Hands-on with Sony’s first Ultrabook Touch computer

Intel’s thin and sleek Ultrabook computers have been the biggest thing in laptops for the past year, but now we’re about to see a shift, and Sony’s letting us take a look at its first product to come out in the Ultrabook Touch category.

With the release of Windows 8 coming in fast at the end of October, Ultrabooks are changing, adding touch connectivity thanks to a new operating system design from Microsoft that involves lots of finger friendly fun.

It’s not enough to just have a thin computer with plenty of speed and lots of battery life. No, now you need one with a touchscreen so you can do more.

Running on Windows 8, these touchscreen machines should be able to handle more than your basic tablet-specific functions, with regular Windows apps – such as Photoshop, video and sound editing, tax and money apps, and full PC games – being able to run.

These new machines go by a few names, but you’ll probably hear “Ultrabook Touch,” “touch-enabled Ultrabook”, and “hybrid Ultrabook” being mentioned among the names of these new machines. They will still be a Windows computers, though, just with the inclusion of a touchscreen, and often still with a keyboard.

With that in mind, Sony sat us down this week to take a look at its first Ultrabook Touch, the VAIO Duo 11.

This machine features an 11 inch screen with Full HD’s 1920×1080 resolution, third-generation Intel Core technology (Ivy Bridge), up to 8GB RAM, a 128GB or 256GB solid-state drive, and a new take on the laptop called a “surf slider” design, which allows you to easily pull up on the screen from behind to reveal a full island style keyboard underneath.

In our hands, the Duo 11 was well weighted, not feeling much heavier than a current 11 or 13 inch Ultrabook, and the screen seems to be throwing out a fair amount of light to boot.

The touchscreen was quite responsive, as you’d want it to be, but just in case it’s not enough, a small mouse can be found in the middle of the keyboard to let you do things your touchscreen may not accommodate for.

There’s also a digital stylus being thrown in the package, allowing you to take notes or draw directly on the screen, making the Duo 11 a keeper of three input styles.

If that’s not enough, you could always bring your own mouse and use it on either the Bluetooth connection or USB 3.0 port.

This isn’t the only touch-based Ultrabook Sony will be releasing mind you, with the recent announcement highlighting more laptops to feature touch screens.

Still, with quite a few other Ultrabook manufacturers adopting and offering their take on the familiar Transformer design, Sony’s decision to try something different may pay off for customers after something a little different.

Certainly, time will tell, but we can’t wait until we’re playing with the Duo 11 again.