Sony

Sony VAIO Flip 14a 1080p Ultrabook for $444 (Refurb)

If you don’t mind refurbished laptops and do like paying a very low price for a premium Ultrabook, check out this deal for the Sony VAIO Flip 14a at Cowboom.com (a Best Buy online store).  The Sony VAIO Flip 14a that’s on sale comes with a 1080p screen, 4GB of RAM, Intel Core i3 4th generation processor and a 500GB HD.  The VAIO Flip 14 is a 2-in-1 Ultrabook, meaning it easily converts from an Ultrabook to a tablet:

image

This same VAIO Flip 14a usually retails for $699.99 new on BestBuy.com so this price is a $250 discount to regular.  VAIO Flip 14a 14″ 1080p i3 4GB 500GB 2-in-1 Ultrabook for $444 w/FS @ Cowboom (Pre-Owned)

Link to Deal: Sony VAIO Flip 14a for $444 Refurbished

New Sony VAIO Fit Lineup for Back to School Buyers Arrives

In an effort to clear up its somewhat confusing array of alphabet naming for the VAIO lineup (VAIO E, VAIO T, VAIO F, VAIO S…) Sony is refreshing and then rebranding its budget lineup, formerly known as the VAIO E, to simply just the VAIO Fit.  There will be a VAIO Fit 14E and Fit 15E  in this new lineup offering that’s targeted at budget oriented back to school buyers and home users and then also a more premium VAIO Fit 14 and Fit 15 that offer better specs.  Pricing will start at $550 on the budget friendly Fit 14E and 15E, but even though pricing starts out low you still get nice specs with the base models. 

fit-15-e

Sony has committed to lifting their base line standards for laptops and the lowest resolution they’ll offer going forward is a 1600 x 900 resolution – the 1366 x 768 720p is out.  And in most cases 1080p screens will be offered as at least an option, if not the standard.  Furthermore, a backlit keyboards and an enhanced “Exmor R” web camera will provide good video quality in low light situations for any notebook Sony sells. 

Internally the Fit 14E/15E and Fit 14/15 will be similar, both offering a range of Core i3, i5 and i7 processors.  They will also offer the option of an Nvidia 740M graphics card, touchscreens, optical drive and hybrid storage solutions.  The main difference between the Fit 14E/15E and the more premium Fit 14/15 is that you get a thinner aluminum chassis with the Fit while the Fit E is made of mostly plastic and is slightly thicker.  Availability for these new machines starts at the end of May via the Sony Store, well in time for the Back to School buying crowd.

Sony VAIO T 15” Ultrabook with Full HD Touch Screen for $692 at Sony.com

Sony is ramping up their deals for students now through the Sony Education store, that includes a deal on the VAIO T 15” Ultrabook with 15” Full HD touch screen display for $692.  You don’t have to be a student to get the deal, just be an alumni, parent or related to a student – it’s pretty open.  Just follow this link to the Sony Store to reach the education portal, and then after that you’ll get 10% off any laptop that’s added to your cart as part of the academic purchase savings.   The particular Sony VAIO T model that’s on sale with the Full HD screen is model number SVT151190X, you can just search on that at store.sony.com to find  the specific model that starts at $693. 

image

The VAIO T 15” on sale comes with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, 500GB HD and as previously mentioned a 1920 x 1080 Full HD display.   Another great deal includes the Sony VAIO S series with Full HD display, Intel Core i5 and Nvidia 640M graphics for $790 after the education discount.  The VAIO S with Full HD screen is an IPS display and a highly sought after laptop for its overall quality so the $790 price point is definitely strong.  If you don’t need the Nvidia graphics the price drops to around $760, you can find this model by searching on SVS151290X at the Sony Store.

image

Link to Deal: Sony Education Store VAIO Deals (10% Off)

Sony VAIO E 17” with 1080p Screen on Sale for $580

Here’s yet another deal on a laptop with a Full HD 1920 x 1080 screen.  Newegg has the Sony VAIO E 17-inch laptop on sale for $580 with no tax (except CA) and free shipping when you apply coupon code VMEPROMOMAR13 at checkout and use a Visa card for payment.  This particular model on sale has an Intel Core i5-3210M processor on board and AMD Radeon HD 7550M dedicated graphics.  The screen, which is the highlight of this deal, is a 17.3” size 1920 x 1080 resolution that will allow for viewing of two windows at the same time side by side or of course for watching hi-def movies.  Here are the full specs of the VAIO E that’s on sale (model SVE1712BCXB):

  • Processor: Intel Core i5-3210M 2.5GHz
  • Screen: 17.3” 1920 x 1080 glossy
  • Memory: 6GB RAM
  • OS: Windows 8
  • Storage: 500GB HD
  • Optical Drive: DVD Burner
  • Storage: 500GB HD
  • Memory: 6GB DDR3 1600MHz
  • Wireless: Bluetooth, Wi Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Webcam: 1.3MP HD
  • Dimensions: 16.1” x 10.59” x 1.07” – 1.49”
  • Weight: 7.05lbs

image

The VAIO E design is an attractive all black finish, on the whole the look is quite professional with just the glossy screen giving away the fact this is a consumer targeted machine.   Of course, if you’re looking for something mobile then at 7lbs this VAIO E is certainly not it.  However, for those that want a desktop replacement style machine or multimedia center for around the house this is a nice option and you won’t beat the price of $580 with these types of specs.

Link to Deal: Sony VAIO E 17-inch for $580 at Newegg (use coupon VMEPROMOMAR13 and Visa card at checkout)

Sony Store has the VAIO E with 1080p & Core i5 for $599.99

Yesterday’s deal on the Sony VAIO E 17 at Newegg.com seemed like a good deal at $649.99, but Sony themselves have topped the deal via the Sony Store.  You can get the VAIO E 17 with a Full HD 1080p screen and Intel Core i5 processor for only $599.99.  To get the deal simply use this link to get to the Sony Store and then apply coupon code SONYE1729 at checkout to get $50 off that brings the total to $599.99 on this configuration.  That’s a pretty amazing price considering the fact that you get a Full HD screen, which usually is not found on laptops under $800.  The rest of the specs on this model for sale, the SVE171290X, are as follows:

  • Processor: Intel 3rd gen Intel Core i5-3210M processor (2.50GHz / 3.10GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • OS: Windows 8 64-bit
  • Screen: 17.3″ LED backlit Full HD display (1920 x 1080)
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • Storage: 320GB (5400RPM) hard drive
  • Memory: 4GB (4GB x1) DDR3-1600MHz
  • Optical Drive: Blu-ray Disc player

Note that currently there’s a free upgrade to the Blu Ray player, so combine that with the 1080p 17” screen and  you’ve got quite an entertainment center going.   This deal lasts through February 2nd, 2013 or while supplies last as they say!

image

Link to deal: Sony VAIO E with 1080p for $599.99 at Sony

Sony VAIO E Core i5 1080p Laptop for $649.99

Newegg.com has a nice price on a 17” Sony VAIO E series laptop that’s pretty well loaded for $649.99 and, best of all, features a Full HD 1920 x 1080p screen.  Having a Full HD screen on a notebook that costs under $800 is pretty rare these days.  The VAIO E on sale also includes an Intel Core i5-3210M processor that clocks in at 2.50GHz, 6GB of memory, AMD Radeon 7650M graphics card and a built-in DVD burner.  The OS included is of course Windows 8, unfortunately the screen is not touchscreen to support the larger icon features of that OS, but the VAIO E does offer an oversized touchpad to easily support all of the Windows 8 touch gestures.   Other features that are noteworthy are the built-in web camera, backlit keyboard and built-in Wi-Fi + Bluetooth.  The price is usually $799.99 for this model but Newegg is offering $150 bringing the total down to $649.99.

image

Link to Deal: Sony VAIO E for $649

Sony Cyber Monday Laptop Deals!

Sony VAIO S 13” Review (2012 Model)

The Sony VAIO S 13” (VAIO S13) is a 13” ultra mobile notebook released in Spring of 2012.  The VAIO S13 comes with the latest Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 and i7 CPUs for top mobile performance. The S13 offers buyers a wide range of configuration options, ranging from the sparsely equipped base unit, which has a street price of around $800, to the much more expensive models with HD+ 1600 x 900 displays, carbon fiber lids and dedicated GPUs. The S13 is aimed at shoppers who want a reasonably thin, durable notebook that gives them the best performance in a light mobile package. Below we’re going to dissect the pros and cons of the VAIO S 13” to hopefully determine whether the S13 makes a good fit for you.

DSC00032-001

Specs

Here are the specifications of the model under review:

  • Model: SVS13112FXB
  • Operating System: Windows Seven Home Premium x64
  • CPU: Intel 2.5GHz Core i5-3210M(3.1GHz Turbo) 35w
  • Memory: 6GB DDR 1333MHz(16GB Max)
  • Hard Drives: 640GB Seagate 5400RPM
  • Optical Drive: DVDRW(Slot Loading)
  • Screen: 13.3” 1366×768 Matte LED LCD
  • Graphics: Intel HD 4000 Integrated
  • Webcam: 1.3MP
  • Network: Realtek Ethernet, Intel 6235 WiFi Card and Bluetooth
  • Inputs: Six Row 81 Key Island Style Keyboard and Clickpad with Integrated Buttons
  • Buttons: Power, Speed/Stamina Control, CD Eject, Assist, Web and Viao
  • Ports:  Three USB Ports – Two USB 3.0 and One Powered USB 2.0 (All Right Side), Ethernet, VGA/HDMI, Combo Headphone/Microphone Jack, SD Card Reader, MagicGate Card Reader
  • Battery: Six-Cell (4400 mAh)
  • Dimensions: Width 13.04”, Depth 8.85” and Height .95”
  • Weight: 3.8 Pounds
  • Warranty: One Year
  • Base Price: $725

Design and Build

DSC00038-001Sony offers the VAIO S13 in eight different color choices, so you can pick the color that best suits your mood. Pink, gold and white are a few of the colors options . Whatever color you chose, the entire case is clad in it. Our review unit came in black, giving it a sort of ThinkPad look. The outside of the S13 has a simple look with only a medium sized Vaio and small Sony logos decorating the the lid. When you open the VAIO S 13” the keyboard is recessed slightly inward. When I first saw it, I thought I had broken it because it’s creased between the keyboard and screen. The S13 has what Sony calls a full-flat design. It’s completely flat on the bottom, except the rubber feet. Most notebooks have something sticking out the bottom these days, which you can feel when it rests in your lap. The S13 is deigned for mobility, so it’s thin and light at just 1” thick. It doesn’t seem all that impressive next to some extremely thin Ultrabooks that are out nowadays, but the S13 also gives users an optical drive, which you’d never see on an Ultrabook. The S13 weighs just under four pounds, 3.8 pounds to be exact. While that’s not the lightest 13” notebook on the market, it should meet the needs of most mobile users.

The VAIO S 13 feels very solid. You can pick it up by the side and it doesn’t creek or groan at all. The lid is made of magnesium alloy and carbon fiber is used on the higher end models. One plus for the mag alloy on the S13 is it is not prone to smudging or fingerprints. While you can make the screen wrinkle a bit if you press on the back, particularly in the middle, it feels well protected nonetheless. The screen is firm when in use, never moving at all. The screen uses a latchless design, but there’s little chance it’ll pop open.  Overall the fit and finish on the S13 is excellent.

Display

The VAIO S 13 has a 13.3” TN LED backlit display. The screen is matte, which thankfully means there’s no annoying reflections when there’s a light source nearby. There are two resolution choices – 1366×768 and 1600×900. We have the lower resolution HD resolution screen. Higher end models will have the HD+ LCD. There are 17 brightness levels on the S13, which range from dim, but usable, to pretty bright. I’d estimate the brightness to be about 300 nits. It seems pretty close to my ThinkPad X220i, which is rated at 300 nits. The S13 screen itself is quite nice, It offers above average contrast, so colors and images look good. Side to side angles are fairly wide and while the vertical angles aren’t as extensive, there’s a sizable effective zone. If you’re not moving too much, the screen looks pretty good. The biggest issue I had with the screen is the screen liked to adjust the brightness all by itself. I’m not sure if it was just a problem with this particular S13 or is a larger problem with all S13s, but the when using the S13, the screen dimmed to a lower brightness for just half a second or so, then would go back to the original setting. At first I thought it was some sort of power management issue, but I turned off all power saving settings and it still did it. I wouldn’t say it’s a huge problem when using the S13 and it may be limited to our S13, but it can be distracting when it occurs.

DSC00043-001 screen tilted back
screen tilted forward side view

Audio

One of the first things I do when getting a notebook for review is plug in my USB drive to dump my Mp3 collection over. I install iTunes and listen to some music, hoping to hear something better than the last notebook I reviewed. On occasion, I get a notebook that rises above the mediocrity that is most notebook speakers, the Dell XPS13 would be an example of this, but mostly they all sound about the same. The S13 would fall into the mediocrity category. While the S13 is pleasant enough for some music or videos, it’s a bit tinny and there’s not much bass to be had. As with most notebooks a good set of headphones or speakers will greatly enhance the audio experience.

CPU, Performance and Storage

Sony offers the Vaio S13 with the latest Intel Core i5 and i7 Intel Ivy Bridge dual core CPUs. Unlike the larger 15” model, there’s no quad core option for the 13” model. It’s a shame there’s no 35w quad option as that would have made the S13 a true portable power house. Our review unit had the base Core i5-3210M dual core CPU. In addition to the Ivy Bridge CPUs, you get a minimum of 4GB of memory on the base model.  Our review unit had 6GB of memory, which should be fine for most users unless you’re running some memory hogging applications. All VAIO S13 configurations have minimum of one 4GB stick soldered to the motherboard with one open slot on the underside of the notebook. That means the maximum amount of memory you can have is 12GB.

DSC00037-001

With the latest Ivy Bridge CPUs and 6GB of memory, the S13 is no lazybones in the performance department. I was able to power through some Photoshop filters while listening to some music and surfing the web. The S13 didn’t sweat at all. One interesting feature the VAIO S offers on the performance side of things is a switch on the keyboard deck that allows you to toggle between speed and stamina performance modes. I think it’s mostly a gimmick. I could not discern a difference between the two modes when doing regular stuff.

The biggest performance bottleneck on the S13 is the slower 5400RPM hard drive. With 640GB of storage, the drive offers plenty of space, but it’s not quick. Boot times were just over a minute and applications don’t pop up as fast as when using a faster drive or SSD. That’s not unexpected, but the good news is the drive is fairly easy to swap. It sits under a panel on the bottom of the notebook. There’s only a couple screws to remove to gain access to it. Unfortunately, there’s only one drive bay and no mSATA slot, which would allow for two drives. It also looks like you cannot remove the optical drive for another hard drive like on the bigger S15 model. While our review unit came with a slot loading DVD-RW drive, a Blu-ray reader or Blu-ray burner is an upgrade option for movie buffs or those who need to do large backups.

Sony offers two graphics card options on the S13, the integrated Intel HD 400, which our review unit has, and a dedicated nVidia GeForce GT 640M LE. If you opt for the Intel solution you should be able to play older games and some newer games on low settings. The Intel card should also offer buyers better battery life. If you want to do some gaming on the S13, the dedicated nVidia card is the way to go. While not a top card by any means, it should allow users to play newer games while on the go, but battery life will take a hit.

Keyboard and Touch Pad

The VAIO S 13” uses a chiclet or island style keyboard that is the norm these days. It’s a full sized keyboard. Being it’s a 13” notebook, there’s no 10 key number pad. The keyboard on the S13 is fairly firm, you can make the keyboard give if you press down on it hard, but that’s not an issue during regular use. The keys on the S13 have a smooth feeling to them. The spacing is off from what I’m familiar with using, but buyers should adjust to that quickly. The depth is also a bit on the shallow side. One nifty feature the S13 keyboard does have is the keyboard backlight. It’s an auto backlight. There’s no on or off switch to the backlight, but when you use the keyboard, the backlight comes on. If you don’t use for a minute or so, it turns itself off. That should help preserve battery life and you don’t have to remember to turn it on or off.

VAIO S13 keyboard

The touch pad on the S13 is a click pad, meaning anywhere except the lower right corner, which is the right click, registers as a left click. The S13 has one of the widest touch pads I’ve seen, measuring over 4.5” wide and just under 2.5” top to bottom. The touch pad on the S13 has just the slightest bit of coarseness to it like a very fine sandpaper, but it works well enough. There’s no lag between what your finger does and what happens on the screen. The button mechanism is much stiffer than I’m used to, making dragging items across the screen a chore, which I didn’t like. I did quickly learn how to use tap to click on the S13, which greatly improved the likeability factor for the touch pad. The S13 has all the gestures like two-finger scrolling, pinch to zoom and tap to click buyers have come to expect when purchasing a notebook and they work well for the most part, but aren’t quite as fluid as the best touch pads I’ve seen like those on the MacBook Air or the ThinkPad X1 Carbon.

Backlit keyboard

Battery

The VAIO S has a six-cell battery. The battery is accessible beneath a panel on the bottom of the notebook. Some screws need to be removed to exchange the battery. While buyers won’t need to send the battery to Sony for replacement, it’s not the most user friendly process. You wouldn’t want to attempt it on say an airplane tray. In addition to the standard battery, Sony offers a sheet battery for the S13 that plugs into a port on the bottom of the laptop. It’s also a six-cell battery and should double the battery life the S13 can offer users, but it also adds a pound and half to the weight, which lessens its mobility. To test the battery on the S13 I charged it fully, placed the switch on the keyboard deck to stamina mode and Windows to battery saver mode since Sony doesn’t offer much in the way of battery management software. The screen was set to half brightness and WiFi was on. With these settings I was able get 4 hours and 16 minutes of battery life. While that’s probably twice what I personally need, it’s a bit on the low side for more recent Intel Ivy Bridge based notebooks that have come across my desk. The ThinkPad T430 for example doubled that, though it had a larger battery. Attaching the sheet battery should get S13 users the same battery life as the T430, but with the added weight, the S13 will be heavier than the T430.

Heat & Noise

When using the VAIO S it stayed cool to the touch whether I was pushing it or not. The bottom back is where it got the warmest, but it was never uncomfortable. The vent on the S13 is located in the middle of the rear, it seems an odd location choice, but at least it’s not on the bottom, which has a tendency to get covered when in use. I wish I could say the S13 ran as quiet as it does cool, but honestly, I can’t. The fan noise on the VAIO S doesn’t get particularly noisy when doing mundane tasks, but it is an ever present fact of life. It has a dull hum that’s on all the time whether you’re just surfing or running more CPU intensive applications. It’s easily drowned out with music or conversation, but if you need quiet, it’s there. I tried setting it to quiet in the software settings and putting the CPU in low power mode, but it had no effect. When pushing the S13 it can get a bit loud, but that’s not unusual for most notebooks.

Ports and Networking

Sony furnishes the S13 with most of the ports typical users will need. Interestingly, almost all the ports on the S13 are located on the right side with the exception of the headphone jack. Hooking up a corded mouse for a lefty might be a challenge. There are connectors on the bottom of the S13 for the slice battery and docking port, but they just have plastic covers that do not attach to the S13, which means they’ll be very easy to lose. The right side of the S13 MagicGate and card readers, VGA and HDMI connectors for video, three USB 3.0 ports(one powered for charging a phone), an Ethernet port and the power jack.

Right side ports

The left side of the S13 has the slot loading DVDRW slot and headphone jack.

Left side

The bottom of the S13 has the slice battery and docking port connectors. The dock only adds a 500GB hard drive for back ups or what not, but doesn’t give you any ports that aren’t on the S13 itself. The dock will add some convenience when using an external monitor or other peripherals at a desk.

DSC00040-001

All S13 come with Ethernet, WiFi and Bluetooth, which should cover the bases for most users. I had no trouble with the WiFi at home or work. I was able to connect my phone to play music and my mouse to the S13 effortlessly via Bluetooth.

Software

Our VAIO S 13” came with Windows 7 Home Premium, but Pro is an option for those willing to pay more. Sony does include some software utilities with the S13 like a settings menu and some multimedia software, but they’re not as comprehensive as the ThinkVantage suite offered on ThinkPads. Vaio Gate is an annoying item in the S13 software bundle. It sits at the top of the screen and pops out when the cursor gets close to it. It sort of reminds of ObjectDock. It has a way of popping out when you don’t want it to do so, though is not difficult to disable. One lame feature Sony offers on the VAIO S is what they call Fresh Start. First of all, you have upgrade to Windows Professional to get it, which costs $50. Basically, Fresh Start is a clean install of Windows with no bloatware. That’s how every notebook/PC should come, yet Sony has the nerve to charge you extra to get something it should already have.

Conclusion

The VAIO S 13” model in some sense tries to be all jack of all trades. You’ve got the lower end sub $800 models that are pretty bare and then the higher end models that go north of $2,000. If you’re going for the base and have $800 to spend, the S13 doesn’t hold up against the competition from a cost perspective. The higher end models are so expensive, few are likely to deem them worthy. I think where the VAIO S 13 is going shine is in the middle. If you’re willing to spend a few hundred above the base price, you can the S13 with a HD+ LCD, which is still pretty rare these days on 13” notebooks outside of premium Ultrabooks, and a dedicated graphics card for those who want to game a bit on the go. When you factor in the durable build, attractive design, above average screen and fair price, it’s in the center that the Sony S13 gives end users the best value.

Pros

  • Attractive Design
  • Nice Screen
  • Durable Build
  • Color Options
  • Auto Keyboard Backlight

Cons

  • Noisy Fan
  • So-so Battery Life
  • Not Easy to Swap Battery
  • Can Be Expensive on Higher Configurations
  • Questionable Software

Sony VAIO T Ultrabook Review

After biding their time, Sony has finally released their version of an Ultrabook, the Sony Vaio T. While Sony is not new in the small laptop game (previously having released a VAIO Z, VAIO X, and VAIO P), the Vaio T is the first of its laptops to be marketed as an Ultrabook. While they may be a little late in the Ultrabook game, Sony took their time to develop and design the Vaio T around the latest Ivy Bridge processor family and their highly-regarded HD 4000 graphics. So how does Sony’s affordable Ultrabook stack up against the competition? Read on to find out.

Sony VAIO T Review

The Sony Vaio T under review comes with the following specs:

  • Processor: Intel Core i5-3317U (1.7GHz, TurboBoost to 2.6GHz, 3MB cache)
  • Graphics: Intel HD 4000
  • Memory: 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • Display: 13.3” 1366 x 768 resolution
  • OS: Windows 7 Professional
  • Storage: 500GB HDD + 32GB mSATA SSD cache drive
  • Battery: 4-cell 4050mAh
  • Wireless: Atheros AR9485WB-EG 802.11 b/g/n
  • Ports: Ethernet, HDMI, VGA,USB 3.0 (x1), USB 2.0 (x1), headphone jack, SHDC card reader
  • Dimensions: 12.72” x 8.9” x 0.71” (32.31 x 22.61 x 1.8 cm)
  • Weight: 3.4 lbs (1.54 kg)
  • Warranty: 1 year depot

Build and Design

A small, lightweight Ultrabook, the Sony Vaio T is barely noticeable in a messenger bag or backpack. The Vaio T shares a lot of the same design features as its more expensive brother, the Vaio Z; however, the T is aimed more at people who want premium styling without the major price hike that many premium designs command, nor have the need for a full-voltage processor (hence why the Vaio Z isn’t defined as an Ultrabook). Instead of carbon fiber, the T is composed mainly of aluminum and plastic trim, located along the back edge of the laptop as well as the center of the top edge. The top of the lid has a brushed metal styling with the Vaio logo emblazed in the center in a chrome-like finish similar to the back edge.

VAIO T lid

While there is no noticeable flex in the keyboard, it’s relatively easy to bend the display a few degrees in each direction with moderate force. It goes without saying that it’s bad practice to handle a notebook by the display, so it’s good practice to be careful not to apply excessive force on the display to prevent damage. Aside from the display, the rest of the notebook is rock solid. One interesting feature is that there are two prongs on the back edge of the laptop that prop up the laptop’s body at a slight angle when the display is opened. Whether or not it’s an advantage is up to the individual user; personally, I like having keyboards that are raised at an angle, but others may not like this feature.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The Vaio T’s keyboard, like practically all Ultrabooks on the market, is a compromise on quality due to the small, thin package. However, the keyboard is sub-par even compared to other Ultrabooks such as the Lenovo IdeaPad U310. Key travel on the Vaio T is especially short, bottoming out as soon as you press down on a key. Any less key travel and it would feel like you’re just tapping your fingers on the palm rest. A saving grace for this keyboard is that it features a standard keyboard layout, and excludes odd button placement such as the U310’s special function keys being on the right edge of the keyboard. The Vaio’s only extra keys (Assist, Web, and Vaio) are out of reach enough not to be accidently pressed. Pressing Assist will launch Sony’s VAIO Care maintenance software. Clicking the Web key will launch the user’s default web browser. The Vaio key will launch a window, asking you if you want to launch either PlayMemories or Media Galley.

DSC00065-001

In contrast, the touchpad on the Vaio T is well designed and doesn’t feature any compromise. At four inches wide and about two and a quarter inches tall, the touchpad is fairly large. It has a similar texture to the aluminum palm rest, though the touchpad is recessed to allow the user to know when their finger is on either the palm rest or the touchpad. Clicking anywhere but the bottom-right on the touchpad produces a satisfying left-click (the whole thing is a giant button).

extra buttons and power button

Display

At 1366 x 768, the amount of screen real estate is only average, but this is the norm for most small Ultrabooks out on the market these days (though some do come with 1600 x 900 displays). Just about everything about the TN panel used in the Sony Vaio T is average: color quality, black levels, viewing angles, etc. The display is pretty bright compared to the Lenovo IdeaPad U310, however. Overall, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about this display to report.

VAIO T Screen VAIO T Screen back
VAIO T Screen forward VAIO T Screen side

Audio

Sony’s Vaio T certainly has enough volume to satisfy an end user and perhaps a few friends when sharing a video, though the speakers on this laptop are noticeably tinny, especially when played at above 50%. If you took an iPod Touch’s internal speaker and manage to boost the volume up to typical laptop levels, you would have audio only slightly worse than this Ultrabook. A pair of quality headphones or earphones would be highly recommended.

Ports

As an Ultrabook, the number of ports on the system is somewhat limited, but this is to be expected in such a small package. Like nearly all Ultrabooks, the Sony Vaio T lacks an optical drive, though with the rise in cloud computing, flash storage, and media downloads directly to customers’ computers, this part of the system is becoming more and more irrelevant as time passes.

On the left, we only have the two USB ports and the cooling vent for the laptop internals.

VAIO T left side

On the right, we have the rest of the ports: a headphone jack, card reader, HDMI and VGA video out options, and Ethernet port. There’s a small orange light (between the headphone jack and card reader) that serves as an activity light for whatever card is stuck in the slot.

DSC00070-001

The front has three indicator lights for (from left to right) battery charging, HDD activity, and wireless indicator. Also on the front edge of this Vaio are the two speaker “grills” (really more like small slots).

DSC00073-001

Just like the front, the back of the Sony Vaio T is clean of any sort of ports, only containing the display hinges.

DSC00072-001

Heat and Noise

During normal operation, the Sony Vaio T is a silent machine. The user won’t hear the mechanical drive or the fan when just browsing the web or doing other low-intensive tasks. When typing on the keyboard, the individual keys make the same sort of noise as any other Ultrabook keyboard, though these keys are slightly louder than the keys on the Lenovo IdeaPad U310. However, when benchmarking, the fan becomes a miniature jet engine, making its presence known to anyone in a moderately-quite room (classroom, home, etc.). Even when not benchmarking, the fan will kick in during YouTube video playback, so bringing a Vaio T into a library might not be a good idea.   We took some video to demonstrate the kind of noise the fan generates when the system is stressed:

Sony VAIO T Fan Noise Test

One positive thing about the Vaio T is that it stays cool during use. When idle or under a light workload (typical of Ultrabook use), this Sony laptop stays cool at a system temperature of between 30 and 40 deg C. The only way to get the Ultrabook to heat up was during benchmarking, and the absolute highest temperature obtained was by running IntelBurn Test, which produced temperatures of 81 deg C. All measurements were taken at a room temperature of 68 deg F.

Software

Like most notebooks, the Vaio T comes with pre-installed software from the factory that, for the most part, duplicates functionality with Windows-included software. Aside from the typical Microsoft Office 2010 Starter and anti-virus trial (Kaspersky Internet Security 2012, in this case), The Vaio T comes with a slew of VAIO-branded softeware. Most of this can be accessed by the VAIO Gate media dock located on the top edge of the display, which can be opened by clicking a rounded tab that hangs on the top-center of the display. Media Gate is a photo, video, and music organizer that combines the functions of Windows Media Gallery and Media Player, albeit in a nicer-looking package. VAIO Collaboration Apps are a family of applications that allow a user to control their other Sony products from the Vaio T, such as a PlayStation3, Bravia TV, Sony Blu-ray players, etc. PlayMemories Home is another Sony-produced software product that allows end users to organize photos, as well as edit them and burn media to a disc from within said program (though for the latter, an external DVD drive would be required as the Vaio T has no built-in optical drive). Music Unlimited is a link to Sony’s online music store, and VAIO Care is a maintenance program that centralizes system information, updates, install/uninstall, troubleshooting, and contact information (for Sony support).

Aside from Sony-made software, the Vaio T includes Skype, a link to eBay’s website, Intel’s AT service signup (a link to sign up for Intel’s anti-theft service), and ArcSoft WebCam Companion 4 (which allows an end user to capture video, edit it, and add objects to video such as masks, photo frames, etc.).

Battery Life

From full charge to Window’s 7% warning, the Sony Vaio T manages to run for a very respectable six hours and twenty-one minutes on the 4-cell battery while browsing the web and using Window’s “Balanced” performance plan. Performing typical daily tasks such as web browsing, document work, and the occasional YouTube video, nearly six and a half hours from the tiny 4-cell battery is pretty good.

VAIO T underside and battery

A handy feature that the Sony Vaio T has is that if the laptop’s battery is running low on power, the power button will flash on and off to visually warn the user about the battery. It certainly grabs the user’s attention in a way that the Windows task bar cannot.

Performance

In 3DMark Vantage, the Sony Vaio T scores a decent 2439 3DMarks, with a GPU score of 1984 and CPU score of 7855, which puts the i5-3317U on par with the full-voltage i3-2330M, more than powerful enough to suit the needs of typical Ultrabook uses.

3DMark Vantage – Measures 3D graphics performance, higher scores are better


Laptop 3DMark Vantage
Sony VAIO T – Intel Core i5-3317U, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD + 32GB mSATA SSD, Intel HD4000 2,439 3DMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon – Intel Core i5-3427 2.3GHz, Intel HD 4000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD 2,755
HP ENVY 4t-1000 – Intel Core i3-2367M 1.4GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB 5400RPM HD, Intel HD 3000 1,320
Lenovo ThinkPad X230 – Intel Core i5-3320M 2.60GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 3,165
Lenovo ThinkPad X220 – Intel Core i5-2410M 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 1,611
Dell XPS 15 (Intel Core i7-2670QM, Nvidia GT 525M 1GB RAM, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD) 4,211
HP Envy 17-3000, Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 6,970
Dell XPS 17 (Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, Nvidia 550m, 6GB RAM, HD 7200RPM) 4,747
HP Pavilion dv6t Select Edition – Intel Core i5-2410m, Intel HD 3000 Graphics, 6GB RAM 1,845

Overall, Sony’s official Ultrabook scores an 8,014 in PCMark Vantage, comparable to other Ultrabooks with a similar hardware layout.

Laptop PCMark Vantage Score
Sony VAIO T – Intel Core i5-3317U, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD + 32GB mSATA SSD, Intel HD4000 8,014 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon – Intel Core i5-3427 2.3GHz, Intel HD 4000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD 11,696 PCMarks
Dell XPS 13 (Intel Core i5-2476M 1.60GHz, Intel HD 3000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD) 9,826 PCMarks
HP Folio 13 (Intel Core i5-2467M 1.60GHz, Intel HD3000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD) 9,026 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad U310 – Intel Core i5-3317U ULV 1.7GHz, 4GB RAM, Intel HD 4000, 540RPM HD 6,433 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X230 – Intel Core  i5-3320M 2.60GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 7,603 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X220 – Intel Core  i5-2410M 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 5,764 PCMarks
SONY VAIO SA – Intel Core i5-2430M, AMD 6750M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 7,007 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM 6,056 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad T420 – Intel Core i3-2310m 2.1GHz, 2GB RAM 3,204 PCMarks

Boot times for this laptop are above average thanks to the SSD Sony pairs with the regular notebook hard drive. Time to login is less than ten seconds, with overall boot time under half a minute, cutting typical mechanical hard drive boot times in half. Compared to an all-SSD notebook, the Sony Vaio T is not that far behind when starting from a cold boot. Also thanks to the SSD pairing, the Sony Vaio T resumes from sleep in one or two seconds.

Conclusion

In its own right, the Sony Vaio T is a decent laptop, with plenty of performance to offer and plenty of ports compared to other Ultrabooks. It’s also a stylish notebook, typical of Sony. However, the display is only average and the keyboard is uncomfortable to type on for extended periods of time. Not to mention the fan being a problem for watching YouTube videos or performing any other task beyond simple web browsing and document work. What Sony has going for the Vaio T, then, is the large trackpad and Sony’s Fresh Start option, which is a free configuration option to rid the laptop of bloatware straight from the factory.

However, the Sony Vaio T faces tough competition from other OEMs and even from Sony itself; the Sony Vaio S 13.3” is only a hair heavier (3.8 lbs) and offers a more powerful i5-3210M and while it doesn’t offer a hybrid SSD option, it does offer dedicated nVidia graphics. As for competition from other Ultrabooks, the Samsng Series 5 Ultrabook offers a brighter screen (300 cd/m) than the Vaio T, is just as lightweight, and even offers an extra USB port.

Just considering the Vaio T itself, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s an affordable Ultrabook that brings together form and function, with a brushed aluminum lid and all-aluminum construction, an i5 ULV, and hybrid SSD performance for just under $800. But when considering the entire affordable Ultrabook market, there’s nothing that makes the Sony Vaio T stand out. If Sony gave the Vaio T a few extra options, such as a 1600 x 900 13.3” display while keeping the price at around $800, then it would blow the competition out of the water at this price point. But as it stands, the Vaio T is not a clear winner, but also not a clear loser either.

Pros

  • Entry-level price
  • Affordable SSD-like performance
  • Low system temperatures
  • Standard layout keyboard
  • OEM Fresh Start option

Cons

  • Shallow keyboard
  • Tinny audio
  • Fan noise

Where to Buy

The VAIO T Ultrabook can be purchased direct from the Sony Store Online starting at $739.99

Free Sony PS3 with Sony VAIO Laptop Purchase is Back, Plus $150 Off Rebate!

The Free PS3 or PS Vita deal with Sony VAIO laptop purchase is now back on.  This is supposed to be for students only, but anyone can pretty much get it if you follow this link:

Sony Education Store, Free PS3 Deal and Free $150 Visa Card

Then follow the graphic that says “Save up to $250 on a Playstation” system” and you’ll see a bunch of coupon codes you can use to get discounts.  Here are the following coupon codes you can use:

  • 250PS3 – Get a Free Playstation 3 with the purchase of certain Sony laptops including the VAIO S, VAIO T or VAIO L
  • 250VITA – Get a Free Playstation Vita
  • CAMPUS5 – Get 5% off your VAIO purchase
  • CAMPUS10 – Get 10% off your VAIO S, VAIO T or VAIO L purchase

Then, after using that coupon you can get either a $100 rebate or $150 rebate in the form of a prepaid Visa card by visiting this page:

Up to $150 Off Visa Prepaid Card

You have to fill in a rebate form and submit a copy of the receipt and barcode.  If you configure your VAIO with Windows 7 Home Premium you get a $100 rebate card and if you configure Windows 7 Professional you get a $150 rebate card.

Free PS3 with Sony VAIO purchase

An example deal you can get is the Sony VAIO S13 with the following specs for $899:

  • 13.3” 1366 x 768 screen
  • Intel Core i5-3210M processor
  • Nvidia 640M graphics
  • 500GB HD 7200RPM storage
  • 6GB RAM
  • Weight of 3.69lbs

Then you get the free PS3 with a value of $250, you can sell the PS3 on Amazon unopened for $245 right now (very easy to do) and then you get the $100 mail-in rebate bringing the total effective price down to around $600 after you factor in taxes and shipping.  This is an excellent deal for the premium VAIO S13 laptop with Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor and gaming capable Nvidia 640M graphics!

Next Page »

Copyright © 2011 Laptop Reviews