Tag: Sony VAIO

Product Review–Sony VAIO Fit 13a convertible Ultrabook


I am reviewing the Sony VAIO Fit 13a convertible Ultrabook which converts between a 13” “portable-typewriter” notebook computer and a 13” tablet, which is something I am starting to see for this class of computer.

It is one of the few 13” highly-portable notebooks that is in a convertible form-factor where it can become a large tablet or media viewer. Here the screen folds over a hinge that is positioned in the middle of the lid to convert to these different form factors – as a laptop, tablet or a presentation viewer with a kickstand.

Some of you may find that a 13” tablet device as being too unwieldy when used in that form but I usually think of these devices as being the size of an A4/Letter-sized notepad or notebook or a placemat and still easy to stow in that shoulder bag. For example, the large screen area comes in to its own when viewing photos or videos or simply lounging on the couch browsing Facebook. In some cases, this large size also appeals to “head-to-head” situations where two people are viewing something on that screen like some photos or social-media chatter.

Of course, these convertible notebooks still earn their keep when you are typing up those notes in that “second-office” café while the barista is making that latte or cappucino on the espresso machine or as you type up that magnum-opus while you are on that long flight with it sitting on that economy-class tray table.

Sony VAIO Fit 13a convertible Ultrabook at Rydges Hotel Melbourne

– this configuration
RRP: AUD$1699
Form factor Convertible tablet
Processor Intel Core i5-4200U processor cheaper – other options
extra cost – other options
RAM 4Gb shared with graphics
Secondary storage 128Gb solid-state drive SDXC card reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD 4400 integrated graphics
Screen 13” touchscreen
(Full HD)
LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD Audio
Audio Improvements All audio tuning available
Network Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n dual-band dual-stream
Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready
Connectivity USB 3.0 x 2
Video HDMI
Audio 3.5mm input-output jack
Authentication and Security TPM
Sensors NFC, Accelerometer, Gyro sensor, Digital compass
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 8
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Overall: Graphics:
Advanced Graphics:

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build Quality

Sony VAIO 13a convertible Ultrabook as a tablet

Set up as a tablet

The Sony VAIO Fit 13a is a well-built convertible notebook but for first-time users, the method to convert between notebook and tablet use can be daunting. Here, you have to flick the RELEASE-LOCK lever under the screen to the left and twist the screen at the top with both hands to make it become a tablet. Then you have to pull the screen up at the top to fold it to a conventional notebook.

Sony VAIO Fit 13a convertible Ultrabook as an image viewer

Set up as an image viewer

Even though I had used this on light tasks, there wasn’t any overheating going on with the VAIO Fit 13a although it felt warm underneath during some network video watching. There is some venting on the left side of the keyboard and any unoccupied sockets are forced in to service as vents. Personally, I would have some perforation underneath the keyboard to improve the ability for the notebook to cool itself. As well, the use of an all-aluminium lid and aluminium all over the keyboard surface also allows for better temperature control.

User Interface

Sony VAIO Fit 13a convertible Ultrabook

As a laptop conducive to typing

The keyboard is a full-width illuminated keyboard that is conducive to touch-typing. It has a proper feedback that makes you feel sure that you are typing the right characters and your hands aren’t “crunched in” which works well when typing up a large amount of content.

The trackpad works as expected and I haven’t even noticed it “jump around” when doing a lot of typing and can serve its role as a fine-level navigation tool while the touchscreen works well for coarse navigation and quick function access with recent software.

The NFC sensor is at the foot of the trackpad which is at the right place for sharing contact detail or Web links between your Android smartphone and the VAIO Tap 13a. This is also conducive for touch-and-go paring of small Bluetooth accessories like headsets but may be too awkward for pairing to larger equipment that implements “touch-and-go” Bluetooth setup like most of Sony’s newer audio equipment.

Audio and Video

The Sony VAIO Fit 13a’s display was very responsive both with regular computer work as well with multimedia activity such as watching online video from SBS Australia. There is still the issue with the display being glossy which may annoy some users and is common with most consumer-targeted portable computers.

The audio subsystem is typical for most laptops where you don’t have the ability to hear the full range from the sound. This may be good enough when you are close to the screen but wouldn’t be good enough to fill a room. I still would recommend using a pair of headphones or external speakers when you are after the good sound.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

Sony VAIO Fit 13a convertible Ultrabook Right-hand side view - 2 USB 3.0 ports, SDXC card slot and HDMI output port

Right-hand side view – 2 USB 3.0 ports, SDXC card slot and HDMI output port

The Sony VAIO Fit 13a has 128Gb of solid-state storage which would be enough for “second-office” work or short trips and may satisfy longer trips when you use auxiliary storage like a NAS or USB hard disk. It is still very quick and responsive but the capacity wouldn’t have me use it as a main or sole computer.

This is augmented by an SDXC card slot which comes in to its own when you “develop” your digital pictures from your digital camera or camcorder or show these pictures to a group of people.

Sony VAIO Fit 13a convertible Ultrabook left hand side with power and audio sockets

Left hand side with power and audio sockets

There are two USB 3.0 peripheral sockets along with a headset jack and ah HDMI port for connecting external devices. It also connects to your network using 802.11a/g/n dual-band Wi-Fi technology, but you would need to use a USB Ethernet network adaptor if you are connecting to an Ethernet or HomePlug segment.

It also has Bluetooth with NFC functionality for “quick pair-up” with some newer  devices or transfer of data like contact details or Web links to and from newer Android and Windows phones.

Battery life

I could use the Sony VAIO Fit 13a for a long time on most regular computing activities and even watching a 45-minute online video show from SBS Online had the battery to 50% capacity from full charging. This means that the VAIO is taking advantage of the current generation of Intel chipsets to work properly as a portable computer.

Other usage notes

Other people who have seen the Sony VAIO Fit 13a in action have been impressed with certain features like the convertible form-factor and the large-screen tablet size. This is more so with people who are used to ordinary 10” tablets like the Apple iPad or not seeing much of the touch-enabled convertible notebooks.

For example, a waitress who works at a downtown (CBD) hotel restaurant which is used regularly as a “second office” during the day was impressed with the VAIO’s convertible design. This is something she doesn’t come across as often – she mostly sees the typical laptop or iPad-style tablet used by customers using the restaurant and bar as that “second office”.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Sony could offer a premium variant with an Intel i7 processor, 8Gb RAM and/or 256Gb solid-state drive as a deal-making option, especially if they want to use this model to court those of us who live out of our suitcases.

As well, the VAIO Fit 13a could be delivered with Windows 8.1 out of the box rather than users having to download the updates to bring it up to date to the newer Windows version. I would also look at improving the DC socket so it feels less fragile to use when connecting your charger to the VAIO.

The NFC chipset could be duplicated at the top edge of the keyboard to cater for “pairing up” with fixed equipment like Bluetooth speakers or stereo equipment whether the VAIO is set up as a tablet or a laptop.


I see the Sony VAIO Fit 13a convertible notebook as a viable contender to the market when it comes to the so-called “traveller’s computer” or “second-office computer”. This is more so in both these cases when you you want to view or show video or photo material on the go such as showing that presentation to the client over that latte or viewing that movie on the plane. It is more augmented by the fact that this computer works with a median performance requirement such as an Intel i5 processor and 4Gb of RAM.

It would also work well for those of us who like the idea of the tablet but want the proper full-size keyboard offered by the 13”-14” “portable-typewriter” notebook that is conducive to comfortable touch-typing for creating plenty of text-based content.

Consumer Electronics Show 2014–Part 2 (Your computer, smartphone, tablet and network)

The second part of this series is about computing devices both for desktop use and for mobile use in all of the form factors along with the new equipment that you can use to buid out our home or other small network.

Computers and Mobile Devices

Previously, I used to see mobile computing devices like tablets and smartphones as their own device class but the situation is changing for this class of device.

This has been brought on with use of Windows 8.1 in smaller tablets that have lightweight and low-energy processors that implement the orthodox Intel microarchitecture used in regular-computers along with these regular computer products running the Android mobile operating system as a standalone operating system or in a dual-boot configuration.

This has caused us to blur the lines between the orthodox “regular” desktop or laptop computer that uses IA-32 or IA-64 microarchitecture rather than ARM RISC microarchitecture and running a desktop operating system like Windows or desktop Linux; and the primarily-battery-operated mobile computers like the smartphones and tablets that use ARM RISC microarchitecture and  use a mobile operating system like Android.

Computer devices that boot between Windows 8.1 and Android

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet

This class of computer may be either running Windows or Android very soon

Intel and AMD have established computer reference designs that allow for switching between Windows 8.1 or Android 4.4 operating systems even when they are fully operational. This is to capitalise on the 7”-10” tablets appearing on the market that are running Windows 8.1 along with the desire for us to run Android programs on our regular laptops and Ultrabooks.

A clear example of this is ASUS’s Transformer Book Duet detachable tablet which has a hardware switch that allows you to switch between Windows 8.1 and Android. Think of this – on a long journey, switch to Windows to make some headway on a document you are creating with Microsoft Word, then, to while the time away on that journey after that, switch to Android to play Plants Versus Zombies, Candy Crush Saga or whatever is the latest mobile time-waster game.

Android and Chrome OS gain a foothold on the regular computer

Previously, we thought of Windows as the only open-frame operating system that runs on a “regular computer” i.e. a desktop or laptop. Now Google have pushed forward Chrome OS which is a cloud-based operating system along with Android with these kind of computers.

Nearly every laptop vendor, save for Sony, Panasonic and a few others are putting forward at least one “Chromebook” which are notebooks that run the Chrome OS environment. LG even premiered a “Chromebase” which is an all-in-one desktop computer that runs the Google Chrome OS. This implements Intel Celeron horsepower along with the Chrome OS specification for RAM and secondary storage (2Gb RAM, 16Gb SSD). These may have limited appeal due to software only available through Google and an always-online operation and may just work as Web terminals.

For Android, HP put up the Slate 21 Pro 21” tablet that runs on this operating system thus bringing the adaptive all-in-one to this operating system especially in the workplace. Similarly, Lenovo had launched a 19” all-in-one PC that runs Android and has an appealing price of US$450 along with the ThinkVision 28 which is a 28” 4K monitor that is an Android all-in-one PC. This is alongside HP also running with a Slate Pro all-in-one that runs Android and appeals to the business. Some of these computers are being pitched as inexpensive kiosk computers or communications terminals that go hand in glove with Viber, Skype, Facebook and the like.

Business-grade computing appears at CES 2014

Not often have I seen any of the Consumer Electronics Shows or similar consumer-electronics trade fairs become a platform to launch computer hardware pitched at business users. This year, HP, Lenovo and a few others are launching smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops pitch at this user class with the expected features like security, management abilities and system durability.

Could this be a sign that “business-targeted” computing trade fairs like CEBit and Interop start to focus on a narrower class of “big-business” computing equipment like large-scale servers and networking equipment while small-business office and computing equipment ends up being exhibited at consumer-focused computing and electronics trade fairs? Or could this be answering a reality where business computing equipment are working also as home computing equipment as in the typical “work-home” laptop that is used for personal and business computing tasks? As well, could this be in response to the so-called “BYOD” trend where employees are buying their own devices, perhaps with their employer subsidising the purchase and running costs of these devices, and using them at work?

This is augmented with Samsung, Lenovo and HP launching business-grade tablets and smartphones and operating environments that cater to the business’s operating needs.

HP even used this show to launch the 300 series 14” and 15” laptops that have hardware credentials for a business laptop like spill-resistant keyboards, anti-glare displays and fingerprint readers but don’t come with business-tier manageability software. These machines start from US$399 upwards. This is more about offering appropriate computer hardware for small businesses and community organisations at a price they can afford without the hard-to-understand “big-business” security and manageability software that can daunt operators who are effectively their organisation’s “chief cook and bottle-washer”.

They also released the Pro One 400 and HP205 all-in-one desktops and issued the second generation of the Z1 all-in-one desktop workstation which can he shoehorned as you see fit.

Newer hardware technologies

One key hardware technology that is being put forward is the arrival of highly-powerful ARM-based chips that are pitched for mobile computing. One trend has been the arrival of the 64-bit ARM mobile processor which was augmented by Samsung with their Exynos range. The other was NVIDIA who were putting up the Tegra K1 processor family that had 192 cores and the VCM variant being targeted at vehicle applications. The graphics capacity is about achieving smooth realistic rendering which comes in thandy for games and similar graphics-intensive applications that will be expected of the Android platform. This is an example of a high-power ARM processor that is being pitched across the board not just for the tablets but for the Android-driven computers, the smart TVs as well as the cars.

Similarly, Intel premiered the Edison microcomputer which is the same size as the standard SD memory card. This has a two-core microprocessor with a 400MHz primary core and a 50-200MHz secondary core along with 500Mb RAM and integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth interfaces. Here, they are pitching it at wearable application such as smartwatches but I would see a greater potential for this application.

As for memory, the magnetoresistive RAM and resistive RAM technologies have been premiered at this show. It s a non-volatile RAM technology that can lead to the creation of memory that isn’t just for primary on-hand storage or secondary long-term storage. The obvious applications that are being called include quick-start portable computers that don’t need to store their current state to secondary storage. But I see this likely to appear in devices like printers and faxes for power-safe job-queue handling.

As well, the IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless-network technology is appearing in a lot more as a client interface in this newly-released equipment. There has to be work on making sure that there are options for reduced-battery-load for smartphones and small tablets that are primarily battery-operated and these may stay on N technology at the moment.

Smartphones and Tablets

One major trend for smartphones and tablets is for the market to be full of affordable Android devices especially those that are positioned at the “value” segment where you gain best bang for your buck. Similarly, a lot more of these devices are being pitched at the business user with the necessary manageability features appearing.

Samsung have launched the Galaxy Note Pro range of Android tablets with some of these at 12”. Similarly, we are seeing Lenovo run a range of smartphones like the Vibe Z phablet along with a smartphone that has an 802.11ac wireless-network interface. They are even running an 8” business-grade tablet known as the ThinkPad 8 which runs Windows 8.1 and has Intel Bay Trail small-device horsepower.

Asus have previously run their Padfone range of smartphones which dock in to an accompanying tablet and are furthering this with the Padfone Mini 7 “coat-pocket” tablet / smartphone combo. They are also running the Zenfone range of standalone Android smartphones.They also premiered the VivoTAB Note 8 which is an 8” coat-pocket tablet with stylus that runs Win8.1 and uses Intel Atom horsepower.

Acer are even launching some more of the Iconia Windows and Android tablet range along with a budget-range phablet smartphone. At the same time, Polaroid have put their name to an affordable 8” Android tablet in the form of the Q8.

Panasonic is not left lying down when it comes to tablets with a ToughPad 7” tablet being premiered at this show.

Laptops, Ultrabooks and similar computers

This year has seen a great influx of detachable and convertible Ultrabooks with, for example HP bolstering their x2 family.This is brought in to affordable territory with the Pavilion x2 range being a “foot-in-the-door” and running on cheaper AMD or Intel Bay Trail horsepower. This is augmented with the Pro x2 which is pitched at business users and is powered by Intel Core i3 or i5 processors.

Lenovo have premiered their MIIX 2 detachable tablets which run Windows 8.1 with the 10” variant running an Intel Atom processor and the 11.6” variant running an Intel Core i5 processor. They also launched the latest iteration of the X1 Carbon Ultrabook which is finished in a carbon-fibre material.

LG has answered the slider convertible trend started with the Sony VAIO Duo 11 and released the Tab Book 2 slider convertible. Sony are still keeping on with their convertible notebooks with the new VAIO Fit 11a and Flip PC 13, 14 and 15 convertible notebooks and the latest iteration of the VAIO Duo 13 slider convertible along with the VAIO Tap 11 detachable tablet. Sony has also taken the time to refresh the VAIO Tap 20 adaptive all-in-one and sell it as the VAIO Tap 21.

Samsung have released the ATIV Book 9 which is a 15” Ultrabook that owes its small size to a very narrow screen bezel, making it look less like a regular 15” laptop. Toshiba has broken through the mould by offering the first laptop with a 4K resolution screen as well as a shape-shifting concept for a convertible portable computer.

The home or other small network

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show has become a time to show that 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking has matured ant to premiere the HomePlug AV2 MIMO Gigabit powerline network technology. It also has been a chance for network hardware vendors to showcase some of the small business / contractor network hardware alongside consumer network hardware so as to expose this kind of hardware to the small-business and startup users.

802.11ac wireless network hardware

One major trend that is affecting equipment for the small network is the increased availability of 802.11ac Wi-Fi network connectivity equipment, especially now that the standard has been officially ratified and published by the IEEE. Here we are dealing with Wi-Fi wireless-network segments established in the 5GHz band and capable of operating at Gigabit speeds. Broadcom have come up with newer 802.11ac chipsets that improve wireless-network experience including one that has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and improved radio amplification in the same packaging.

The main class of devices offered here are routers or range extenders where some of the range extenders can work as client bridges for these networks. Examples of these include TrendNet’s newer AC1900 router and the ASUS RT-AC87U broadband router that has 1.7Gbps on 5GHz and 600Mbps on 2.4GHz using 4 x 4 MIMO and support for multiuser MIMO functionality. The old Linksys WRT54G with its distinctive style and user-evolvable open-source firmware has been released as a new iteration but equipped with 802.11ac wireless and Gigabit Ethernet network abilities and USB connectivity.

Even Engenius offered the ESR-2300 which is a 4 x 4 AC2300 wireless broadband router that is the first device of its type to offer “box-to-box” VPN endpoint functionality. NETGEAR also offered DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem routers with one of these having an 802.11ac 1700 wireless network segment.

Netgear’s latest 802.11ac wireless routers also have a firmware option for small businesses to turn their premises in to Wi-Fi hotspots using the Facebook Wi-Fi service. This is where clients who have Facebook presence can “check in” using Facebook to gain free Wi-Fi access but there is also an option to skip this requirement and use password-protected sign-up.

There are also the range extenders that perform their range-extending trick on an 802.11ac network and are available as wall-plugged or standalone units.

TrendNet amongst a few others are premiering business / contractor-grade wireless-networking hardware, especially access points for integrated installation. Some of these units also work with management software to allow you to have control over your Wi-Fi segment. TP-Link even offer the EAP-320 dual-band AC1750 Wi-Fi access point (enterprise grade) which has Power-Over-Ethernet, hotspot-style captive portal authentication and rogue access-point detection.

TrendNet also used this show to premiere a USB-connected high-gain 802.11ac wireless network adaptor so you can bridge existing computer equipment to a new 802.11ac wireless-network segment.

HomePlug AV2 MIMO Gigabit power-line network hardware launched

This show also has seen TP-Link and TrendNet launch HomePlug adaptors that embody the latest iteration of the HomePlug AV2 specification. Initially there were plenty of the HomePlug AV2 devices that didn’t exploit the MIMO abilities of the specification allowing for Gigabit data-transfer speeds but the two latest devices do implement these speeds using all three AC wires.

As far as this standard is concerned, there haven’t been any other HomePlug AV2 devices in other form factors launched or premiered at this show. Of course, TrendNet and TP-Link have been able to premiere HomePlug AV500 Wi-Fi N300 access points as an alternative to using range extenders to build out 802.11n wireless-network segments.

IP-based video surveillance

Most of these manufacturers are offering IP-based video-surveillance cameras with some that even work on 802.11ac Wi-Fi. D-Link even issues one of these as a “baby monitor camera” which measures room temperature and plays soothing lullabies while TP-Link offers an N300 Wi-Fi cloud camera that also doubles as a range extender and can shoot at 720p.

D-Link and Buffalo both offer network video recorder devices that interlink with certain IP cameras and record on a stand-alone basis with these cameras.

NAS units

QNAP and Synology have used the Consumer Electronics Shows to premiere their small-business network-attached storage devices and Synology has used this year’s show to launch the DiskStation Manager 5 operating system which is their latest iteration of the Linux-based operating system. This one has both home and business capabilities like the ability to link with online storage and social-network services along with centralised management and scaled-out storage for evolving businesses. Now Thecus are using this year’s show to premiere their small-business NAS devices.

Lenovo also made this show the chance to offer their first consumer network-attached storage device which can also serve as a USB external hard disk or show multimedia on TV using its HDMI output. This is although they have taken over Iomega and rebranded it as Lenovo EMC to cover this product class and focus on small-business NAS units.

Buffalo even offers a wireless mobile NAS which has the DLNA media-server functionality which can come in handy with Internet radios or other DLNA-capable media players. This is alongside some increasingly-capable DiskStation single-disk and duel-disk NAS units.


Next I will be looking at a major trend that is captivating the Consumer Electronics Show 2014 in the form of the “wearables”, brought on by the arrival of Bluetooth 4.0

Product Review–Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider convertible tablet (Model: SVT11215CGB)


I am reviewing the Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet computer which is a Windows 8 tablet computer that has a keyboard that slides from under the screen if you lift the back of the screen up.

There is a more expensive variant which has a faster processor and more capacity on the solid-state drive compared to the model I am reviewing.

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet

– this configuration
RRP  AUD$1499
Form factor Slider convertible tablet
Processor Intel Core i5-3317U CPU extra cost
Intel i7-3517U CPU
RAM 4 Gb
Extra cost: 8Gb
shared with graphics
Secondary storage 128 Gb solid-state drive,
extra cost: 256 Gb solid-state drive
SDXC card / MemoryStick reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics
Screen 11” widescreen (Full HD) LED backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD Audio
Audio Improvements Dolby Home Theater, Sony S-Master headphone amplifier
Network Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready
Connectivity USB 2 x USB 3.0
Audio 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
Authentication and Security Fingerprint readers, TPM
Sensors Touchscreen, NFC, accelerometer, gyro, digital compass
Operating System on supplied configuration Windows 8 extra cost:
Windows 8 Pro
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Overall: Graphics:
Advanced Graphics:
Insert variants with relative price shifts

The computer itsel

Aesthetics and Build Quality

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet computerThe Sony VAIO Duo 11 is a beautifully-designed slider convertible computer where the keyboard pulls up from under the touchscreen which also appears at an angle. It could have an identifying mark to guide users to lift the top upwards to slide out the keyboard because it can be confusing for first-timers to lift the bottom of the screen to pull out the keyboard.

The slider mechanism worked very smoothly even though I was dealing with a well-used demo / review-sample unit. As for a lightweight highly-portable computer, the VAIO had ticked the boxes for something that is able to be taken around and about be having a small footprint even when used as a keyboard as well as being lightweight enough to stow in a shoulder bag.

There was very little heat buildup when I watched video material on this computer due to the use of strategically-placed vents on the back of the tablet.

User Interface

The Sony VAIO Duo 11’s illuminated keyboard is large enough to comfortably touch-type on. This is of importance when you are using this unit to do something like live-blog or take notes for a significant amount of time.

But the keyboard area works as a trackpad along with a joystick in the middle of the keyboard. This doesn’t do a good job for fine navigation and a Bluetooth mouse would be an essential accessory for content creation.

The touchscreen does its job properly for coarse navigation and even works well with food-coated fingers that would be expected when you are using this unit in a Wi-Fi-hotspot cafe. Here, it is very responsive and accurate.

As for supplementary controls, the VAIO could also benefit from always-accessible controls for sound volume and “airplane mode”.

Audio and Video

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet - Right-hand-side view - 2 USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI port

Right-hand-side view – 2 USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI port

The Intel HD video display subsystem was very smooth and responsive for both regular desktop content and video content. The high-resolution setup can be a problem for desktop applications unless you configure the text display to magnify the text by 150% or zoom in oh the copy that you are typing.

As for the screen, it is very glossy but it is bright so you can see the content easily. The sound will be typical for a laptop and excels well for voice and sound effects. Headphones or external audio equipment would be of benefit for better sound quality.

Connectivity, Storage and Expansion

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet computer left-hand-side view - VGA port, memory card slots (SDXC and MemoryStick), audio output jack

Left-hand-side view – VGA port, memory card slots (SDXC and MemoryStick), audio output jack

The Sony VAIO Duo 11 has the full video complement for the old economy projector or the new HDTV by offering a VGA connector and an HDMI connector for either of these devices.

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet -Rear view - Power connection and clothespeg-style Ethernet connectio

Rear view – Power connection and clothespeg-style Ethernet connection

There are 2 USB 3.0 ports which would be enough for a USB memory key, USB wireless-broadband modem or a mobile printer. The VAIO also has a clothespeg-style Ethernet port like what the HP Envy 4 computers use, thus allowing you to connect it to wired network segments. As for Wi-Fi networks, there is the full dual-band 802.11a/g/n complement which makes this computer so adept to any current network. This level of connectivity would please not just those involved with troubleshooting home or business networks but anyone who valuse connectivity to any Internet-bearing computer network without the need to carry accessories with them. As for Bluetooth, the hardware is ready for Bluetooth 4.0 Smart devices – if wireless keyboards and mice exploit this technology, they could run for a long time on a pair of AA batteries.

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet -Clothespeg-style Ethernet connector for wired networks

Clothespeg-style Ethernet connector for wired networks

The solid-state hard disk has the appropriate capacity for secondary-computer use and has that instant responsiveness expected for this class of secondary storage. This is complemented with a slot for SD cards or Sony’s MemoryStick cards which comes in to its own when you want to “take the film out” of your digital camera or camcorder to gain access to your images or video.

Battery life

For day-to-day regular use, the Sony VAIO Duo 11 sips power but video streaming does place a demand on the battery. This was observed with half the battery available at the end of a 1-hour TV serial streamed down from SBS On-Demand via a Wi-Fi network.

Like with some of the smaller VAIO laptops, Sony offers an external battery pack as an accessory if you are finding that you want to run this on batteries for a very long time especially with video streaming or previewing.

Other usage notes

Sony VAIO Duo 11 slider-convertible tablet - rear viewThe slider-convertible design that the Sony VAIO Duo 11 has is the feature that impresses most bystanders in a similar manner to a sports car’s pop-up headlights or the way a convertible’s rag-top retracts at the push of a button.

One person who lives with me and uses an HP netbook as a secondary travel computer was impressed by the size of this computer and the way the keyboard comes out for regular typing. A cafe owner in trendy Brunswick Street, Fitzroy was also impressed with the way this computer changes from a tablet to a notebook computer when I was talking with him about it. This is although he sees a lot of people using Apple MacBook computers at his cafe-bar which has a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The Sony VAIO Duo 11 could benefit from the use of a thumbstick as the main fine-navigation tool rather than a keyboard-wide touchpad.

As well, a sleeve could be supplied as a standard accessory to protect the screen from scratches as it is taken around in your bag. Windows 8 could also benefit from an option to implement a same text pitch across all resolutions on small screens so as to improve readability in Desktop mode.

The NFC sensor could also be duplicated on the front of the computer or on the keyboard edge as well as on the rear of the computer so you can transfer Web links easily between an Android phone and this device.


I would recommend this computer as a portable secondary computer for those of us who want to create content. Here, it would come in to its own with email, taking notes and similar activities. As well, those of us who like working at the “second-office” cafes, lounges and bars, or do a lot of travel would value this computer and its peers even though we use a larger computer like a desktop or larger laptop as the main computer.

Here, the Sony VAIO Duo 11, Dell XPS 12 or the HP Envy x2 would become more the “open-frame” touch-enabled answer to a MacBook Air 11-inch as far as a small notebook is concerned and is a sign of a very crowded market for this class of computer. They can also become a challenge to the 10″ tablets when it becomes desireable to have the full content-creation functionality without the need to carry extra accessories. I would consider this if you value less fiddling with “swivel-head” mechanisms or detachable keyboards and always want to have a simplified single-piece device that can serves as a tablet or a notebook computer.

Product Review–Sony VAIO Tap 20 desktop-tablet computer


Previously, I have given the Sony VAIO Tap 20 “adaptive all-in-one” computer a fair bit of coverage on HomeNetworking01.info as a bridge between a tablet computer and a desktop computer. This included commenting on a Microsoft article where it was presented to the article author’s parents at their house to assess its prowess with different computing skill levels.

Now I have the chance to review this computer and see for myself what it is like as a representative of this new class of computer, especially as a “lifestyle computer”.

Sony VAIO Tap 20 adaptive all-in-one computer as a desktop

Sony VAIO Tap 20 adaptive all-in-one computer as a tablet

– this configuration
Form factor Adaptive All-in-one
Processor i5-3317u
RAM 4 Gb shared with graphics
Secondary Storage 500 Gb hard disk SDXC and MemoryStick card readers
Display Subsystem Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics
Screen 20” widescreen (1600 x 900) LED-backlit LCD
Sensors Touchscreen
Near-field communications
Audio Subsystem Intel HD Audio
Network Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready
Connections USB 2 x USB 3.0
Audio 3.5mm audio input jack, 3.5mm audio output jack
Operating System on supplied unit Microsoft Windows 8
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Overall: 4.8 Graphics: 4.8
Advanced Graphics: 6.2

The computer itself


Sony VAI Tap 20 adaptive all-in-one computer with its kickstand

The VAIO Tap 20 using a simple kickstand for desktop use

The Sony VAIO Tap 20 can be set up to work as a desktop computer with its supplied wireless keyboard and mouse or it can be laid flat to work as a touchscreen-driven tablet computer. This appeals for a range of activities like game-playing or Web-browsing at the kitchen table to regular content creation at a desk.

Aesthetics and Build quality

The Sony VAIO Tap 20 has a style that can be described as being a large tablet computer or a large picture frame. There is the Windows button located at the bottom and a group of status lights located at the top of the screen.

The unit rests on a very sturdy aluminium kickstand which doesn’t slip but can double as a handle when you take the VAIO Tap 20 from room to room. This comes in to play even if you use the computer as a tablet in order to provide a useable operating angle when it is rested on a table or similar surface.

When I was watching an on-demand video throigh the VAIO Tap 20, I had not noticed any overheating. This is due to the use of venting on back of the computer to avoid heat build-up. There also wasn’t any heat build-up through regular use.

User interface

The supplied keyboard has a full numeric keypad plus access to system functions like volume control. It is able to sustain touch-typing comfortably nut you may find that a regular desktop keyboard may work better for this activity. It also has that hard feel which gives the proper feedback for when you type away on it.

The suppled wireless mouse works properly as expected for a three-button thumbwheel mouse and comes in handy for detailed navigation as would be expected.

The touchscreen works as expected for a large touchscreen and can serve well for coarse navigation of a desktop user interface or proper navigation of touch-optimised software like Windows 8’s “Modern” user interface. The large screen size can even allow you to type on the on-screen keyboard for longer periods, which can be useful if the wireless keyboard’s batteries died or you didn’t want to bother carrying the keyboard with you for a short bit of typing.

The VAIO Tap 20 has integrated NFC “touch-and-go” support but the sensor is located on the rear of the tablet unit. It does support what Windows 8 can do for NFC applications, especially the ability to transfer vCard contact data and Web-page URLs between this unit and Android devices. It may be able to do NFC data transfer for more data with Windows devices.

Audio and Video

Sony VAIO Tap 20 adaptive all-in-one computer right-hand-side connections - Gigabit Ethernet socket and power socket

Right-hand-side connections – Gigabit Ethernet socket and power socket

The touchscreen display works well for regular computing activities including Google Maps browsing. But it was able to perform smoothly and yield a good colour display for video playback as I observed with SBS On-Demand.

There is the glossy display surface which can be a problem under some lighting conditions and also can harbour fingermarks through regular use. But this is common with consumer-grade equipment.

The sound from the integrated speakers does sound “full” rather than “tinny” for most applications. But it has the volume that is good enough for close listening and wouldn’t be described as “room-filling”. I noticed this when I used TuneIn Radio to listen to Heart 106.2 London through the VAIO’s speakers while preparing the copy for this review.

The supplied VAIO Pictures and Music media browsers, available through the Windows 8 “Modern” user interface work properly as media browsers whether the media is on local storage or on a DLNA-compliant network-attached storage device.

Battery life

Sony VAIO Tap 20 adaptive all-in-one computer left-hand-side connections - Memory-card reader, 2 USB 3.0 connections, 3.5mm audio input jack and 3.5mm audio output jack

Left-hand-side connections – Memory-card reader, 2 USB 3.0 connections, 3.5mm audio input jack and 3.5mm audio output jack

I wouldn’t expect the battery in the Sony VAIO Tap 20 to run for more than four hours with regular work because of the large screen area. Even watching an hour-long on-demand TV show had the Tap 20 register half battery capacity even when I started watching it on full capacity. Here, the battery can serve as continuity when you move it between different areas or for short amounts of use away from AC power.

It is something that will be expected out of this class of “adaptive all-in-one” computer as these are pitched simply as transportable computers.

Connectivity and Expansion

The Sony VAIO Tap 20 has 2 USB 3.0 ports and a pair of 3.5mm stereo jacks for audio input and output. Unlike most other computers, it doesn’t have the ability to connect to an external video display, which may not be of concern for its role as a home “lifestyle” computer. If you wanted to use an external display, you would need to use a USB DisplayLink adaptor or network display link such as one based on Intel WiDi technology.

As for a network, it can connect to an 802.11g or n Wi-Fi segment or a Gigabit Ethernet wired segment, which is typical for most of these computers. It can also connect to Bluetooth wireless peripherals and even supports the Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready connection specification, which can allow for sensor devices, keyboards, mice and similar devices to be designed for battery economy.

Other experience notes

I had shown this computer to the lady of the house who has some elementary computer skills and she was impressed with the large screen and its substantial weight but saw it as a different kettle of fish to her Apple iPad tablet. She reckoned that it may work well as a transportable desktop computer for an application we were talking about where this unit may be used on a dining table and be easy to clear up when when it comes time to set the table for dinner.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

The NFC sensor could be duplicated on the front of the VAIO Tap 20 so you can easily use it with smaller devices like Android smartphones or when using NFC to set up wireless peripherals. As well, the kickstand could benefit from a rubber grip along the long edge so as to avoid the risk of good furniture being scratched.

I would recommend that Sony provide an optional expansion module / docking station similar to what was available for the VAIO Z Series notebooks for this unit. This is where it had an optical drive and extra USB ports for use at the main desktop computing location. A USB digital-TV tuner module could come in handy as an option, making it work well as the supplementary kitchen TV. Similarly, Sony could also offer a bag or caddy to make it easier to transport the keyboard and mouse with the computer.

Sony could also provide a “performance” variant which uses an Intel i7 CPU, extra RAM and discrete graphics for those who value higher system performance. This could be used as a way to develop the product line further.


The Sony VAIO Tap 20 fits in between a 17” desktop-replacement laptop computer and a tyical “all-in-one” desktop computer as a regular computer that can be easily taken around the house or stored away when not needed.

Here this would work well where you want a large-screen tablet computer that can be stood up or laid flat on a bench or table for Web browsing and similar tasks; or a computer that can be used in the conventional form with a keyboard for content creation. It would underscore the VAIO Tap 20’s role as an alternative to the iPad or regular laptop for a common transportable “casual-use” computer and could fit the bill as a “lifestyle computer”.

Sony brings forth the 13” version of the VAIO Duo slider convertible


Sony VAIO Duo 13 review: a much-improved take on the Windows 8 slider | Engadget

Sony gives the slider another shot with the VAIO Duo 13: coming June 9th for $1,400  | Engadget

From the horse’s mouth


European Press Release

My Comments

Sony VAIO Duo 13 slider convertible notebook Press image courtesy of SonyThe Sony VAIO Duo 11 computer has been improved upon this month with a release of a model that uses a 13” screen. This model, known as the VAIO Duo 13 also exposes some useability improvements including an improved slide-out mechanism that is easier to manage. It also has the similar dimensions but uses narrower bezels around the screen and keyboard.

But they have also added a touchpad for those of you who are used to the old laptop trackpad and the keyboard isn’t as cramped as the original Duo 11. This makes for a slider convertible that can appeal to those of us who still like to type out content. There is also a stylus for writing down notes or “roughing-out” drawings.

Of course, there is new horsepower under the hood with the Duo 13 implementing the Intel Haswell chipset. This has an advantage for longer battery runtime with most activities. Sony have also made a GT-like performance edition of the Duo 13 available as part of the lineup, this time with an Intel i7 processor. Sony is also offering integrated wireless broadband as a specification option, most likely with units sold via mobile-phone carriers.

One may think that a 13” slider convertible like the VAIO Duo 13 is a bit too much as a tablet but is the “right size” for creating content. The use of a narrower bezel on the screen and achieving a similar size to the Duo 11 may make the large screen appeal for tablet use while also appealing for typing up those notes when you are on that flight.

It is another example of improved touchscreen convertible laptops appearing on the market as a capable product class for Windows 8/

Sony to introduce new value-priced premium-grade VAIO laptops


Sony Intros VAIO Fit Windows 8 Laptop, Updates Others | Tom’s Hardware

Sony Vaio Fit Line Aims for Premium Quality at Entry-Point Prices | eWeek

From the horse’s mouth


Press Release

My Comments

When you are thinking of a new laptop after you have to give that school-supplied laptop back to the school, you mostly are thinking of the cheapest model you can get your hands on. Most likely, the Sony VAIO range would be out of your price range due to their premium positioning.

Now Sony is introducing the VAIO Fit Series of value-priced premium-grade laptops which would be at a price that most people can think of as an entry-level price. But these machines raise the value for the price range by implementing features like a high-resolution screen (1080p for the 15” models and 900 for the 14” variants). This display would be driven by NVIDIA GeForce discrete graphics that has up to 2Gb display memory. As for sound, the promise is to use “big-box” speakers on all the models while the 15” variants would come with a subwoofer for the bass frequencies. This is a way Sony is bringing their AV knowhow to affordable laptops.

There would be models that have the Intel i3, i5 or i7 Ivy Bridge CPUS but the press releases don’t detail what or how much RAM and hard disk storage is available across the board. The machines are able to come with optical disk drives including some that have the ability to read Blu-Ray Discs. They will also have the NFC functionality so as to share data between the computers and Windows Phone 8 or Android phones or sync up with Sony’s Bluetooth peripherals. As well, Sony is offering a capacitive touchscreen as an option so you can get the best out of Windows 8.

The “Fit E” series is sold cheaper and comes in a plastic finish while the “Fit” series comes in a steel finish with all available in black, pink or white. What I see of this is that Sony is offering entry-level purchasers something that can be seen as premium, this “filling in” the “value” purchasing segment when it comes to mainstream laptops.

Gift List–Mother’s Day

Sometimes you may be stuck for technological gifts to give Mum on her special day. Here, I have assembled a list of ideas to get you going, especially when it comes to high-value gifts where you can pool resources together to fund these gifts rather than buying many low-value gifts.


Small size for the purse

Toshiba Thrive AT1S0 7" tablet

Toshiba AT1S0 7″ Android tablet

The small 7” tablet computers come in to their own if the main goal is to have it on hand in your coat pocket. They can also fit comfortably even it to mid-sized handbags to use as an electronic notebook or electronic reference book.

To keep in the handbag, at home or the office

Toshiba AT300 10" Android tabletA 10” tablet may come in to its own if the main goal is to read or view online content while relaxing in that armchair or in bed. Similarly, they could come in to their own with a larger handbag or shoulder bag.

No tablet computer is complete without a matching accessory cover or wrap that suits Mum’s taste. If she owns a tablet computer, you may offer her a newer cover or wrap, perhaps to replace that tired old one that she has on that tablet.


Small ultraportables

HP Envy X2 detachable-screen hybrid tablet-notebook computer

HP Envy X2 detachable-screen hybrid tablet-notebook computer

Small ultraportable computers that range from 11” to 14” can earn their keep for “on-the-go” computing tasks. This is more so if Mum wants to create a lot of content like typing up many email letters, writing memoirs or simply working a blog.

Larger laptops

Toshiba Satellite P870 desktop-replacement laptopOn the other hand, a standard-size laptop or “desktop tablet” computer may come in handy if the goal is a computer that is mainly used at home and the desire is to store it away neatly when not in use.


The “all-in-one” desktop computer, with the computing power, screen and storage in one slender box, can become an alternative computer option if you want an elegant desktop computer. They are also becoming increasingly capable rather than glorified “kitchen kiosks”.


HP Photosmart 7510 multifunction inkjet printer

HP Photosmart 7510 multifunction inkjet printer – predecessor to the Photosmart 7520

As for printers, it may be worth looking towards a durable network printer that is cost-effective to run. Be careful of the printers that are cheap to buy because these units will be expensive to run due to short-capacity inks and toners, with situations where the cost of replacing ink or toner is as much as buying a printer of the same standard.

HP Photosmart 6520 or Photosmart 7520 desktop printers

HP Envy 120 – a neat aesthetically-pleasing printer for low-demand applications such as being a secondary printer

Brother MFC-J825DW or DCP-J725DW / DCP-J925DW

Small music system

1-piece including speaker docks and wireless speakers

Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock (Photo courtesy of Marantz / Gap Marketing)

Marantz Audio Consolette speaker dock

These single-piece systems, including speaker docks and wireless speaker systems, typically have a small footprint and can fit well on the kitchen bench or on the sideboard. Some of these may offer a “full” sound that encompasses te bass notes and the treble notes properly.


Sony CMT-MX750Ni Internet-enabled micro music system

Sony CMT-MX750Ni – an example of a DLNA-compliant music system for a hotel room or serviced apartment

A three-piece system with separate speakers has increased flexibility. Here, you can keep the main unit on the sideboard and position the speakers further away, including mounting them on the wall or having them flank a fireplace or feature window.

Earphones and headphones

Creative Labs MA930 in-ear mobile-phone headset

Creative Labs MA930 in-ear headset

I would suggest that you look towards a few sets of headphones that suit different activities. For example, a pair of lightweight supra-aural headphones can work well for jogging or walking with good examples being provided by B&O (Form 2review), Bose, Denon, Sennheiser and Sony.

Earphones can also work well for public transport and other noisy environments especially where discreet use is required. Similarly a pair of good circum-aural headphones can go a long way for detailed music listening at home or in noisy environments.

It is worth having a look at this buying guide to be sure that the headphones fit yours and Mum’s desires.

Gaining the most out of the Internet experience

Internet setup

If there isn’t a broadband Internet service at Mum’s home, it could be a good gift idea to set up one there and install a good-quality router for the network as in the article that I had done about the “family house”.

To the same extent, optimising the home network with at least 802.11n dual stream coverage everywhere, preferably simultaneous dual-band 802.11n dual-stream Wi-Fi. As well, I would make sure that there is a HomePlug AV powerline segment in that network even if there is Ethernet in the house. This is to cater for ad-hoc wired-network setups.

The reason I would think of this is that you may be dealing with increased use of multimedia from online sources at the TV, laptop or mobile devices and you want reliable operation from these services.


Similarly, you may pool resources together to give Mum access to IT education and support programs/ This is more so if she hasn’t got much in the way of computer skills.

Online content

As well, pooling resources to an online content service such as Spotify, Netflix, Hulu or QuickFlix may be a way to give her access to the music and movies that these services provide. In the case of Spotify, this may be about using it as an online music library or as a “music tryout” service that can be part of her complete music experience.

These services are not about replacing the existing content library but about hunting for new content that may be of interest.


I wish you all a very happy and prosperous Mother’s Day with lots of fun, with you using this as a way to choose the right gift that will be value for money.

Sony Vaio Tap 20–a new class of personal computer


Sony Vaio Tap 20 Review – Watch CNET’s Video Review

My Comments

We have seen the desktop-replacement laptops with the 17” displays as the pinnacle of the laptop computer class but Sony has introduced a new computer device class that bridges two other computer classes. This is part of an increased run of touch-enabled computers that take advantage of the Windows 8 touch shell.

This computer, known as the VAIO Tap 20 is a bridge between the tablet computer and the all-in-one desktop computer of the ilk of the VAIO J Series that I reviewed. Here, it is a Windows 8 tablet with the multi-touch user interface, but it can rest on a stand which links to a keyboard and mouse for regular all-in-one use.

It has 4Gb RAM and 750Gb on the hard disk but doesn’t have an integrated optical drive or HDMI video input. The screen comes in at 20” with a 1600×900 resolution while it is powered by an Intel i5 third-generation processor.

The CNET article still found this computer to have what they considered as dubious performance abilities of the all-in-one class and they found that, although it runs the Windows 8 operating system and has the NFC abilities, it is not worth the money. This is although the HP Z1 Workstation and the Malmgear Alpha 24 Super are showing up as highly-capable all-in-one computers that can handle advanced graphics for work and play.

But what I see of this is that it could be a proving ground for this computer class as more of the all-in-one computers come on the market in response to Windows 8. This is in the form a a large tablet computer which can work as a desk-based computer. Once Sony or someone else issue a “follow-up” model that has the better specifications and features, this could be a chance to legitimise the “all-in-one” tablet hybrid computer as a credible computing device.

Sony VAIO T Series Ultrabook–the cheaper answer to the VAIO Z Series


Sony Vaio T ultrabook announced (in Europe for now) | Windows 8 – CNET Reviews

My Comments

Previously, I had reviewed the Sony VAIO Z Series ultraportable which had all the “bells and whistles” for this class of computer. This included a uber-luxury styling as well as an expansion module with discrete graphics and a Blu-Ray drive for the most-expensive model.

Now Sony have announced in to Europe the VAIO T Series as a down-to-earth ultraportable secondary computer that most people could think of purchasing. There will be an 11” unit as well as a 13” unit that was highlighted; as well as variants being equipped with either the Intel i3, i5 or i7 processors. They are even offering variants that have 320Gb hard disk + 32Gb SSD in a similar vein to the Acer Aspire S3 that I reviewed as well as some that use solid-state only for their secondary storage.

One feature that is also impressive is that they will be “Bluetooth Smart Ready” as in having a Bluetooth 4.0 interface for “Bluetooth Smart” sensor devices. This may also make it feasible to develop standards-compliant wireless mice and keyboards that can work for a long time on a pair of regular AA batteries; as well as working with other Bluetooth-based sensor / control devices such as those used for personal health.

Personally, what I would like to see Sony do is to have these Ultrabooks able to work with an optional expansion module that has an optical drive and extra USB connections at least.

But this is a strong effort by Sony to make their VAIO computer range more “granular” with a large number of different model classes suiting different needs. This is in a similar way that Mercedes-Benz had made their passenger-car lineup more “granular” with a large number of vehicle models.

Product Review–Sony VAIO S Series notebook computer (Model: SB36FG/R)


I am reviewing the Sony VAIO S Series ultraportable notebook which is Sony’s entry in to the 13” mainstream subnotebook / ultraportable computer. In a lot of ways it is similar to and positioned squarely at the same market as the Toshiba Satellite L730 ultraportable which,  like this unit, has an integrated optical drive.

Sony VAIO S Series ultraportable

– this configuration
Processor Intel
RAM 4Gb shared with graphics
Secondary Storage 500Gb hard disk DVD burner, SD card reader, MemoryStick card reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD graphics + AMD Radeon HD discrete graphics
Screen 13” widescreen (1366×768) LED-backlit LCD
Audio Subsystem Intel HD audio
Network Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth 3.0
Connectors USB 3 x USB 2.0
Video External display
Audio External audio
Operating System on supplied unit Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 Home Premium
Windows Experience Index – ‘Stamina” mode Overall:4.7 Graphics: 4.7
Advanced Graphics: 6.2
Windows Experience Index – “Speed” mode Overall: 5.3 It Graphics: 5.3
Advanced Graphics: 6.4

The computer itself

Aesthetics and Build quality

Sony VAIO S Series lid view

Lid view

The Sony VAIO S Series is finished in a red aluminium shell with the back of the lid finished in black.It is thick like the Toshiba Satellite L730 ultraportable and is well-built and runs cool, thus being suitable for long-term use.

User interface

The Sony VAIO S’s illuminated chiclet keyboard is something that you can still touch-type on but feels very plasticky and slippery. Personally, I would go for a keyboard that uses a rubberised feel.

The trackpad is easy to locate and operate by touch and feel and is augmented by a fingerprint sensor.This is part of the login setup for password-protected logins but could also work with a password vault program that is independent of the login setup.

Audio and Video

Sony VAIO S Series ultraportable STAMINA-SPEED switch

Dual graphics with an easy-to-use operating-mode switch

Like most recent laptops, the Sony VAIO S Series uses a dual-GPU setup but this is implemented differently from the norm. Here, the user can change modes by flicking a switch located above the keyboard between “Stamina” which is the battery-saving mode and “Speed” which is the performance mode. This method makes it easier to know which mode you want the computer in to suit the situation at hand and reminds me of the overdrive switch or “sport-mode” switch found in a lot of European cars, where you can engage this mode for performance or disengage it for economy.

As for the display, it isn’t too glossy and reflective, thus allowing the VAIO to be used in many different lighting scenarios, even outdoors.

The sound subsystem is typical to most laptops, with the tinny speakers and the integrated sound card. The VAIO would be best used with a pair of headphones or external speakers if you want more mileage out of the sound.

Connectivity and Expansion

Sony VAIO S Series ultraportable - RHS

Right-hand side – SD card and Memory-Stick slots, locking slot under SD card slot, VGA, HDMI, USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, Ethernet

The expansion options that the Sony VAIO S Series has are plentiful, with 3 USB sockets, one of them being a USB 3.0 socket. You can also connect the VAIO to external displays through a VGA or HDMI connector.

This laptop has what I would expect of a standard ultraportable, with dual-band 802.11a/g/n wireless and Gigabit Ethernet network interfaces.

The SD card slot’s location is very disappointing in my view due to its close proximity to the locking slot. Here, you wouldn’t be able to remove or insert an SD card in this slot if you use a locking device to stop the laptop from being stolen. Some users may see it as a bonus if they want to stop copying of data from the computer while it is unsupervised but this setup may limit use with Kensington’s ClickSafe two-part key-based locks or similar devices.

Battery life

Sony VAIO S Series ultraportable - LHS

Left had side with audio socket and DVD burner

The VAIO S’s STAMINA / SPEED switch allows you to make sure you are running the laptop on a battery-conserving mode when you are running it on batteries and this does pay off with the long run time.

This has really shown a difference with the computer taking very little power to do the basic tasks and running for times in order of five hours consecutively.

Limitations and Points of improvement

I haven’t seen many limitations for the VAIO S Series but Sony could move the locking slot from next to the SD card reader. This could make it suitable for those environments where you require the laptop to be tethered down at all times


Sony VAIO S Series

Still very suitable for hotspot surfing

I would position the Sony VAIO S Series as a fully-fledged ultraportable notebook for those of us who want the integrated optical drive. This is more so as an alternative to the Toshiba Satellite L730 and could be considered as a “journalist’s friend” computer or a machine to give that student who is heading out on that long trip. It can even also work well as a hotspot-surfing laptop when you use that cafe as a second office.