Sony VAIO T review: Sony VAIO T

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.9
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Battery life: 9.0
  • Service and support: 7.0

Average User Rating

2 stars 2 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Vaio T is an affordable, slim Sony laptop that shares a lot in common with the design of the Vaio Z, and comes with all the ports and features you'd need, plus a larger hard drive.

The Bad The screen isn't the best we've seen on a Vaio, and a horribly shallow nonbacklit keyboard is uncomfortable.

The Bottom Line Sony's first ultrabook, the Vaio T, doesn't fall far from the tree of other thin Sony laptops like the Vaio Z, but it's far more affordable: this is ultrabook-as-budget-laptop, not ultrabook as high-end computer.

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In 2012, ultrabooks are everywhere. Ostensibly, they're thinner, lighter, possibly more stylish laptops. And, as of late, they're pretty affordable, too. The average Windows ultrabook may have achieved MacBook Air-level prices in 2011, but this year prices have dropped to fit a landscape of more budget-minded Windows computers. Sony, one of the few laptop manufacturers to have skirted the ultrabook wave thus far, has finally unveiled its own in the Sony Vaio T, and counter to the usual trend of Sony Vaios being more expensive devices, this one stays at the affordable end of the spectrum: an entry-level Vaio T costs $799.

Sarah Tew

The more pressing question is this: does a Vaio ultrabook make sense? Sony actually has several quite capable thin laptops in its stable: the Vaio S line, and the nosebleed-expensive Vaio Z. Credit Sony's engineering for that, but those products make the Vaio T blend into the crowd rather than stand out.

A lower-voltage third-gen Ivy Bridge Intel processor and no optical drive seem like compromises compared to last year's Vaio S, which had practically the same thickness, and started at the same price: $799. The Vaio T's thicker than some ultrabooks, but it's really more of an affordable, spiritual variation of the Vaio Z, with ultrabook branding.

If you've always wanted a Vaio Z but couldn't afford one, maybe the Vaio T will make your dreams come true. Truth be told, it's a good Sony debut ultrabook, but not really a very surprising one.

Price as reviewed $799
Processor 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U
Memory 4GB, 1,333MHz DDR3
Hard drive 500GB 5,400 HDD hybrid with 32GB SSD
Chipset Intel HM77
Graphics Intel HD 4000
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 12.7x8.5 inches
Height 0.7 inch
Screen size (diagonal) 13.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 3.4 pounds / 3.9 pounds
Category ultrabook

Sarah Tew

Glance at the aluminum-and-plastic chassis of the Vaio T13112 FXS and you'll have a hard time seeing the difference between it and a Vaio S, or a Vaio Z. A Vaio-loving colleague assumed it was an S at first glance. The trapezoidal wedge-shaped profile is nearly identical to the last Vaio Z we reviewed: about the same thickness, with a deeper footprint. The top lid, like the Vaio Z, has a downright bizarre hinge: tucked to the rear and covered in a flimsy-feeling chromed plastic, the back lid opens up and pushes down on the rear of the Vaio T, thrusting the keyboard up a bit. Ergonomic or annoying? I side with annoying.

Sarah Tew

The wide island-style keyboard has generous key spacing, but some of the shallowest keys I've ever typed on. They nearly feel painted on. The Vaio Z had similar keys, but backlit. Thin laptops like the MacBook Air have shallow keys, too, but usably so. The Vaio T crosses the line, and the typing comfort on this Vaio ultrabook suffers for it. Also, there's no backlight: Sony claimed that the reason was that there was no room in the ultrabook's thin design, but this ultrabook is thicker than others I've seen. There's no good reason for keyboard compromise like this.

Sarah Tew

Below is a slightly recessed multitouch click pad, reasonably wide and tall enough and with good sensitivity, but the touch pad could have been made bigger to fit the space available. The slight recessing also makes bottom clicks just a tad harder to do when your thumb's lying on the slightly higher palm rest.

Above the keyboard are a few dedicated keys: Assist, Web, and Vaio. Assist launches Vaio Care, a service for diagnosing and fixing problems, while Web launches your Web browser of choice and Vaio launches Media Gallery or PlayMemories, part of Sony's music and photo software that comes preinstalled.

The 13.3-inch glossy-coated display's inset in a thick silver bezel, with a 1,366x768-pixel native resolution. That's standard for this size, but the Vaio's screen, while bright, didn't seem as vivid or colorful as you'd expect from a Sony product. Viewing the screen off-axis at vertical and horizontal angles produced washed-out results. It's not a showcase screen.

Front-firing stereo speakers are tucked onto the Vaio T's thick front edge, emitting sound via a small hole on each side. Sound quality is a little tinny, but louder than a MacBook Air by about a factor of two. Movies and video chats are, at the very least, quite audible.

Speaking of Web chat, the included. Arcsoft Webcam Companion 4 and Skype are both preinstalled and can be launched from the Vaio Gate pull-down dock at the top of the screen. The 1,280x1,024-pixel-resolution camera demonstrated good contrast and light sensitivity in my office.

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Where to Buy

Sony Vaio T Series SVT13112FXS

Part Number: T13112FXS

MSRP: $769.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Weight 3.5 lbs
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • CPU Intel Core i5 (3rd Gen) 3317U / 1.7 GHz