Sony Vaio Duo 11 £999

23rd Oct 2012 | 15:35

Sony Vaio Duo 11

Sliding tablet-laptop hybrid with Windows 8

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Like:

Great screen; Staggering power; Top connectivity; QWERTY keyboard; High-end build;

Dislike:

Laptop-esque weight; No trackpad; Small keyboard; Bulky; Keyboard can't detach;

Introduction

The release of Windows 8 has heralded a host of new stylish tablets that make a pleasant change from the bland anonymous slates which have come to represent the Android market.

Almost daily there's a new innovative tablet-laptop hybrid device, designed to suit every user need and bag size, and this strange looking Sony Vaio Duo 11 offers more than meets the eye.

The 11.6-inch Sony Vaio Duo 11 embodies a sliding tablet design not unlike the Asus Eee Pad Slider of 2011.

It's a departure from the majority of manufacturers who have opted for docking 'transformer' style devices, such as the Samsung Ativ Smart PC and Asus Vivo Tab. Both of these have detachable keyboards so you can choose whether you want to travel light with a tablet, or increase the bulk (traditionally around 1.3kg/2.9lbs) to have the keyboard as well.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 review

The Sony Vaio Duo 11 is different. Instead of the ARM-based processors you'll find in the iPad, Android tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 or Windows RT tablets such as the Microsoft Surface, this runs a full Intel Core processor.

This means you can run full Windows programs as well as apps such as Angry Birds and TV catchup apps from the Windows Store.

It's not just the processor that's different. Instead of being a bland black slate, the screen lifts and slides back to reveal a keyboard. It's held together by a weighty hinge, meaning that wherever you go, the keyboard comes with it.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 review

The lack of detachability indicates that Sony is aiming at the more professional end of the market. Being able to lose the keyboard means that people are more likely to use their device for playing games and browsing the web.

The Sony Vaio Duo 11, on the other hand, is built for 'doing', and the inclusion of a stylus pen puts creative types and business users in its sights. But, with a full price of £999/AU$1,499/US$1,199.99, how does it rate?

Specification


The main difference between the Sony Vaio Duo 11 and the rest of the tablet market is that x86 processor. It's an Intel Core i5 3317U chip clocked at 1.7GHz - the same low power variety found in Ultrabooks. While 1.7GHz may seem low, it can Turbo Boost itself to a whopping 2.7GHz under heavy strain, which means it's no slouch.

The Sony Vaio Duo 11 packs the power of a leading laptop into the body of a tablet. This means that advanced photo and video editing are more than within its capabilities, and you can multitask apps to your heart's content.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 review

Windows 8 positively flies, and you can zip around the operating system using swipe gestures that never leave you waiting.

Unfortunately, all that power comes at a cost, and the Sony Vaio Duo 11's pay off is a noticeable increase in bulk and weight. The super svelte iPad or Samsung Ativ Smart PC it is not, and the Sony weighs a muscle-testing 1.3kg (2.9lbs), the same as a modern ultra-portable laptop.

To make it easier to hold and use away from a flat surface, Sony has tapered the edges, which does make a difference, but we still feel that the Sony Vaio Duo 11 is destined for use at a desk or on the sofa.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 review

While it may lack the portability and sleekness of its rivals, it's not just power that makes the Sony unique.

The Sony Vaio Duo 11 packs an 11.6-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS panel, which looks glorious. Not only is Windows 8's new interface sumptuously represented, but also apps, games and movies too.

And it's touchscreen, which negates any need for a mouse. That's a good job, since there's no trackpad included, so you have the option of using Windows 8's touchscreen interface, the awful optical 'nipple' on the keypad that harks back to a 1990s ThinkPad, or a USB rodent.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 review

The screen is an IPS panel that provides generous viewing angles, should you have people congregating around your screen.

The only downside is the extremely reflective coating, and like all tablets, the Duo is a magnet for fingerprints. This combination meant we were regularly reaching for a cleaning cloth.

Of course, the added bulk makes way for plenty of storage space. While a tablet may come with 16GB space and in the case of the iPad no room for expansion, the Sony is a completely different beast.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 review

There's a 128GB SSD drive supplied as standard, as well as an SD card slot, which can offer up to 64GB more. On top of this you'll find two USB 3.0 slots, which can be used for portable hard drives that could offer 10x the capacity - and at lightning speeds, too.

While on the subject of connectivity, there's also Ethernet, HDMI and VGA ports. This gives the Sony Vaio Duo 11 an advantage over the likes of the Samsung Series 9 and the MacBook Air, where the decision to relegate Ethernet to a USB or Thunderbolt dongle has frustrated thousands of people who have had the displeasure of walking into a meeting only to find a wired connection.

Sony Vaio Duo 11

Performance

If the Sony Vaio Duo 11 is fighting for its place as your main PC, performance will be a key consideration. At more than double the price of the new iPad or Microsoft Surface RT, we'd expect the Duo 11 to pack serious punch.

And we're pleased to say that the Sony Vaio Duo 11 is a heavyweight trapped inside a welterweight's body.

The Intel Core i7 processor racked up a score of 9,579 in our Cinebench 11 tests, which is staggering for an 11.6-inch tablet, ranking it among the most powerful laptops we've seen.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 review

To put that in context, the HP Envy Spectre 14 Ultrabook managed just 7,336 on the same test under the same conditions, which shows that despite its form factor, the Sony Vaio Duo 11 offers Ultrabook power.

Thanks to the x86 Intel Core processor at the heart of this hybrid tablet the Sony Vaio Duo 11 can run Photoshop, Word and any PC app in all their glory. This puts it in a different league to iOS and Android tablets, which are limited to their own app store.

However, the extra power doesn't do the battery life any favours, and the Duo 11 hit the canvas after 2.5 hours of HD video playback.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 review

That's less than most laptops, and way behind mainstream tablets - a black mark against the Sony's portable credentials.

As you might expect from all of the power onboard, HD video played seamlessly without stuttering or stopping, which is the least you should expect from a PC priced at £999/AU$1,499/US$1,199.99.

Unlike the iPad and Android tablets, using Windows means it plays nicely with every kind of file format, meaning you can watch movies in any manner you please, and you also get a valuable extra inch of real estate to play with.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 review

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If you are sitting back to enjoy a movie, however, you will need to invest in a decent pair of headphones. The built-in speakers are woeful, creating a tinny din that is barely audible.

Like many Windows tablets, the Sony Vaio Duo 11 ships with its own stylus, which can be used to enter text free-hand and be more creative with apps. In time we expect there to be more apps that support pen interaction, but it worked a charm with OneNote MX on the Windows Store.

The pen has a reassuring weight and two function buttons that enable you to cut out elements from a page and paste them into notes, before annotating and scribbling all over them.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 review

The accuracy is excellent, and Windows 8 does a great job of turning even the most illegible handwriting into editable text.

If you're serious about using a stylus, then the Samsung Ativ Smart PC with its excellent S-Pen technology is worth a look first, having borrowed a bucket load of tech from the fabulous Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

However, the Sony Vaio Duo 11 is a close second place.

Benchmarks
Cinebench: 9,579
3D Mark: 3,684
Battery life: 163 minutes

Sony Vaio Duo 11 review

Verdict

Summing up the Sony Vaio Duo 11 is difficult, and it will certainly polarise opinions, all of which are perfectly valid.

On the one hand, the Sony Vaio Duo 11 is a £999/AU$1,499/US$1,199.99 tablet that's too heavy and cumbersome to be wielded in the way we see iPads dominating public transport.

People will dismiss it for being too costly, and comments sections of reviews will doubtlessly be filled with those who point out that the 16GB new iPad 3 can be bought for £399/AU$539/US$499 - just over 1/3 of the Sony Vaio Duo 11's mammoth price tag.

Then there's the other argument. The Sony Vaio Duo 11 packs the power and versatility of a laptop, can run Windows programs as well as Windows Store apps, all in the guise of an 11-inch tablet.

We liked

Connectivity is one of the Sony Vaio Duo 11's biggest wins, and we loved being able to plug in USB drives and peripherals to our tablet.

Editing on Photoshop and running our favourite apps was also cause for celebration, as well as being able to sit back and enjoy the latest Windows apps from what's shaping up to be a promising selection.

The Sony Vaio Duo 11 is also a solid piece of engineering, and despite its bulk it certainly turns heads. This in no small part thanks to the gorgeous 1080p screen, and if you need a device to watch a film on after a day working on the road, you have a top contender in the Sony Vaio Duo 11.

We disliked

The cramped keyboard, lack of a proper trackpad and substantial weight combine to make the Sony Vaio Duo 11 a problematic hybrid tablet. While the likes of the Samsung Ativ Smart PC and Asus Vivo Tab can be detached from their docks to halve the weight, with the Sony you're stuck with the bulk.

The poor marriage of usability, cost and power mean that this is still unlikely to be anyone's dedicated PC, and at nearly £999/AU$1,499/US$1,199.99, this is a big complaint.

If you're not worried about legacy x86 apps, then this kind of tablet isn't for you. With Microsoft Surface RT debuting at a reasonable £399 /AU$559/$US499, forking out £999/AU$1,499/US$1,200 for the ability to run Photoshop - which could be introduced as a Windows Store app in the future - will be too much to stomach.

Final verdict

It may not be wafer thin or super-light, but it has a gorgeous Full HD screen, 128GB of storage, full connectivity and is as good for work as it is for play.

That is something the iPad, Google Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire just can't compete with.

While it's not a perfect laptop-tablet hybrid, and certainly won't have mass appeal, Sony has furthered the Windows 8 cause with an exceptionally powerful device that challenges the perceptions of what tablets can achieve.

If you're a business user who wants on-the-go convenience and power then take the plunge, but for most people the Duo will be a luxury for problems that can be solved with an enormous range of cheaper, more versatile devices.

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