The Sony Vaio T13 has been a long time coming but Sony has finally got its Ultrabook game-on and is ready to impress
Since the Ultrabook revolution kicked off at the end of last year, we've seen an array of manufacturers unleashing their skinny machines in an attempt to cash in on the latest PC trend.
The Apple MacBook Air (the Ultrabook that isn’t an Ultrabook at all) kicked off the newest laptop bandwagon and the likes of the Asus ZenBook UX31, the HP Envy 14 Spectre and the Acer Aspire S3 have since wowed us with their combinations of impressive spec sheets and skinny chassis.
But there was one notable absentee on the major manufacturer list. Until now that is, as Sony has unveiled its Ultrabook debut - the affordable Sony Vaio T13.
Sony Vaio T13: Build
While the price-tag of the Sony Vaio T13 is at the lower end of the Ultrabook spectrum, the build and design is anything but.
It’s one of the most refreshing Ultrabook models that we’ve seen to date with silver scheme made up of a mix of aluminium and magnesium alloy for the main chassis, with the lid consisting of a suave brushed aluminium.
It looks and feels industrial and rugged, and far from precious. You’ll feel confident slipping the Vaio T13 into your bag, safe in the knowledge that it should have no trouble with the odd knock or two.
It’s not the slimmest or lightest Ultrabook in town though, measuring 323 x 226 x 17.8mm and weighing 1.6kg.
Sony Vaio T13: Features
While there’s obviously been no compromise in the style stakes to keep this particular Sony Vaio T13 configuration below £700, the hardware setup does have some shortcomings.
Most notably is the lack of a third generation Ivy Bridge processor. You can opt for Intel’s latest CPU inside the T13 - but that decision comes at a cost. The Intel Core i5-3317U chip will cost you £100 extra; an i7-3517U one is £140 more.
Powering our review model was a 1.4GHz Sandy Bridge i3-2367M dual-core processor with Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics and 4GB of RAM.
This configuration makes this sub-£700 machine more than capable of carrying out your day-to-day tasks such as web browsing, document editing and basic picture editing.
It’s also more than capable of playing back HD media with no distinct stutter or lag.
There are plenty of port options on board, including a couple of USB ports (one of which is a faster USB 3.0 version), a VGA port, a HDMI port, an Ethernet port and a 3.5mm jack for your headphones or speakers.
There’s also a multi-card and wireless connectivity with 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
The built-in webcam is a 1.3MP powered by “Exmor for PC” one that delivered on its promise of sharper details, higher contrast and rich colours.
Sony Vaio T13: Screen
The 1366 x 768 resolution may not be Full HD, but is on a par with most of the other Ultrabooks available at the moment. Only the Asus ZenBook UX31 and HP Envy 14 Spectre from the official Ultrabook brigade offer an improvement on this.
We did find the semi-glossy display a bit reflective though, and the viewing angles aren’t great either. Colours did seem vibrant, however, and there was no noticeable ghosting when watching HD content.
Sony Vaio T13: Performance
The Ultrabook club is made up of Sandy Bridge machines at present, so it’s easy to make a comparison between this T13 version and its rivals.
Unfortunately, the Vaio Ultrabook doesn’t quite measure up in raw performance statistics, even compared to some of the cheaper slimline laptops such as the Acer Aspire S3 and the Novatech nFinity N367 Plus.
That’s not to say that the T13 is a laborious affair though - far from it. As mentioned, it had no worries playing back HD video, viewing photo slideshows is extremely slick, and carrying out everyday tasks won’t trouble it at all – even with multiple programs opened at one time.
Boot up times are also fast, especially from sleep, thanks to the dual SSD and HDD setup. Our model was equipped with a 32GB SSD, allowing the Intel Smart Response Technology and Sony's Rapid Wake to kick into action, meaning almost instantaneous wake times.
When it comes to the controls, unfortunately, there is no backlit keyboard, but the keys are comfortable to use and the trackpad is compact, not overly sensitive and uses integrated buttons, which we’re fans of.
Sound quality is particularly strong for an Ultrabook as a result of the xLOUD and Clear Phase technology on board.
Sony Vaio T13: Battery
Battery life is not the greatest that we’ve seen on an Ultrabook with the Sony Vaio T13 managing 212 minutes of survival during our stress test.
This involves looping HD video with all the settings turned up to the max, so you can expect a longer cycle when not pushing it so hard.
Saying that, even with what we’d call ‘normal’ usage we still didn’t get near the 7 hours that Sony states the machine should have.
Sony Vaio T13: Verdict
Overall, the Sony Vaio T13 is a mixed bag. On the one-hand it is a beautiful piece of technology with an attractive price-point, while on the other it has limited power and disappoints on a few levels.
The response time from sleep is great and for everyday usage you probably won’t notice the lack of power, or encounter any major performance issues.
In fact, if all you’re looking for is a slimline machine to take out and about with you, to keep up with your social networks, listen to some music or catch up with the BBC iPlayer then the Sony Vaio T13 could be perfect.
However, try and push it any harder and you’re likely to come unstuck. And the battery life isn’t quite what we’d expect.
But, and it’s a big but because the Ultrabook line is all about style, the Sony Vaio T13 is easily the best looking of what is already an attractive bunch and you certainly won’t feel like you’re pulling a MacBook substitute out of your bag when you’re out and about.
Sony Vaio T13 availability: Available now
Sony Vaio T13 price: £679
Review by Paul Lamkin