Hands-on: Sony VAIO Duo 13

Hands-on: Sony VAIO Duo 13

 The Triluminos-backlit Full HD display on the VAIO Duo 13 is simply beautiful.

UPDATE 17 JUNE 2013 - Correction that both the Intel Core i5 and Core i7 variants of the VAIO Duo 13 will come with 4G LTE connectivity.

The VAIO Duo 13 is an impressive beast of a machine, and we're glad that Sony's taken care to address two particular pain points we had with the original Duo 11: the optical trackpoint wasn't very convenient to use, and that we had doubts that the flimsy feel of the Surf Slider hinge design might mean it couldn't last.

The optical trackpoint's been removed, and replaced with a proper (albeit wide and narrow) touchpad, while the hinge design has been greatly simplified. The Duo 13 still folds from laptop mode to tablet mode in pretty much the same way, but at least it doesn't feel like it's about to break anytime soon.

In our hands-on with the device, the chiclet keys on the keyboard afforded reasonably good key travel and tactile feedback. The use of a 13-inch form factor also meant additional room to accommodate larger keypads, as well as having slightly better spacing between individual keys. As such, the typing experience was pretty good. The touchpad however was another story altogether, being a little too stiff for our liking, but still usable nonetheless.

The overall package feels remarkably light, yet sturdy, tipping the scales at just 1.35Kg. The Duo 13 will come in both black and white colors.

Sony says that the Duo 13 will feature options for both Intel's fourth-generation Core i5 and i7 processors, solid state hard drive, and Full HD display.

Sony will also offer 4G LTE connectivity for Duo 13 machines equipped with Intel Core i7 processors, with no such option available for machines running Intel Core i5 processors. Sony will offer 4G LTE connectivity for the Duo 13, for both Core i7 and Core i5 variants. Of course, LTE connectivity options will be region-specific, and dependent on individual countries and their service providers.

In an interview with Shigeki Mori, General Manager for Sony's Planning of VAIO & Mobile Business Group, he elaborated on the decision to have the new Duo come in a 13-inch form factor, instead of staying with an 11-inch design as per the older Duo 11. He said, "In order to deliver the ideal creativity and productivity experience to the customer, the 13-inch display allows the consumer to enjoy more versus an 11" display." He used the Windows Modern interface as an example, as the 13" screen is able to display more layers of tiles at one go, while having a wider screen delivers better productivity gains. Furthermore, Sony also managed to enlarge the display without compromising on overall size and weight, keeping the final product just slightly heavier than the original Duo 11. 

The Duo 13 is expected to be available in Singapore sometime towards the end of June. Hopefully, we'll have review units in our hands by then to provide you with our final word on the Duo 13.

Sony's signature chiclet-style keyboard comes standard. The individual keys are backlit as well.

The Surf Slider hinge design has been reworked, and is now positioned smack in the middle of the display's rear, instead of both left and right edges as on the older Duo 11.

The memory card slot is positioned at the rear, right next to the air vent.

On the other end: A pair of USB3.0 ports, HDMI output, 3.5mm audio input jack, and the power input connector.

The NFC contact point on the Duo 13 sits below the keyboard.

The bundled Sony digitiser stylus, which can be attached to the laptop with a special clip.

Otherwise, when in use, the stylus can sit in a hidden holder, which conveniently swivels out from the side of the Duo 13.

In tablet mode, the Duo is remarkably thin at just under 20mm thick. Here's the Duo 13 (right), with an iPhone 4S (left) for comparison.

The demo unit was powered by an Intel Core i7-4500U processor running at 1.8GHz, with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB Samsung SSD. Final specifications for the Singapore market have yet to be revealed though.

 

Blast From The Past: The New Duo 13 Versus The Old Duo 11

With such tightly integrated hardware designs these days, one thing we haven't been able to very much of when it comes to laptop testing are teardowns to see what's going on under the hood. Sony took us a step in that direction with custom Duo 11 and Duo 13 laptops that sport transparent base-plates. The see-through panels let members of the media clearly see the differences in internal layout and design between the old and the new. We'll let the images below do the explaining.

Sony had demo units of both the older Duo 11, and the new Duo 13, configured with a see-through base, so we could see for ourselves the internal differences between the two.

To reduce the overall motherboard size on the new Duo 13, some components such as wireless radio cards were detached from the main motherboard and shifted to sit behind the display assembly.

The additional space internally on the Duo 13 let Sony fit in a much bigger battery, as well as a larger cooling fan. Impressively, the motherboard on the Duo 13 is significantly smaller than the one on the older Duo 11.

A quick comparison in thickness: Duo 13 (left), versus Duo 11 (right).