Review: Sony Vaio Duo 13

Slider phones may have gone out of fashion in recent years but PC vendors searching for ways to merge tablets and laptops into a single hybrid device have revived this form factor.

Their new devices look like tablets - until you slide the screen up to reveal the physical keyboard.

Last year's Sony Vaio Duo 11 was a flawed interpretation with poor battery life and a cramped keyboard.

The company may enjoy greater success with the new Vaio Duo 13, which corrects some of its predecessor's more glaring flaws.

Despite having a bigger screen, the Vaio Duo 13 with its carbon-fibre chassis weighs the same (1.3kg) as the Duo 11, which used aluminium.

As tablets go, the Duo 13 is fairly heavy. It often ended up on my lap. This actually worked well when I was using the digitiser stylus and the preloaded note-taking app.

Because of the tablet's sliding mechanism, the angle of the screen cannot, unfortunately, be adjusted and the screen appears darkened when viewed off-centre.

The Duo 13's keyboard is much more comfortable than the Duo 11's. Sony has even added a small but usable touchpad.

A word of advice for those who are attracted to the white version (above): When backlighting is enabled, the lettering on the keyboard can be difficult to make out.

Besides support for near-field communications, the Vaio Duo 13 also has a SIM card slot for 4G LTE.

But the Ethernet port that was on the older Duo 11 has been removed. There are two USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI port, but they are positioned at the back of the Duo 13, which may cause some inconvenience.

Intel's latest Haswell processor powers the Duo 13.

The Core i5 version reviewed here also comes with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD). Booting up Windows 8 takes five seconds, but the device returned a mediocre PCMark 7 score of 3,210.

The Duo 13 has excellent battery life and lasted 8hr 5min, far better than the older Duo 11. In fact, you probably will not achieve this uptime on the Duo 11 even with an extra battery pack.

Available in white and black, Sony's slider hybrid will set you back $2,499 for the Core i5 version; $3,299 for the faster Core i7 model with a 256GB SSD.

Consider this: you could buy both a laptop and a tablet for less.

Despite being a significant improvement over its predecessor, the Vaio Duo 13's slider design is not for everyone.

vinchang@sph.com.sg


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