeing such a design. From the closed position, you have to gently lift the top of the display and slide it outward to transform it into an Ultrabook. Thanks to the spring-loaded mechanism, it doesn’t take much effort. We first saw such a design in the Asus Eee Pad Slider, which was a 10.1-inch Android tablet.
The core of the Vaio Duo 11 is very similar to that of the Dell XPS 12 (read review here). Both run the Intel Core i5-3317U processor and pack 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid state drive, which make for stellar performance and blazing file transfer speeds. Other similarities between the two are full HD display, backlit keyboard and integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics. However, the 11.6-inch display being about an inch smaller than the one in the XPS 12 looks crisper due to higher pixel density; it’s an IPS panel with capacitive touchscreen. Also, at 1.3kg the Vaio Duo 11 is around 230 grams lighter than the XPS 12. It’s pretty light for an Ultrabook, but not quite if you look at it as a tablet.
Two USB 3.0 ports and HDMI output
Sony hasn’t compromised much on the feature set despite the compact form. If you notice carefully, you’ll see that the chassis is thicker towards the rear of the keyboard, like a thick bar—that’s where the core resides. Vents are present on the rear to channel the hot air expelled by the CPU cooler. Just next to it is a Gigabit Ethernet port with a plastic flap that holds the RJ45 connector in place when you plug in the network cable. All the ports and jacks are placed on the sides, but towards the rear. On the left you have a D-sub port, a card reader and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. The right side is home to a pair of USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port and the power button.
Build quality and ergonomics
The all-black Vaio Duo 11 scores high when it comes to aesthetics. In ‘tablet mode’ the glossy panel looks attractive, although it would have been nicer had the frame around the display been thin. It’s a fingerprint magnet, so it’s advisable to keep a piece of microfiber or lint-free cloth handy to restore the sheen from time to time. One thing that’s a given for all premium products by Sony is the all-round superior build. Right from the quality of the buttons and hinges to the keyboard to the chassis, the Vaio Duo 11 is very well built.
Exposed cables and hard to clean
The only thing we liked about the sliding mechanism is that it looks fancy, nothing else! We feel it’s more gimmicky than practical. The viewing angle, although comfortable, cannot be adjusted. Also, the area behind the display isn’t easily accessible should you want to clean. The design also restricts the size of the keyboard to quite an extent. The keyboard is of the island type and you may find it hard to type if you have large hands or stubby fingers. Instead of a touchpad, Sony has provided a touch-sensitive nub at the centre of the keyboard, between the G and H keys. The mouse buttons are placed along the bottom edge. In addition to tracking, the nub also detects clicks and double-clicks when you tap on it. Just like the saying “something is better than nothing”, it may work for you, but only a five-year-old child with tiny hands will find using it comfortable, especially reaching for the mouse buttons with the thumb while the index finger is on the nub. A slight play in the nub that can be felt when you tap on it further adds to the woes. You’ll be way better off with a mouse, and that’s possible only if you’re at your desk.
You may find using the keyboard and mouse buttons uncomfortable
The Vaio Duo 11 is equipped with two full HD webcams. One is in the front for video conferencing, and the other is at the back. Physical buttons for volume control are also placed at the back for instant access while you’re using the laptop as a tablet.
Updated 21 May, 2013, 8:08 pm IST
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