The VAIO Pro 11 proves that it's possible to build a tiny Ultrabook with a price that isn't the opposite of the laptop's physical dimensions. Better yet, Sony also hasn't compromised on important features such as the screen quality. Weighing a mere 860 grams, it's one of the lightest laptops available, yet Sony has managed to include hardware powerful enough to match products twice the weight.
Design and features
The incredibly light weight results from two factors -- the physical dimensions and the material used for the case. The former is dictated by the 11.6 inch display, and Sony has also kept the depth very thin throughout. Despite this touchscreen's smaller dimensions, it's packing a HD wallop thanks to the native resolution of 1920 x 1080, and comes with Sony's impeccable image quality. Our only concern with this screen is that it bounces around a bit when touched, a common complaint for ultralight laptops with touchscreens.
The latter factor that influences weight, build material, keeps the weight down by using mostly plastic, which weighs much less than metal. However, the Pro 11 doesn't feel cheap, as the single aluminium face on the keyboard side looks expensive while providing a sturdy backbone for the entire chassis. Speaking of the backlit island keyboard, it is prone to rattling a tiny bit during use, but there's very little keyboard flex. The island design makes hitting each key relatively easy after a bit of practice, despite the keyboard's smaller layout. Unfortunately the touchpad on our review sample was very problematic, having major issues registering both left and right clicks. We assume it's simply a faulty sample, but when combined with the keyboard rattle isn't very reassuring.
Connections, performance and battery
Sony really doesn't have a lot of room to play with inside the Pro 11, so until somebody invents TARDIS technology, some compromises have to be made. Once again we see the flavour of the day, Intel's Core i5-4200U CPU, doing all the hard work, and it's been matched with 4GB of DDR3 memory. There's obviously no room for added extras like GPUs or secondary hard drives, which explains the lack of a discrete GPU or additional hard drive over and above the included 128GB SSD.
We're guessing the i5 CPU had to throttle down due to heat during our benchmarking, as the Pro 11 scored significantly lower in our overall system test, PCMark 8 Home. The end score of 1690 is around 55% slower than other systems with very similar specs, such as Lenovo's Thinkpad T440s. Game performance was also rather disappointing, with 3DMark's Cloud Gate benchmark netting a score of just 2080, less than half that of the Lenovo, again pointing to thermal throttling. One benefit of this relatively slow hardware is a decent battery life, with PowerMark ending after 231 minutes, on par with larger laptops.