The much anticipated Sony Vaio Duo 13 is the manufacturer's reboot of the innovative but not quite perfect Vaio Duo 11. The Duo 13 sports a bigger 13.3" display vs. the Duo 11's 11.6" display, yet it's just a few ounces heavier and is nearly the same size. Sony's impressive that way: they manage to squeeze more features and internals into small places than any other computer maker. This Windows 8 convertible tablet weighs 2.93 lbs. and it runs on Intel's fourth generation Haswell CPUs. The Ultrabook-tablet is available with Core i5 and i7 CPUs just like the Sony Vaio Pro with Haswell, and you have a choice of Intel HD 4400 or HD 5000 graphics. The machine is available with 4 or 8 gigs of DDR3 RAM and 128, 256 and 512 gig SSD drives. All models have dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, a front 2MP camera and a rear 8MP camera. Pricing starts at $1,399 for the Core i5 with 4 gigs of RAM and a 128 gig SSD.
Like the Duo 11, the Duo 13 has a full HD IPS display that works with touch and the included N-Trig digital pen. The display is the same 1920 x 1080 Triluminos panel used in the Vaio Pro 13, and it's simply superb with a very wide color gamut, high contrast and good black levels. It's not wildly bright, but it's more than adequate for indoor use and is indeed brighter than non-premium laptop displays. The N-Trig pen with palm rejection and pressure sensitivity is well suited to art and note taking. Sony bundles ArtRage Pro 3.5 and their own note taking application that can launch if you remove the pen from its side-mounted clip.
Sony addressed most every complaint we had about the Duo 11: the hinge is much smaller and simplified and it's easier to raise the display when placing it in laptop mode. The keyboard is larger, has more travel and tactile feel. There's even an abbreviated wrist rest area and a half height Synaptics trackpad that replaces the embedded pointer stick used on the Duo 11. The Duo 13 is now a viable text entry tool for those who write at length, though key travel is short and feels a bit jarring on the fingers.
We have the 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-4500U with 8 gigs of RAM and a Samsung-made 128 gig SSD for review. It has Intel HD 4400 graphics rather than the significantly more expensive HD 5000 option and it's surprisingly quick in the graphics department. Granted, there are few Haswell Ultrabooks on the market, but graphics benchmarks are significantly higher than the Sony Vaio Pro 13 with the same graphics and Haswell CPU, and it beats the HD 4000 in Ivy Bridge third generation Ultrabooks and convertibles by a significant margin. That translates into good Photoshop performance, smooth HD video playback and the best experience we've had yet playing Civ V at full HD resolution and 60Hz refresh. Nice.
Here's our Sony Vaio Duo 13 video review. Our full written review will follow soon.