Lightest 11-inch Ultrabook yet; Bright and colorful full HD touch screen; Solid performance; Good battery life and optional sheet battery
Small keys and keyboard flex; Sharp front edges; Lackluster webcam
The Sony VAIO Pro 11 packs Intel's latest Haswell processor and a full HD touch screen into the lightest 11-inch Ultrabook on the planet, but the keyboard could be better.
There's light, and then there's crazy light. That's how portable the 1.9-pound Sony VAIO Pro 11 feels. This ultraportable isn't light on features, though. Starting at $1,149, this Windows 8 Ultrabook packs an 11.6-inch full HD touch screen, a 128GB SSD and Intel's latest Haswell CPU, which promises more graphics oomph along with longer battery life. Plus, you can attach a sheet battery that can dramatically boost your endurance. Find out if Sony's new machine raises the bar.
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Crack open the lid and you'll find the same carbon silver and carbon fiber material surrounding the VAIO Pro 11's keyboard deck. The keys feature the same carbon silver paint and white backlighting.
Below the keyboard deck is the VAIO Pro 11's brushed aluminum wrist rest. Along the top of the keyboard deck is the VAIO Pro 11's Assist button, which pulls up the notebook's VAIO Care menu. From here, you can search for important information regarding the VAIO Pro, troubleshoot potential issues and look for software updates.
We don't like everything about the VAIO Pro 11's design. The front two corners felt unpleasantly sharp, and the silver lid and bottom easily picked up scuff marks in our bag. We suggest the carbon black version instead.
Display and audio
While watching a trailer for "Man of Steel," fine details in Superman's suit were easily visible and colors were vibrant. We also appreciated how Tony Stark's blue business suit popped in a full HD trailer for "Iron Man 3." However, the picture quality looked somewhat muddy in darker scenes, and the display washed out a bit when viewed from the sides.
The display's 10-finger touch interface was accurate and quick to respond to our inputs.
The VAIO Pro 11's display is fairly bright, registering 237 lux on our brightness meter. That's far better than the Acer Aspire S7-191's 147 lux rating, as well as the ultraportable notebook category average of 231 lux. The ASUS Taichi 21, however, notched a slightly better 239 lux on its main screen.
The VAIO Pro 11's speakers are mounted above the keyboard, and they produced loud and clear audio when set to moderate volume. Just don't expect much bass. When we pumped up Jay-Z's "D.O.A.," the speakers struggled with each bass hit, causing some distortion.
Keyboard and touchpad
On the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, we registered an average of 74 words per minute with a 1 percent error rate, well below the 86 words per minute and 2 percent error rate on our desktop keyboard.
The VAIO Pro 11 mostly kept its cool during our testing. After streaming a Hulu video for minutes at full screen, the touchpad and keyboard areas registered 75 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. Meanwhile, the middle of the underside reached a balmy 91 degrees. Those temperatures are lower than our 95-degree comfort threshold, but we measured a hot 102 degrees toward the rear of the bottom.
Ports and NFC
As with Sony's Fit series notebooks, the VAIO Pro 11 also includes onboard NFC connectivity, which can be used to quickly transfer data, such as URLs and photos, from a smartphone to the notebook.
The VAIO Pro 11 comes equipped with Sony's VAIO Gesture Control software. The software, which uses the Pro 11's webcam to detect motion, allows users to control programs including Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and PlayMemories Home with the flick of a wrist. Enabling VAIO Gesture Control was a snap, and gestures such as swiping to the left or right to view your previous or next pages generally worked while using Chrome and Internet Explorer.
The Pause gesture, which requires you to hold your hand in front of the screen and gesture downward, worked most of the time when viewing movies in Windows Media Player. You can also hold your hand in front of the screen and twirl your finger clockwise or counterclockwise to raise or lower the volume. Unfortunately, getting each of these features to work consistently was more pain than it was worth. For a system this small, we don't see ourselves using gestures instead of the standard mouse or touch controls often.
Our configuration of the VAIO Pro 11 had a 1.6-GHz Intel dual-core Core i5-4200U processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. In general, the VAIO Pro 11 performed well, even with multiple applications running at once -- and that performance translated to some solid benchmark numbers.
On the PCMark 7 benchmark, the VAIO Pro 11 scored 4,474, which is much higher than the ultraportable notebook category average of 3,665. Still the VAIO Pro 11 fell short of the Acer Aspire S7-191's score of 4,584, even though the Acer packs a third-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Sony's laptop was also bested by the ASUS Taichi 21 (third-generation Intel Core i7-3517U processor, 4GB of RAM and 256GB SSD), which scored 5,080.
One area in which the Sony VAIO Pro 11 stands out is its boot time. It took the system just 7 seconds to start Windows 8, compared with the Acer Aspire S7-191's time of 8 seconds and the ASUS Taichi 21's 18 seconds. The ultraportable category average is 24 seconds.
Our VAIO Pro 11's 128GB SSD was also relatively speedy, completing our LAPTOP File Transfer Test (copying 4.97GB of mixed media) in 52 seconds, a rate of 97.9 MBps. The ASUS Taichi 21 registered a transfer rate of 42 MBps, while the category average is 89 MBps. The Acer Aspire S7-191, however, blasted through the test with a transfer rate of 196 MBps.
It took the Sony VAIO Pro 11 5 minutes and 20 seconds to complete the LAPTOP OpenOffice Spreadsheet test, which involves matching 20,000 names to their addresses. That's more than a minute faster than the category average of 6:27, and nearly one minute ahead of the Acer Aspire S7-191's 6:11. The ASUS Taichi 21 was the quickest to complete the test, wrapping it up in just 4:51.
As part of the Haswell upgrade, the VAIO Pro 11 features a new Intel HD Graphics 4400 chip that promises beefier performance. On the 3DMark11 graphics benchmark, the Sony scored 647. That's better than both the ASUS Taichi 21's score of 587 and the Acer Aspire S7-191, which scored 608.
Real-world gaming performance was decent. With graphics set to auto-detect and the resolution at 1280 x 1024, the Sony managed to run "World of Warcraft" at 30 frames per second. That dropped to 26 fps when we changed the graphics to full. With the graphics set to autodetect and the resolution set to 1920 x 1080p, the VAIO 11 Pro notched just 16 fps.
The Acer Aspire S7-191 lasted just 3:51 on its regular battery, but when we strapped on its extended battery, it lasted 6:41. The ASUS Taichi 21 lasted 4:37 while using only its main screen.
With the optional sheet battery ($149) attached, the Pro 11 lasted an astounding 14 hours and 32 minutes. Just keep in mind that this slice makes the design of the system look awkward and brings the weight to 2.5 pounds.
Software and warranty
Should you need help with or damage your VAIO Pro 11, Sony offers a one-year limited warranty, in-home service and phone support.
Sony offers a few configurations of the VAIO Pro 11. Our review unit features a 1.6-GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 4400 for $1,149. If you're looking for a faster processor, you can opt for a Core i7-4500U chip for an additional $150. If you need more power and a larger SSD, you can get a Core i7-4500U processor and a 256GB SSD, as well as Windows 8 Pro for $1,429. Consumers can get the VAIO Pro 11 in either carbon silver or carbon black.
|CPU||1.6-Ghz dual-core Intel Core i5-4200U processor|
|Operating System||Windows 8|
|RAM Upgradable to|
|Hard Drive Size||128GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||n/a|
|Hard Drive Type||SSD Drive|
|Secondary Hard Drive Size|
|Secondary Hard Drive Speed|
|Secondary Hard Drive Type|
|Optical Drive Speed|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4400|
|Wi-Fi Model||Intel Wireless-N 7260|
|Touchpad Size||3.5 x 2.2 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Audio-in|
|Card Slots||SD memory reader|
|Warranty/Support||Limited Warranty Term 1 Year Onsite/In-Home Service Toll-Free Phone Support 888-476-69728 Priority Phone Support 239-768-76058|
|Size||11.22 x 7.76 x 0.68 inches|