Sony Vaio Pro 13 Touch review: So light. So small. So good.

As thin as it is, there's not much room for ports, but you do get two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI, an SD card slot, and a mic/headphone jack -- all on the right side. Wireless options comprise Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11n Wi-Fi, NFC, and an updated version of Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) . Also, Sony put a USB port in the side of the Pro 13's power supply, giving you a place to charge a mobile device without tying up one of the laptop's USB 3.0 ports.

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As with the Pro 13's LCD specs, it's little technology differences such as having a full-size HDMI or NFC and WiDi support that distinguish it from the MacBook Air and may, in the end, help make or break a purchase decision for some. Similarly, the 2013 Air does have faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi , but unless you're going to run out and buy a new 802.11ac router or already own one, you'll likely be using 802.11n, or even 802.11g when you're out and about.

Performance and battery life
The Pro 13 Touch I reviewed (an early production sample) was running on a fourth-gen 1.5GHz Intel Core i7-4550U processor, 8GB of DDR3 1,600MHz memory, integrated Intel HD 5000 graphics, and a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive, and loaded with Windows 8 Pro. It's a combination that isn't even available from Sony (or anywhere else in the U.S. right now). However, Sony sells a $2,300 configuration that comes close: 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-4500U processor, 8GB of memory, integrated Intel HD 4400 graphics, and a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive. The storage capacity is what really drives up the price, though; it's a $720 upgrade from the base 128GB SSD.

If you don't have that kind of money, it can be scaled back to about $1,250 with a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD, which is still expensive, but definitely easier to swallow. Everything else about this model is standard, so you still get the great screen, backlit keyboard, and even the PCIe SSD, it's just got less storage and memory, and a slower processor.

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The new Intel processors, at least the low-power ones we've tested so far, haven't really provided any performance boosts. My system's configuration did very well in both our lab tests and anecdotal testing. It's not going to blow you away, but for day-to-day tasks it's plenty. Also, waking the laptop from sleep takes less than 3 seconds, which is awesome for when you want or need to just start working. Also, with the Pro 13, from off to the Windows 8 Start screen takes less than 10 seconds. You can check out our benchmark test results at the end of this review to see how it matches up against the 2013 MacBook Air. Note, though, that the multitasking test and iTunes test use native Apple software.

The integrated graphics were plenty for basic photo editing and we didn't have problems with trimming or playback of 1080p video clips, either. The Pro 13 can handle some graphically demanding games, but it's not a pleasant experience -- stick to casual games or play at reduced resolutions. Also, the system will heat up under heavy load and its tiny fans really start to whir.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When the Vaio Pro 13 was announced and we originally wrote about it, we were still running our benchmarks. After several runs of our video playback drain test, the battery life came in at an average of 8 hours and 53 minutes. That doesn't quite beat the 14 hours and 25 minutes the MacBook Air managed in the same test. However, Sony does sell a $150 sheet battery that attaches to the bottom of the laptop that could potentially double the life.

The Vaio Pro 13 Touch comes with a standard one-year limited warranty that covers hardware, parts, and labor. You can also opt for extended Vaio Care with protection against accidental damage, an on-site service plan, and express shipping coverage. And the laptop's Assist button, positioned above the keyboard, gives you one-button access to tune up, update, and troubleshoot the Pro 11, and includes the option to connect with a Sony expert by phone, chat, or online.

Conclusion
For anyone who's had to lug around a laptop for travel or a daily commute for any amount of time, it's hard not to be excited about this new generation of laptops. Superthin and light with superlong battery life, the Sony Vaio Pro 13 Touch as well as the 2013 MacBook Air are prime examples of what's possible with Intel's fourth-gen Core i-series processors. The Pro 13 Touch offers a great Windows 8 experience, plenty of performance muscle for everyday use, and long battery life. No, not quite as long as the Air's, but then again, once the Air is dead, it's dead. Sony at least gives you an option to go beyond its internal battery's life.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio Pro 13 Touch
437 

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio Pro 13 Touch
277 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio Pro 13 Touch
122 

HandBrake multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio Pro 13 Touch
532 

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio Pro 13 Touch
533 

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations

MacBook Air 13-inch (June 2013)
OSX 10.8.4 Mountain Lion; 1.3GHz Intel Core i5-4240U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,024MB (Shared) Intel HD Graphics 5000; 128GB Apple SSD

Sony Vaio Pro 13
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit); 1.5GHz Intel Core i7-4550U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,659MB (Shared) Intel HD Graphics 5000; 512GB PCIe SSD

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Operating System Windows 8 64-bit Edition
  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Color silver
  • Weight 2.3 lbs
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 4400
  • CPU Intel Core i5 (4th Gen) 4200U / 1.6 GHz
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