Posted by Jim Martin 06 June 2013
Sony Vaio Duo 13: hands-on first look
Now, there's the Duo 13 which takes that first-generation idea and refines it into a considerably better proposition for anyone wanting a full-blown Windows 8 laptop that works as a tablet when you need it to.
Sony Vaio Duo 13 hands-on: features and design
It's less than 10 percent bigger (Sony's words), but the Duo 13 packs a Full HD 13in screen, rather than the 11in display on the old model. It's only 50g heavier, which is a remarkable achievement considering the new model lasts an incredible 15 hours despite having a Core i5 processor.
It's mainly thanks to the use of the new fourth-gen Haswell chip, which is even more frugal with power than the last generation of Intel processors.
Compared with an iPad, the Duo 13 is quite a lot bigger (and twice the weight) but you can run pretty much any Windows program you like. And, unlike the Duo 11, you get a touchpad - albeit a tiny one - perched in front of the backlit keyboard. It supports gestures as well, but getting more than two fingers on the pad at once will be tricky.
The hinge has been updated and looks less industrial than before. It also looks flimsier, but Sony says it's just as tough. A spring mechanism lets you pull the screen up from the back, and it effortlessly flips from tablet to laptop mode, with the bottom edges catching on two hooks to provide good stability even when you prod the touchscreen.
Bundled with the Duo 13 is a stylus, just as with the old model. However, a neat fold-out holder means there's somewhere to put the pen temporarily, and there's a built-in hook to store it for transport. When you unclip the pen, the tablet turns on and you can choose which app launches (it's sensible to choose the bundled Note Anytime app).
You can draw or sketch with the pen - it has 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, but the Duo 13 will detect when you're resting your hand on the screen and switch to handwriting mode: much more comfortable than trying to write with only the stylus touching the screen.
A couple of other changes include the lack of VGA and Ethernet ports, but Sony bundles an HDMI to VGA adapter in the box. If you're stuck in a hotel room which has only wired networking, there's a solution to that in the box, too.
A nifty USB dongle attaches to the power supply. It's a miniature wireless hotspot which converts an Ethernet input into a Wi-Fi signal to give multiple mobile devices internet access.
Sony Vaio Duo 13 hands-on: Triluminos screen
The Duo 13 has the same resolution as the Duo 11, but the 13.3in IPS display gets Sony's Triluminos technology, which you'll also find in some of its high-end TVs this year. It's essentially a clever filter which evens out the red, green and blue levels to deliver better reds and greens. Although we didn't have a Duo 11 to compare side-by-side, it was obvious by looking at a selection of photos that reds were much improved.
The Duo 13 also gets a version of the X-Reality engine in Bravia TVs, which is said to improve video quality. We'll reserve judgement until we have more time to spend with the device.
Sony Vaio Duo 13 hands-on: black and white
If the all-black Duo 11 looks too business-like, then the new white version of the Duo 13 should appeal. It would be our pick, having seen the black and white Duo 13 models side by side. The keyboard section is finished in silver plastic, and it's pretty stylish.
If you need more power, there's a Core i7 version, and you can spec up your perfect configuration on Sony's website. There's a choice of SSDs up to 512GB, memory up to 8GB and Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro. There's also built-in 4G LTE for mobile data.
Off the shelf models include the SVD1321M2E which has Windows 8, a Core i5-4200U, a 128GB SSD and 4GB of RAM (and comes in both black and white).
There's also the VD1321X9E which has similar specs apart from a Core i7-4500U and Windows 8 Pro.
All models have the Intel HD Graphics 4400 graphics chip.
Sony Vaio Duo 13 hands-on: price and availability
The Duo 13 will go on sale in June 2013 and we're told that the Core i5 model will cost around £1,000, and the Core i7 / Windows 8 Pro version being more like £1,300. Specced up to the max, you're looking around the £2k mark.
Not exactly cheap, but it's a great bit of kit. We'll bring you a full review soon.