Sony boldly entered the ultrabook market last year, releasing its moderately priced Vaio T13. A solid entry into the ultrabook space, the T13 received generally positive reviews but failed to reignite corporate interest in Sony laptops, contributing to yet another lull in sales for the Japanese giant. Not willing to give up, Sony's retargeted the space, unveiling its top end Pro 13, claiming the device is the lightest touchscreen ultrabook ever made.
Design and build
Visually, as is the case with most Sony devices, the Pro is very slick. The model we had some time with featured a brushed black finish, that combined with its hardline, slim dimensions and design gave it a very swish, corporate feel similar to that seen on Lenovo's X1 Carbon ultrabook. The Pro 13 was also very light for its size, measuring in at 322x216x17.2mm and weighing just 1.06kg, similar to the 1.08kg MacBook Air. The low weight is seriously impressive considering some of the hardcore components and ports housed in the Pro's carbon fibre chassis, with it boasting USB 3.0, USB 3.0 with charge, SD memory card, HDMI out, Bluetooth, NFC and WiFi connectivity options. Opening impressions also suggest the Pro is fairly well built, with it having as solid feel that left us sure it could survive a few odd bumps and scrapes.
Display-wise the Pro 13 comes with a 13.3in Full HD 1920x1080 Triluminos touchscreen. As we found on the similarly specced Vaio Duo 13 Sony convertible, the display is pleasant to use when viewed directly, but suffered from glare issues, regularly catching any stray light and featured surprisingly poor viewing angles, quickly becoming illegible when viewed at even a slight angle. However, to be fair to the Pro 13, the lighting conditions on the press-expo floor were particularly punishing, being strewn with ridiculously bright lights that made every device we had at hand difficult to use.
Operating system and software
The Pro 13 will be released with Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro options. Windows 8 is yet to massively take off in the corporate space with many firms preferring to avoid the costly experience of a general upgrade and sticking to their older Windows 7, Vista or even XP systems. Our experience using Windows 8 on the Pro 13 was positive, with its nippy, responsive touchscreen making it a doddle to navigate, a fact aided by the fact Sony hasn't overloaded the device with too many custom applications.
In terms of power, the out of the box Pro 13 will feature an Intel Core i7-4500U with Turbo boost Technology, that will be backed up by 8GB of RAM and a hybrid solid state drive. While we didn't get a chance to properly put the Pro 13 though its paces or benchmark it, the on-paper specs mean it should be more than powerful enough for most business purposes and during our hands on we didn't notice any software bugs or glitches hampering its performance.
Our opening tests suggest the Pro 13 is a decent ultrabook, offering business users a solidly built, yet surprisingly light power-house Windows 8 experience. However, there's currently no word on how much the Pro 13 will cost when it's released later this month, meaning it's difficult to tell how much businesses will have to pay for the premium experience. Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Sony Vaio Pro 13.
By Alastair Stevenson. Follow him on Twitter: @MonkeyGuru
06 Jun 2013