The Bottom Line
Sep 17 2012 - If you are looking for an ultrabook with solid performance and lots of storage space, Sony's VAIO T offers both of these for just under $1000. Buyers will have to contend with a number of tradeoffs to get this extra performance though. This is thicker and heavier than many ultrabooks at this price point. The screen is dim and reflective that makes it hard to use in certain light. Finally, the keyboard is not backlit and has short throws making it somewhat uncomfortable. Now, Sony does clad this in a very attractive brushed aluminum that does give it a more premium look and feel.
- Fast Performance From Core i7 and 6GB Memory
- Attracive Design
- Thicker And Heavier Than Much Of The Competition
- Display Is Too Dark And Reflective
- Keyboard Needs Work
- Intel Core i7-3517U Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 6GGB PC3-10600 DDR3 Memory
- 500GB 5400rpm Hybrid Hard Drive With 32GB Solid State Cache
- 13.3" WXGA (1366x768) Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated Graphics
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- One USB 3.0, One USB 2.0, VGA, HDMI, 4-in-1 Card Reader
- 12.7" x 8.9" x .71" @ 3.5 lbs.
- Windows 7 Home Premium, Office Starter, Kaspersky Internet Security
Review - Sony VAIO SVT13116FX
Sep 17 2012 - Sony's first ultrabook takes a slightly different approach from the competition when it comes to their design. Sure, it has the iconic brushed metal lid with a contrasting black keyboard made popular by the MacBook Air. The problem is that it doesn't have the same sleek profile or light weight as much as the competition. Instead it features a very slight taper from its just over seven-tenths of an inch hinge to the front. Now, some of this lack of taper is to allow them to put some larger peripheral ports on the right side including a gigabit Ethernet and VGA port which are generally absent from the ultrathin designs. The weight tops just over three and a half pounds that also makes it one of the heaviest.
One area where the Sony VAIO T does outshine the competition is the processing power. The SVT13116FX model comes with the Intel Core i7-3517U dual core processor that offers improved clock speed at stock and Turbo Boosted speeds. In addition to this, Sony equips the system with 6GB of DDR3 memory. This allows it to have a smoother experience when multitasking or using more demanding applications such as desktop video editing. The only downside is that Sony decided to use 1333MHz memory compared to the 1600MHz memory that most of its competitors do. This was likely a cost cutting measure but it does hold it back slightly from its full potential.
Rather than using a solid state drive exclusively for storage, Sony has opted to use a hybird hard drive solution for the VAIO T. In this case, it offers a sizable 500GB of storage space and uses 32GB of solid state cache to help boost performance. In terms of booting speed, it is certainly faster than a standard hard drive at just over thirty seconds but it still falls short of under twenty second boot times of the Acer Aspire S5 or the Apple MacBook Air 13 that both use SSD drives. Of course, this is the tradeoff to have more storage space for your applications, data and media files. If you do need more space, Sony has included a single USB 3.0 port for use with high speed external storage devices.
The display of the Sony VAIO T probably has more issues than it should. It certainly is fairly typical when it comes to the 13.3-inch size and 1366x768 resolution. The problem is that the display lacks brightness which is compounded by the glossy coating that will make it near impossible to use outside or in lighting that is prone to glare or reflections. In addition to this, the vertical viewing angles were awkward with the screen needing to a tilted back to prevent some washout. For the graphics, it uses the Intel HD Graphics 4000 that is built into the processor that just about every ultrabook uses. It offers improved 3D performance but still isn't really suited for PC gaming beyond older titles at lower resolutions and detail levels. What it can do though is offer improved media encoding speeds when using Quick Sync compatible applications.
The VAIO T uses a standard isolated keyboard design that Sony has used for many years on their laptops. Normally, this offers a very comfortable and accurate experience but the keys are slightly recessed and have a very short travel that ends up with a very different experience than one would expect. In addition to this, there is no backlighting on the keyboard which is probably a cost measure as many in this price range do have it. The trackpad uses an integrated button surface that is flush with the palmrest. It offers a nice accurate experience for single and multitouch gestures and does a good job with accidental palm brushes when typing. The only real downside here is that the trackpad is smaller than what it found on many competing ultrabooks.
Sony uses an internal 4050mAh capacity battery pack for the VAIO T. This is a bit smaller than some of the other ultrabooks on the market. They claim that this can achieve up to seven and a half hours of running time. In digital video playback tests, the system was able to run for five and a quarter hours before going into standby mode. This is a bit better than many other hybrid hard drive equipped systems but still falls short of what the Apple MacBook Air 13 or the HP Folio 13 with their six hour or more running time. It is not likely that the system will be able to reach Sony's claim in traditional usage but six hours is probably reasonable.
Sony has a number of competitors in the 13-inch category that also use hybrid hard drives including the ASUS Zenbook UX32A, Dell Inspiron 13z and Lenovo IdeaPad U310. The ASUS Zenbook is probably the closest in price but sacrifices a bit in performance for a thinner and lighter profile that still comes with three USB 3.0 ports. Dell's technically is not an ultrabook but has a similarly large size and weight but lower price tag thanks to a slower overall performance. Lenovo is also less expensive but with a better keyboard at the cost of less battery life and slower performance.