Isn’t she lovely: Sony’s ultra-light VAIO Pro 11 reviewed

The Ultrabook touch market is heating up, and with the launch of Intel’s fourth-generation processors, these computers are apparently better than ever. Sony’s take on this space is to make the lightest computer you’ll probably ever see and feel, and wow, it’s an impressive piece of kit.

Features

Announced just under a month ago, Sony’s VAIO Pro is the company’s take on what the Ultrabook experience should be. Two models are being released in the line-up, with the VAIO Pro 11 starting at $1299 and competing against thin and light machines like the Apple MacBook Air 11, which starts at $1099.

Sony’s machine is different, and from a specification perspective, superior in some ways.

We’ll start with the screen which sits at 11.6 inches, and yet packs in a Full HD resolution of 1920×1080, which equates to roughly 190 pixels per inch, higher than the MBA 11’s 135 pixels per inch.

This screen supports touch, and even includes Sony’s Triluminos colour gamut technology, which can be seen on the 4K Ultra High Definition BRAVIA displays.

Under the hood, you’ll find Intel’s latest Core technology, the fourth-generation processor and chipset technology which aims to improve battery life, graphics, and keep system performance strong across the board.

In our review unit, there’s an Intel Core i5 clocked at 1.6GHz, paired with 4GB RAM and 128GB of flash storage. Graphics technology hasn’t quite reached the full extent of Intel’s Haswell, and HD4400 is used here, not the HD5000 of other Haswell computers.

Windows 8 is the operating system included here, with wireless supported through 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and even Near-Field Communication. Ports arrive in the form of two USB 3.0, a headset jack, SDXC card slot, and a lone HDMI port.

A camera is included too, running the HD capable Exmor based webcam at the top of the frame.

While the touchscreen will likely be a primary way of controlling Windows, there’s also a gesture supported touchpad underneath the backlit keyboard.

The chassis is constructed from carbon fibre and aluminium, which should make the machine both light and durable, while a plastic cover protects a small port under the laptop for the addition of an extra battery pack.

Sony also has a redesigned power charge brick which features a USB port to recharge your other devices.

Performance

Sony’s history in making laptops has been a colourful one, with many a bright and dynamic VAIO popping up over the years, but the Pro 11 is a different beast.

Like many other machines out there, the aesthetics of this one follow the dark professional design we’re used to, with a charcoal coloured surface that won’t necessarily draw the attention of onlookers.

But it’s what’s on the inside that counts with this laptop, and the Sony VAIO Pro 11 has to be felt to be believed.

With a weight of 870 grams, this is a machine that is just a smidgen heavier than an Apple iPad, and yet packs in a hell of a lot more in terms of power and usability.

You’d never believe us that this is the lightest full-featured laptop ever until you go into a store and pick one up for yourself.

To make this happen, Sony has moved beyond aluminium or magnesium based alloys for the material, and gone instead with carbon fibre, making this weight – or lack thereof – minimal.

There is some aluminium here, such as on the wrist pad, and it helps to keep that area cool while you’re typing.

This combination of materials makes the VAIO Pro light and lovely, and barely noticeable in your luggage or hand. It’s the first time we’ve come across a notebook like this, and we’d love more like it.

Open it up and you’ll see the familiar clamshell notebook design. This is all Ultrabook, but thanks to the integration of Intel’s new fourth-generation chips – also known as “Haswell” – you’re assured of having a touchscreen, which is now a requirement for Ultrabooks using this range of processers and chipsets.

And what a touchscreen it is.

This year, we’ve seen all the divisions of Sony start to talk to each other, which appears to be a first for the company. As a result, tablets, smartphones, TVs, cameras, and AV gear now all share some of the technology.

The screen is one such area, with Sony using its Triluminos display technology to provide a stronger colour range across the board.

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