Sony Vaio Duo 11 Review: All Things To All People

Shopping for a Windows 8 convertible is difficult. You need to find something that's both an amazing laptop and a fantastic tablet. If the laptop part is rubbish you'll end up with a heavy, expensive tablet with a bad battery, and if the tablet part is rubbish you'll have a laptop with something you don't need on it that you still shelled out for. Thankfully, there's a device that is all things to all people. It's called the Sony Vaio Duo 11, and it's excellent.

What Is It?

The Vaio Duo 11 is Sony's red-hot go at a Windows 8 convertible. The prototype model we reviewed packs and 11.6-inch, 1080p screen with a widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9. Inside, it has a 1.9GHz Core i7 Intel Ivy Bridge processor, 4GB of RAM and Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics.

You can spec up the Vaio Duo 11 to carry up to 8GB of RAM and either a 128GB or 256GB solid state drive. It also has a nifty stylus so you can use the touchscreen like a graphics tablet.

It's almost a competitor to the Microsoft Surface Pro. I say almost because the keyboard on the Vaio is always docked whether you like it or not.

What's Good?

The flick-out keyboard form factor of the Vaio 11 is excellent, and it passes easily for a laptop or tablet wherever you go -- both functions are solid, unlike the Surface RT and Surface Pro which has the annoying problem of not being able to be used on one's lap due to the design. A quick snap of the screen, however, and the Vaio converts between a great tablet and a nifty laptop.

The size and weight of the Vaio actually baffles the mind the first few times you pick it up. The device is super thin for an ultrabook with a slide-out touchscreen that it actually makes you double check when you pick it up that there's not a piece missing from the bottom.

The slew of ports available on the Vaio Duo 11 is fantastic. You've got a two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, ethernet port, a full size HDMI port and a display port. There's no optical drive to speak of, but at 1.3 kg you wouldn't want any extra weight on there, especially in tablet mode.

When you get down to the business of using it, it can take a moment to adjust to the form factor and the wide aspect of the device, but once you have mastered the combination of the keyboard, touchscreen and trackpad nib in the centre of the device, getting about is a breeze, nay, a joy.

What's Bad?


Let's be clear: the Vaio Duo 11 is not suitable for gaming or taxing processor work. Few convertibles are. Frame rates slow to a crawl on your games and Photoshop and video editing work gets frustrating after a while due to the lag between tasks. Blame that on the integrated Intel HD 4000 on-board.

Also, the design plays against the Vaio when it comes to shifting the device into portrait mode. There isn't a whole lot of screen real estate in portrait mode due to the widescreen aspect ratio.

The sliding mechanism feels sturdy when you activate it, but peer into the gap left by the screen and you'll see the guts of the device holding everything together. It can be a little disconcerting for some, seeing all the bits and pieces that keeps your expensive convertible alive, doubly so when you think about it stretching and flicking every time you activate the slider.

Finally, the Vaio Duo 11 leaves a bit to be desired in the battery department. You'll only get about four hours out of the device, which for a tablet is fairly disappointing. We'll bring it down to the curse of the convertible.

Should You Buy It?

The Vaio Duo 11 strikes a beautiful balance between ultrabook and tablet. For a great tablet and a great ultrabook, you could expect to pay at least $2000. For the Vaio Duo 11, however, you'll only have to shell out $1449. That's awesome value for a fantastic little device that straddles two form factors incredibly well. If you're in the market for a convertible, the Vaio Duo 11 should be at the top of your shopping list.


Comments

    I had a play in JB, and their display model definitely did not have a solid slider. You had to be very careful about sliding it from the dead centre, otherwise one side would try to move first and it would stop sliding, leaving you to try again.

    It also really feels like the device could of been thinner if they ditched the VGA port too. Who uses VGA anymore? Even if you do, couldn't you use an adapter? I'd rather a thinner device with less ports and to carry an adapter around for when I need to plug into a crappy old projector.

    Given this device is $450 more than the Surface Pro, and the Surface RT in store felt much higher quality with far better design, I don't think I could justify the cost to buy the Vaio 11. Even the Macbook Air 11" is $200 cheaper.

    Oh and the track nub is terrible.

    Last edited 07/02/13 1:39 pm

      I own one and you may accuse me of being narrow sighted because of that But I have no such issues. The slider, when used properly is very solid and locks into place. Also if this device is as bad as some people are saying why has it been reviewed so many times here and at LH. The screen is fantastic, bright and very good colours. The keyboard is missing the touch pad but it's a touch screen. I will admit that I paid a bit more than I would have liked but in comparison with the MS competition it is light years ahead. It sits in my lap naturally and the angle of the screen is perfect.

      Last edited 07/02/13 3:09 pm

      If you think the VGA port should be ditch, you obviously don't work in an office with presentation needs.

    Why did Sony give you a prototype model? The device has been out for a couple of months already.

    I'm sorry but Intel HD4000 graphics work perfectly well with professional applications like Photoshop. I have a 21,600 x 10,800 pixel texture map of the Earth's surface that I can zip around at 100% zoom in Navigator without any more "lag" that I would get from the MacPros at work with their high-spec Radeon cards. I get good performance in 3D software like Vue, too. I also found that some software that relies on OpenGL, like Autodesk Combustion, actually performed better on my Vaio with the HD3000 than with the discrete Radeon graphics (it was switchable, to save power). And the HD4000 is a noticeable step up from there. So if things like Photoshop are not performing well, it must be down to something else.

      HD4000 is a lot more powerful than people think, I mean you can actually run Batman AA on low/720p at 30frps or run your 1080p movies no problems.

      Photoshop seems to work fine... the only major failure with this device is the lack of Wintab API for the otherwise very capable pen. That means you CANNOT get pressure sensitivity in ANY of the major graphics art programs used by professionals (PS, Illustrator, Painter, Paint Tool SAI). It does work beautifully with ArtRage and SBP6, as well as Microsoft Office products... OneNote just updated and now has 'pen mode' by default with perfect palm rejection. If this gadget ever gets the right pen drivers, it will be 'The One to Rule Them All'.

    You had me up until you said it doesn't run photoshop well.

    Between that and not having a track pad lost me.

      You have a choice of i5 and i7 but the i5 is plenty powerful enough for PS.

    The demo unit at a JB store actually had some part of the *plastic* sliding mechanism broken, so it didnt slide up/down properly, nevermind it wasnt flat when you managed to slide the screen down.
    It didnt exactly fill me with confidence...

      To be fair, whenever people use any kind of transforming tech in a shop the first thing they do is play with the physical parts - disconnect the ASUS transformers and slide the sliding converters. If you take any kind of care for your product it'll probably be in better condition after a year then JB Hi-fi products are at after a week.

        True, but it did highlight the parts were of either plastic or a flimsy nature...

    I've tried the sliding mechanism numerous times at multiple JBs and they are always nervously flimsy and also made of many, many small parts. Also the screen always remains exposed whether it's in laptop or tablet mode. That's why I got the XPS 12 instead.

    I have a Duo 11 and it cost only marginally more than a Surface Pro + Touch keyboard. The form factor works beautifully... one second to convert from tablet to laptop is truly liberating. Boots from cold in 4 seconds. Screen and fit-finish top rate. I really enjoy this machine. The ONLY negative is N-Trig doesn't support Wintab API which are absolutely the *minimum* for a digitizer! No Photoshop, Illustrator, Painter, SAI. C'mon Sony! Of course, I'm cringing now that Surface Pro buyers are suffering the same fate. But somehow, I have a feeling that the S/P will get fixed, but perpetual loser N-Trig will continue to give us all the middle finger, and is Sony even in the friggin' game?

      I own an Asus Slider with a similar keyboard slide out config to the Duo. I have checked out the Duo in-store, but was not able to do a direct comparison for obvious reasons. The Duo appeared as robust as the Slider and with way more options for business use. The inclusion of a screen digitiser puts the Duo streets ahead. The Slider would be so much more effective as a notepad if it had this facility.

      I also have an older HP convertible laptop with a Wacom digitiser and it works well, but it simply too heavy to carry around in tablet form, thereb limiting is usefulness in a business setting. The Duo appeals to me as it appears to provide exactly what I am looking for - a powerful x86-based convertible that is light enough and powerful enough to serve a multitude of uses. The big disappointment is the use of an N-Trig digitiser. Previous experience has left me cold on both the company and its products. If only Asus had included a Wacom digitiser on the Slider, I could have lived with its other limitations.

      Is it me? Am I the only person out there who wants a tablet with a slide out keyboard, a Wacom digitiser and that runs IOS? I have an original iPad and would dearly love to upgrade but will not do so until Apple acknowledges the needs of the business community for an iPad that has a screen digitiser and a convenient keyboard option for those times when you need it to function as a laptop. Perhaps I am just too demanding!

        I would've been happy to buy any iOS gadget with a digitizer. They are still listening to the ghost of Jobs... at the time he said the stylus = fail we didn't' have the options we have now. He was plain wrong. That doesn't mean he wasn't brilliant and did a lot... nobody is 100% right on everything. Glenno, if you are not an artist or serious photographer needing pressure in Photoshop, then the N-Trig would work just as well as Wacom. It is kick-ass in OneNote, especially good now that MS has upgraded the program to reject palm. The Sony Duo 11 is by far the best gadget I've ever purchased, although my Galaxy Note phone is a close second.

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