Sony Vaio Duo 13 review:

Sony upsizes the sliding PC with the Vaio Duo 13

The 13-inch screen has a 1,920x1,080-pixel native resolution, which is increasingly common in laptops of all sizes and prices. It's an IPS screen, which means that it looks good even from side viewing angles -- that's especially important for a tablet.

Sony Vaio Duo 13
Video HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 2 USB 3.0, SD card/Memory Stick reader
Networking 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC
Optical drive None

Unlike detachable-screen hybrids that force you to choose whether the ports will be on the base or the screen, the Vaio Duo 13 has them all along the rear edge. Two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, and an SD card slot (that also accepts Memory Stick cards -- this is a Sony, after all) are fine for a slim tablet-minded system, and I appreciated the physical volume controls, placed on the bottom panel, which is the back of the tablet when the system is in tablet mode.

With one of Intel's new fourth-generation Core i5 CPUs, you're going to get excellent application performance from the Duo 13. In our benchmark tests, the fourth-gen Core i5 gave reasonably close performance to a low-voltage Core i7 from the previous Intel generation. But frankly, in either case it's more horsepower than mainstream consumers need, as systems such as this will spend most of their time Web surfing, playing HD video, or engaging in social tasks. The updated HD4400 integrated graphics may be a bit better than the HD4000 graphics pre-Haswell machines, but keep in mind that some new Intel-powered laptops have even better HD5000 GPUs -- but honestly, none of these are going to come close to even a basic discrete GPU from Nvidia.

One area where the Duo 13 kills the competition is battery life. Each of the initial Intel fourth-generation Core i-series laptops we've tested has turned in impressive battery life scores, but the Duo 13 is especially good, running for 8 hours and 53 minutes in our video playback battery drain test. That's a great score, and it will be interesting to see how the new 13-inch MacBook Air matches up, with Apple claiming 12 full hours from that system.

To its credit, Sony took a system that was better in concept than execution -- the original Duo 11 -- and has made significant upgrades and changes, all of which make it a better product. The 13-inch screen is more useful than the smaller 11-inch version, the addition of a (tiny) touch pad is a big step forward, and the redesigned hinge is better than the overly fussy one on the original.

That said, there's still a major hurdle here. No matter how many improvements have gone into the Duo 13, there just may be no real case to be made for a slider-style PC. For tablet use, a pure slate works better. For laptop use, something with an adjustable screen angle and a full-size touch pad is what you want. And, if you really need a hybrid device, models with detachable or rotating screens are more flexible and don't leave the display constantly exposed to the elements. The Duo 13 is nicely put together, but hard to actually recommend for anyone in the real world.

Find out more about how we test laptops.

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)

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

System configurations

Sony Vaio Duo 13
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,659MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4400; 128GB SSD

Sony Vaio Pro 11
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,748MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4400; 128GB SSD

Asus Transformer Book TX300
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 4000; HD1 SanDisk 128GB SSD, HD2 500GB 5,400rpm Hitachi

Toshiba Kirabook
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2GHz Intel Core i7-3667U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 4000; 256GB Toshiba SSD

Acer R7-571-6858 Touch Notebook
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3337U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 4000; HD1 24GB SSD, HD2 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive

What you'll pay

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