What happens when a rubbish laptop collides with a rubbish tablet?
The Sony Vaio Duo 11 laptop has an identity crisis. Slipping and sliding, the Duo is in one instance a thick and heavy Windows 8 tablet before clumsily transforming into a Windows 8 laptop with an awkward, fixed-angle screen. In trying to do two things at once the Vaio Duo ends up being an overpriced and ugly compromise.
Unlike the Microsoft Surface RT, the Vaio Duo runs the full version of Windows 8 complete with the standard desktop mode. This is compatible with most existing Windows software, which is a definite advantage.
Despite its strange appearances the Duo has all the usual ports you'd expect from a laptop and the bright and sharp 11.6in screen has a high resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels. Its weight of 1.3kg is light for a laptop, but heavy for a tablet. The sharp corners and bumpy lines make it uncomfortable to hold as a tablet. Rather than comparing it to the iPad or even Microsoft's own Surface, the Vaio is more like a Slate PC, similar to early tablets from five years ago.
As a tablet it was far too heavy and difficult to hold. As a laptop it was also a struggle. The Vaio ‘transformed' with a pull from a catch at the top of the screen. The keyboard has been squeezed into a small amount of space. The small size of the oddly spaced keys combined with the tiny amount they move when pushed certainly won't be to everyone's tastes, but we found it surprisingly comfortable once we got used to it.
Rather than a touchpad, the Vaio instead relies on either touchscreen control or a touchstick. Unlike the touchsticks on Lenovo's Thinkpad laptops, this one uses a touch-sensitive sensor so you swipe your finger across it rather than nudging the touchstick itself. We're touchstick fans and even we found this one overly sensitive and fiddly.
Battery life was poor. In our low-usage test it lasted less than six hours. When playing video it lasted just four and three-quarter hours. The high specification of the Vaio is no excuse – by comparison the similarly priced and specified 13in Macbook Pro Retina lasted ten hours and forty minutes in low usage.
Still, the specifications are impressive. The Intel Core i7 processor is a fast dual-core chip, while there is also 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD so the Duo is powerful enough for use as your only computer. Such impressive specifications made the Vaio quick with performance similar to top-of-the range Ultrabooks.
This inevitably brings us to price. The high-end model we reviewed is expensive at £1,499. Even the cheapest model costs £849. The Duo isn't an enjoyable way to Windows 8, either in tablet or laptop mode. Even overly eager early adopters should beware.
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An expensive computer that manages to be bad both as a laptop and a tablet
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