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Sony VAIO Pro 13 Review



Sony’s VAIO Z Series was arguably the precursor to the ultrabook. Its light weight, slim profile, and premium aesthetics pushed the boundaries of laptop design.

But the Z Series was also one of the more expensive laptop lines on the market, with a price that started close to $2,000 for the 2011 model and quickly climbed when you added accessories like external docks and drives to improve graphics performance or handle optical discs. Here in the laptop landscape of 2013, where thin notebooks abound, a $2,000 premium PC that doesn’t do much more than your average $800 ultrabook is likely a pretty hard sell.

So rather than update the Z line, Sony opted for something a bit different. The new VAIO Pro, available in both 11.6- and 13.3-inch varieties, keeps the premium looks and materials of the Z Series, including a carbon-fiber chassis (with an aluminum wrist rest), while offering Intel’s latest CPUs and 1080p touch screens for Windows 8. We’ve already raved about the 1.9-pound VAIO Pro 11. Is the Pro 13 as good?

Short answer: Yes. The larger Pro is a very good-looking laptop that’s exceptionally light (2.34 pounds) and a pleasure to use, thanks to a good keyboard, surprisingly punchy speakers, and an extremely fast PCI Express solid-state drive not found in the Pro 11. And despite its svelte frame, battery life is surprisingly decent. We were able to eke out more than six hours’ use in our video rundown test.

Perhaps best of all, Sony has kept the price pretty reasonable. The entry-level Pro 13 we’re looking at here (model SVP13213CXB) is $1,249—no budget system, to be sure, but not prohibitively expensive like the Z Series of yesteryear.

We do have some minor quibbles with the VAIO Pro 13, like the fact that the hinge is a bit wobbly and the touch screen isn’t as slick (literally) as several we’ve swiped our fingers across recently. Also, the fan, which vents heat from the left side, kicks in frequently under heavy load, and is quite noticeable in a quiet room (though we wouldn’t call it loud).

If you’re looking for a very light laptop with premium internals and good battery life, the VAIO Pro 13 is the best we’ve seen—though it’s also one of the first Intel “Haswell”-based ultrabooks to make its way to our test bench. So those who don’t need a new laptop right now may want to wait a few months to see what other PC makers have to offer.

Still, while the Pro is certain to have plenty of competitors, there isn’t much missing here that we’d like to see in a premium-priced lightweight laptop. The VAIO Pro 13 just might be the flagship ultrabook of 2013.

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