We have tested a fair number of Ivy Bridge-based Ultrabooks so far and have been eagerly waiting to get our hands on an Intel Haswell-based Ultrabook, which claims to give a boost to the battery life thanks to its power-efficient micro-architechture. We received the Sony Vaio Pro 13 (SVP1321WSNB) which sports an Intel Core i5-4200U processor. This Ultrabook is sleek, looks great and houses the 4th generation Intel processor. So let us see if it delivers on the Haswell promise of better performance with a much higher battery life.

Design and build

The Sony Vaio Pro 13 sports a 13.3-inch LED baklit LCD full HD touchscreen and a chiclet keyboard

The Sony Vaio Pro 13 sports a 13.3-inch LED backlit LCD full HD touchscreen and a chiclet keyboard

Sony Vaio Pro 13 is quite the looker and a very well-designed Ultrabook. What adds to its beauty is its light weight. It measures 322 x 216mm and has a maximum thickness of 17.2mm on its thickest and 12.8mm on its thinnest sides. At just 1.06 kg, the Sony Vaio Pro is one of the lightest Ultrabooks we have seen in a long time.

Sony Vaio Pro 13 Touch is quite slim and looks attractive on first glance

Sony Vaio Pro 13 Touch is quite slim and looks attractive at first glance

The Vaio Pro 13 comes in an all-black body with sharp edges with a tapering profile around the sides. It’s made of carbon fibre material which keeps the weight light. There is a nice chrome touch on the rear side with the Sony branding. One thing we found surprising was that the top cover tends to flex when you apply mild pressure.The rear side of the laptop is clean and it has a provision to add an extra sheet battery pack. There is a rubber strip running along the base on the rear side to give the Pro 13 a good grip when placed on a table.

On the right hand side you have an HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, headphone jack and the SD card slot, whereas on the left hand side you have the power port and the cooling vents. We really liked how the design on the edge tapers from top to bottom.

On opening the top flap, you are presented with a chiclet keyboard, a palm rest with a brush metal finish and a considerable trackpad. The keypad is laid out on a matte black finish material and all the keys are backlit. The trackpad has a monolithic design and it suffers like most of the other monolithic trackpads we have seen, requiring a harder press to register a response beyond a point. The keypad is well laid out with the keys having a decent amount of travel. There are no surprises as far as the size and placement of keys such as Ctrl or Enter are concerned. Seven of the twelve function keys serve a dual-purpose.

The hinge mechanism is a bit different on the Vaio Pro 13. As you lift the top flap, you will notice that the chrome edge with the Sony branding will touch the base of the table in a way that the top of the keypad is raised from the table. Now while this mechanism is alright on a flat surface like a table, it can be annoying when you use it on your lap.

The speakers are nicely concealed on the top of the keypad

The speakers are nicely concealed on the top of the keypad

The speakers are stealthily-located and you can see them only on opening the top flap all the way out. The speakers fire in the direction of the monitor which is another reason why the hinge mechanism is thought out this way.

Features

The Sony Vai Pro 13 has just two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port and an SD card slot on the right hand side

The Sony Vaio Pro 13 has just two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port and an SD card slot on the right hand side

The Sony Vaio Pro 13 houses the fourth generation Intel Core i5-4200U processor clocked at 1.6GHz with a Turbo Boost upto 2.6GHz. It is an ultra-low voltage (ULV) series dual-core processor with hyper-threading and has the Intel HD 4400 on-die graphics. The Vaio Pro 13 houses 4GB of RAM and a Samsung MZNTD128HAGM which is a 128GB SSD. There are only two USB 3.0 ports along the sides and it lacks an optical drive which is the norm with thin Ultrabooks. There is no LAN port as well. It sports a 13.3-inch full HD resolution LED backlit screen, with a glossy finish. The screen is a multi-touch screen and is quite responsive. We found the presence of a USB port on the power charger to charge your mobile devices quite thoughtful. It leaves the two USB 3.0 ports free to be used with a mouse or an external hard drive. The Vaio Pro 13 bundles an HDMI to D-Sub adapter so that the monitor contents can be shared on another display or projected on a screen while making presentations. This is a good tool for business users.

The VAIO Care utility has various sections dealing with troubleshooting, system settings, security settings, updating software and so on.

It comes with a variety of VAIO specific apps such as VAIO care, VAIO update, VAIO Movie creator, VAIO control centre and so on. The VAIO Care utility has various sections dealing with troubleshooting, system settings, security settings, updating software etc. The VAIO Movie maker as the name implies allows you to make amateur videos from the images or videos you have shot. The VAIO update app allows you to update your VAIO utilities as well as drivers.

Just like the recent bunch of Sony Xperia devices and high end compact cameras, the Vaio Pro 13 also supports near-field communication (NFC) which allows you to pair your NFC-enabled mobile devices or cameras with the Ultrabook and transfer or stream data. On the OS front, the Vaio Pro 13 comes bundled with Windows 8 and there are a decent number of apps available by default such as Sony Music’s Jive HD, Socialife, Shufflr, Gaana, Big Flix and so on.


Performance
Let us start with the display. The full HD resolution bundled with a backlit LED display and an IPS panel ensures colours are vivid and the viewing angles are fantastic. The touch screen is quite responsive as well. But the highly reflective screen tends to affect the movie viewing experience especially in dark scenes, and you have overhead lights behind you or an open window. The reflective screen is not much of an issue when you are working on office related programs which tend to have a white background.

The keyboard is a pleasure to type on. The keys are well spaced and have a decent amount of travel. Barring the function keys and the arrow keys, all other keys are of regular size. The touchpad is a single slab of plastic and will require hard presses at times to register a click. It supports multi-touch and Windows 8 gestures.

The Vaio Pro 13 is speedy thanks to the latest generation Haswell processor. Given below are its scores in our real-life as well as in synthetic testing environments. As you can see, it emerges victorious in most of the tests.

Model

Sony Vaio Fit 15E (SVF1512SN)

Acer Aspire S3

Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro

Sony Vaio Pro 13 (SVP1321WSNB)

Price

Rs. 34,990

Rs. 66,949

Rs. 75, 490

Rs. 74,990

Weight

2.7 Kg

1.38 kg

1.6 kg

1.06 kg

CPU

Intel Core i3-3227U, 1.9GHz

Intel Core i5-3317U, 1.7GHz

Intel Core i5-3317U, 1.7GHz

Intel Core i5-4200U, 1.6GHz

RAM

2 GB

4 GB

2 GB

4 GB

Storage

500 GB HDD

500 GB HDD

128GB SSD

128GB SSD

Graphics Processor

Intel HD 4000

Intel HD 4000

Intel HD 4000

Intel HD 4400

Display

15.5-inch, 1366×768

13.3-inch 1366×768

11.6-inch 1366×768

13.3-inch 1920×1080

OS

Windows 8

Windows 7 Home Basic

Windows 8

Windows 8

Performance

 

 

 

 

Synthetic

 (higher is better)

 

 

 

 

SiSoft Sandra 2013

 

 

 

 

Processor Multimedia (Mpix/s)

65.44

82.91

82.8

95.28

Memory Bandwidth (GB/s)

10.08

9.9

9.79

13.54

PCMark 7 Overall

2272

2520

4117

4216

Cinebench R11.5

(multi-core)

1.9

2.41

2.41

2.36

Crystal Disk Mark (seq read / write) (in MB/s)

95/90

105/92

439/247

509.9/130.9

Battery Eater Pro

(Classic Test) in mins

120

115

153

347

Real World

(lower is better)

 

 

 

 

File compression: 100 MB files to 7zip @ultra, Bzip2

116

85

83

79

Video encoding: 1 min MPEG to H.264 (2nd pass)

86

68

68

76

Ray tracing: POVRay (800×600, AA 0.3)

58

46.31

46

41

Two things we did not like are as soon as you run a resource-heavy intense application that makes use of all cores, you will hear the whirring noise of the fan as it dissipates the heat. It may not be much of an issue if you are outdoors, but it is annoying if you are in the quiet environs of your office. The other issue, although this is applicable only if you place the Vaio Pro 13 on your lap, is that the hinge will tend to dig into your flesh and your left knee can actually feel the heat if the Pro 13 is running a heavy application.

Like we mentioned before, we liked the placement of the speakers, but were wondering if the sound might get muffled considering it is firing in the direction of the monitor, and there is fairly little space between the two. But we had no such issues when we were watching movies. The sound was loud enough and did not sound muffled. We also did not notice any audio distortion at maximum volume levels. Audio quality is decent and tends to suffer only when there is a high density of instruments playing. Great for casual listening while you are working.


Battery Life

The battery life on the Vaio Pro 13 was quite impressive. In our Battery Eater Pro (Classic) test which really taxes the system, it ran for close to 5 hours 47 minutes which is great. With these numbers, the Vaio Pro 13 can easily last close to 8 hours on regular usage, which is no mean feat. Sony also offers an optional sheet battery which it claims can take the regular usage time to 17 hours. While we did not have a sheet battery to test this claim, we would not be surprised if it did indeed last over 12 hours. The low power Haswell goodness shines through in the Vaio Pro 13. This bodes well for business users who are always travelling and need their systems to last longer.

Verdict and Price in India
The Sony Vaio Pro 13 is available at an MRP of Rs. 74,990 which may feel steep for a Core i5 system, but we feel it’s a decent price point considering what is on offer: fast performance, great battery life, light weight, responsive keyboard and touchscreen. Sure we would have loved a larger capacity SSD and a less noisy fan when all cores kick in, but the advantages easily overpower these minor niggles. If you are a business user or someone who wants a light Ultrabook with a great battery life, the Sony Vaio Pro 13 is a great option.

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