Sony Vaio Duo 11 review: Sony's convertible tablet is more clunky than cool

Helping mark the bottom and top of the display are a Windows Start Menu button and a 2.4-megapixel Webcam with a Sony Exmor R sensor. The screen automatically -- and slowly -- changes orientation depending on how you're holding it, which can be irritating as it pops into different views. There were several times when sliding the display up that the picture would rotate upside down, forcing me to tip the computer forward to get it to right itself.

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Under the front edge (or on back when closed) are volume buttons; an Assist button that launches Vaio Care, a service for diagnosing and fixing problems; and an orientation lock. It's a horrible place for these controls as it forces you to tip the computer up to use them, and they're flush with the body so they aren't easy to use by feel alone.

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Also on back/underneath are two tiny, tinny speakers and a second 2.4-megapixel Webcam. The video quality, by the way, is pretty good, but still soft and noisy in low-light conditions.

Sony Vaio Duo 11 Average for category [11-inch]
Video VGA plus HDMI; Intel WiDi-ready VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 2 USB 3.0, SD/Memory Stick card reader 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, Bluetooth, 802.11n Wi-Fi Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None DVD burner

Just as if this were a regular laptop, the Duo's ports and connections are scattered around the sides; USB and HDMI ports on the right, VGA out and card reader on the left, and power and Ethernet out the back.

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The assortment is what you'd find on other ultrabooks in its class, including two USB 3.0 ports, one of which can be used to charge devices while the computer sleeps. Sony added NFC (near-field communication) capabilities as well, so you can tap the Duo against other NFC devices to wirelessly share things like photos. It is also Intel Wireless Display-ready.

Battery life
If you're expecting the battery life of a tablet from the Duo 11, you'll be disappointed. Remember, this might be best used as a tablet, but the components are those of an ultrabook. However, even by ultrabook standards, the Duo falls a little short of expectations.

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Running our video playback battery drain test tapped out the Duo's battery after 4 hours and 46 minutes. It measures up well against other ultrabooks, but falls an hour and a half short of matching the 11.6-inch MacBook Air. The full HD IPS touch display probably doesn't help battery life, but with some power management, breaking 5 hours of work time shouldn't be a problem, though it probably wouldn't be by much.

Load test (average watts)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Performance
It's really a shame that the keyboard isn't better on the Duo because it does have plenty of power when used as a laptop for work and entertainment. Despite opening and running several applications, it never seemed to slow down and the touch-screen performance never got laggy, either. It also starts very quickly, taking less than 11 seconds for a full boot.

The Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics can't handle mainstream PC games all that well, but for casual gaming it's sufficient. It did well in our benchmarks, too, beating out similarly configured ultrabook competition, and besting the MacBook Air on our Photoshop test. However, part of the reason for it scoring below the Air on the other tests is that those tests use iTunes and QuickTime, native Apple software.

Warranty
Sony includes a standard one-year warranty with toll-free 24-7 phone support. Online and e-mail support is available as well.

Conclusion
As a tablet running Windows 8, the Sony Vaio Duo 11 is good if you're OK with its weight and size. But saying it's both a tablet and a full laptop is a stretch. It's certainly powerful enough to do both, but in the end its design is too limiting for those who want the best of both worlds.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Sony Vaio Duo 11

Part Number: SVD11215CXB

MSRP: $1,199.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Operating System Windows 8 64-bit Edition
  • Installed Size 6 GB
  • Color gun metal
  • Weight 2.9 lbs
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • CPU Intel Core i7 (3rd Gen) 3517U / 1.9 GHz
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