Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2013)
Alienware 14 (Core i7, 16GB, 256GB SSD, Nvidia GTX765M)stars
No complaints about the performance, but the design changes don't go nearly far enough.
Editor's note: While the Vaio Fit 14 starts at $649, our review unit is actually a more expensive configuration intended for sale at Best Buy that costs $849. While this is still a very good mainstream laptop, we are revising the rating downward to reflect the higher price.
The Sony Vaio Fit 14 is proof that a budget-friendly laptop need not look like one, nor sacrifice performance to get a better-looking design.
True, there are more laptops these days with, but the Fit is one of the nicest we've seen starting at a sub-$650 price. There's no creaky, cheap-feeling plastic on this thin and light notebook. Instead you get a brushed-aluminum lid with a diamond-cut Vaio logo and a solid body feel.
A responsive capacitive touch screen lies on the other side of the lid, as do a spacious, backlit keyboard and large touch pad. And inside, you'll find a good mix of components to keep everyday tasks humming along without slowdowns.
It doesn't have all-day battery life, and the model we tested uses a hybrid hard drive instead of a solid-state drive (SSD), making it a little slow when it comes to accessing files (though it still boots quickly), and its screen resolution isn't 1080p. You'll need to spend more to get those things.
Considering all that you do get for the price (including an optical drive), though, we're not complaining.
Though it collects fingerprints like a crime scene investigator, the aluminum-clad lid gives the Fit the appearance of a higher-end laptop and adds some strength. The bottom of the system is almost as nice, with a smooth, matte black finish and no fan vents, which are somewhat hidden at the back. There's also no removable battery, but the bottom of the case is removable, with just a handful of screws to attend to.
|Price as reviewed / Starting price||$849 / $649|
|Processor||1.8GHz Intel i5-3337U|
|Memory||8GB, 1,600MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||750GB+8GB Hybrid|
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.3x9.3 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.3 pounds / 4.75 pounds|
At less than an inch thick, the Fit 14 easily slides into a bag, and even with its power adapter you'll be hauling less than 5 pounds. Travel weight is one of those things that usually increases as price decreases, so we're pretty happy with this reasonably svelte laptop.
Raising the lid reveals more brushed aluminum on the palm rest and a diamond-cut edge around the large touch pad with gesture support. It's one of the better touch pads we've used on a Windows laptop, with none of the cursor jumpiness we're used to finding and a subtle texture that allows your fingers to smoothly glide across the surface.
The island-style backlit keyboard is spacious and comfortable, though the shallow deck doesn't permit a lot of travel. If you really like to hammer on your keys, the lack of movement might be jarring.
For the Fit 14's LED-lit capacitive touch screen, Sony didn't use the 1,366x768-pixel native resolution we've gotten used to seeing on midsize laptops in its price range. This model has what Sony calls HD+, with a resolution of 1,600x900 pixels, which results in sharper text and better detail with pictures and video. The touch screen is extremely sensitive, barely requiring pressure to get a response, which in turn means you can work faster and not end up with your screen covered in fingerprints as quickly.
Above the screen is a 1-megapixel Webcam that uses one of Sony's Exmor R backside-illuminated CMOS sensors, which should be better for low-light video. It isn't, so we still recommend having as much light as possible for the best results. Or even just good results.
Though Sony really talks up its ClearAudio+ sound on this laptop, it must actually be referring to another model in the Fit series. The sound quality from the small stereo speakers that fire at the screen isn't terrible, but it's definitely not worth bragging about. With music they were pretty thin and tinny, though they did get reasonably loud without distortion. They were better with movies, but in general you'll be better off with external speakers or headphones. Plus, the speakers are right next to the fans, so when the system heats up, the speakers start to compete with fan noise from the same location.
|Sony Vaio Fit 14 (model SVF14A15CXB)||Average for category [14-inch]|
|Video||HDMI 1.4, Intel WiDi ready||HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 3.0+charge, SD Card reader||2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
All of the Fit 14's ports are on the left side, which makes them very easy to find, but also means there aren't a lot of them. Basically, it's just enough to get you by. Near-field communication technology (NFC) is built in, letting you do things like send Web site URLs and directly connect to the computer over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi simply by touching another NFC device to the Vaio Fit.