The Sony Vaio Tap 11 is the thinnest Windows 8 tablet with an Intel Core CPU inside. At just 9.9mm thick, this 11.6-inch slate makes the Microsoft Surface Pro look almost chunky at 13mm. The thickness of the two devices differ by mere millimetres but it can be significant in the highly competitive world of mobile devices.
The Tap 11 will no doubt be surpassed in the near future by even slimmer devices, but it will take some effort to match Sony's elegant design. The Tap 11 reuses design elements from Sony's other product lines, such as a circular power button similar to that on the latest Sony Xperia smartphones.
I also liked that the thin keyboard attaches magnetically to the tablet and doubles as a protective cover. The keyboard connects to the tablet using radio frequency and is already linked out of the box. The keys have more depth than they appear. However, the touchpad buttons are too stiff. The keyboard also seems too flat and low compared with a laptop keyboard.
Unlike the magnesium-encased Surface Pro, the Tap 11 has a plastic chassis that weighs 745g. The Surface Pro is much heavier at 910g despite having a slightly smaller 10.6-inch screen. The kickstand that props up the Tap 11 is also adjustable, unlike the Surface Pro's.
The tablet has a digitiser pen stylus that works well with the bundled note-taking app. The stylus can be attached to the left side of the Tap 11 using a plastic clip. Unfortunately, this blocks the flap which covers the full-sized USB 3.0 port and micro-HDMI connector.
The screen has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. Viewing angles are excellent, though blacks do not appear as dark as they should be due to the backlight bleeding in from the edges. The display utilises Sony's Triluminos technology found in its smartphones and TVs. This display technology claims to make images richer and more vivid as it is able to reproduce a wider range of colours.
The 8-megapixel rear camera uses a new Sony Exmor RS CMOS sensor which promises good image quality in a compact form factor. However, the images I took looked grainy and not as good as those taken with most smartphone cameras. There is also a 1-megapixel webcam at the front.
Audio is loud through the three speaker vents. Two of the speakers are located at the sides of the tablet, which means they may be covered by your hands when you are holding the device.
The Tap 11 uses a newer Haswell-class CPU that promises longer battery life. In Digital Life's battery life test, the tablet lasted 5hr 18min, longer than the touted five hours.
This Core i5 processor is not as fast as a standard ultra-low-voltage Haswell CPU because it is a special variant that runs at a lower clock speed. The device comes with just 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive. You probably will not notice the difference if you are just browsing the Internet but it could be noticeable when you are using more processor-intensive programs such as Photoshop.
The Tap 11 is expected to be available later this month. The price has yet to be announced but it is likely to cost more than the Surface Pro, which costs $1,198 with a last-generation CPU.
The Sony Vaio Tap 11 shows that Windows 8 tablets can be thin and light too. Battery life is also improved with the new Haswell CPU, though Sony's similarly lightweight Vaio Pro ultrabook offers even more impressive battery stamina.
Price: Not available
Processor: Intel Core i5-4210Y (1.5GHz)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4200
Display: 11.6 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
Connectivity: USB 3.0, micro-HDMI, SD card reader, headphone jack
Battery life: 4
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