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.
The Vaio T series is Sony's line of 13.3- and 14-inch ultrabooks that start at a reasonable price of $669. When we reviewed a $799 13.3-inch version of it back in June, we noted that it really didn't stray far from other slim Sony laptops like the Vaio Z.
For the launch of Windows 8, however, the company went all out...by adding a touch screen.
Now, to be fair, it is a nice and responsive touch screen, but that and Windows 8 are really the only changes. Well, those, and a price bump up to $899 to get the touch screen and 2GB more of memory.
Basically, there are no surprises here; it has a good port assortment, performs well, and gets great battery life for its components. And it looks pretty good, too.
Design and features
With its brushed-aluminum chassis, wide island-style black keyboard, and edge-to-edge display, the T13 Touch does resemble a MacBook Pro as well as other Windows laptops that use the same combination of basic laptop design elements. Setting it apart from the others is the angular body shape with a strip of chrome along the back edge of the display and a large chrome Vaio logo on the lid among other things.
When closed, the T13 looks slim and flat, but at nearly 4 pounds its heft is more than you'd expect a laptop with Intel's Ultrabook branding to weigh. It's certainly not a back breaker, but if you want something super lightweight, this isn't it.
When open, the lid tilts back and under the rear of the computer, but the hinge isn't all that tight. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, however since it doesn't stiffen at any position there's a bit of bounce when you tap or swipe on the screen. As long as you don't poke too hard it's fine, but Sony includes a drawing and painting application, ArtRage Studio, which requires some pressure to use comfortably. And since the screen doesn't open all the way flat, either, you can't even turn it upside down to write on it that way.
The keyboard is large with generous space between keys. If you like a lot of travel to your keys, you'll definitely want to try typing on a T13 before you buy. The keyboard deck is shallow so some typists might find it jarring to work on. Personally, I had no problems with it. What I did have an issue with is that this $899 laptop doesn't have a backlit keyboard.
The touch pad is large, too, but if you like discrete mouse buttons, you're out of luck; it's just one big pad. The software for the touch pad allows you to add multitouch gestures for things like two-finger scrolling, rotating photos, or pinch-to-zoom enlarging.
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.
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 thin and tinny, but the speakers do get reasonably loud. If you're going to be doing a lot of listening without headphones, I recommend getting a set of external speakers.