Haswell Ultrabooks are here in the guise of the Sony Vaio Pro 13 and the latest generation MacBook Air. Sony also offers an 11" Vaio Pro with an 11.6" display that's shipping soon, but today we take a look at the Vaio Pro 13" that's available now. The Ultrabook has a full HD Triluminus display with 10 point multi-touch, fourth generation Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs and Intel HD 4400 graphics. This is an extremely light 13.3" machine that weighs 2.34 lbs., and it's currently the lightest 13" Ultrabook on the market. The 11" model weighs less just 1.94 pounds. The laptop is clad in carbon fiber and it's available in carbon black or silver (we'd choose black for better keyboard contrast). In some countries there's a black model (not carbon black) that lacks a touch screen. Here in the US, we have only the touch screen model that starts at $1,249 for the Core i5 with 4 gigs of RAM and a 128 gig SSD.
As you'd expect from a high end Sony laptop, the Sony Vaio Duo 13 is quality gear with tasteful and understated lines that reveal their Sony Vaio Z heritage. This is no MacBook Air clone, and the notebook has Sony's signature rectilinear design rather than the smooth aluminum, tapered sides of the Air and Asus Zenbook Prime. The carbon fiber by design bends and it isn't incredibly rigid like Asus, Dell and Apple Ultrabooks. Like it or not, it's intentional and it's designed to deflect blows by "going with the flow" and bend rather than break or dent. Having reviewed and owned a few Sony carbon fiber laptops, I don't have a problem with this, but it's somewhat a matter of personal preference. The Vaio Duo Pro starts at $1,249 rather than the more common $999 for a Core i5 Ultrabook, and you're paying for the incredible light weight, slim design, Intel fourth generation Haswell CPU and touch screen. As we predicted, Sony is indeed first to market with a 1920 x 1080 Ultrabook touch screen that's as thin and light as a non-touch screen like that found in the Samsung Series 9 (now called Samsung ATIV Book 9).
The laptop has Intel dual band WiFi with WiDi wireless display, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC. There's no need to hunt for the NFC transmitter; Sony wisely placed it under the trackpad rather than somewhere on the back. Here in the US, there's currently no 3G/4G option, nor can you get the machine with the slightly quicker Intel HD 5000 graphics as you can with the high end Sony Vaio Duo 13 configuration.
The Vaio Pro has a very good backlit keyboard that's much improved over the Vaio Z in terms of key travel and tactile feel. Yes, it's an Ultrabook so you won't get deep key travel like that of the Lenovo ThinkPad X230, but I found it very comfortable to type on at length. The oversized glass trackpad is responsive and supports multi-touch gestures. The fairly large palm rest tapers to wafer thin at the front, so the transition from palm rest to table isn't jarring. That said, the front is so thin that if you put a finger underneath the trackpad on the bottom, you can feel the click action on the laptop's underside!
Is performance with Intel's new Haswell CPU and GPU much better than Ivy Bridge? No. But battery life is much improved, and our Core i5 easily ran for 6 hours on it's not very high capacity 4,470 mAh battery. As Sony often does with their higher end machines, they offer a sheet battery for $149 that double runtimes.