More than a year ago, Vizio set out with the goal of creating high-quality and attractive computers at affordable prices. With the Vizio CT15T-B1 Touch Thin+Light, it just about hit the mark.
Of course, affordable pricing is relative; the CT15T-B1 is $1,360 direct from Vizio. Now, that is a competitive price for what you're getting: a third-gen quad-core Core i7 processor, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB solid-state drive, among other things.
It's also missing a few things that should really be standard on a laptop at this price and size, such as a backlit keyboard. But, it is an attractive notebook and, thanks to the aforementioned components, it delivers very good performance and excellent battery life.
Design and features
Unless you were familiar with Vizio's logo, you likely would not know who was responsible for making this laptop. The only thing on the lid is that simple V branding that lights up when you open the lid. Its anodized aluminum unibody construction not only makes it feel solid, but keeps everything looking very clean. Even the bottom looks good, and all vents are at the back and all but hidden when the screen is up.
It's on the heavy side for a thin-and-light, coming in at 4.9 pounds without the power adapter. That's manageable for occasional commutes, but not something I'd want to drag to work daily or around campus all day. Besides, despite being 0.7 inch thick, it's not a small laptop at 14.9 inches wide by 9.9 inches deep.
Opening it up, the design remains clean and free of extra buttons (and stickers, for that matter). The display is definitely a highlight on this system. It's a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution IPS touch panel with wide viewing angles. This isn't much of a surprise given Vizio's TV background, but it's still nice to see it didn't skimp on the panel. It is a glossy screen, though, making reflections a bit of an issue in bright environments.
|Vizio CT15T-B1||Acer R7-571-6858 Touch Notebook||HP Spectre TouchSmart 15-4010Nr|
|Display size/resolution||15.6-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen||15.6-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen||15.6-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen|
|PC CPU||2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3635QM||1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3337U||1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U|
|PC memory||8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM||6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||32MB Intel HD Graphics 4000||32MB Intel HD Graphics 4000||32MB Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Storage||256GB solid-state drive||500GB, 5,400 rpm hard drive||32GB SSD/500GB, 5,400rpm hybrid hard drive|
|Networking||802.11a/c wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC|
|Operating system||Windows 8 (64-bit)||Windows 8 (64-bit)||Windows 8 (64-bit)|
Island-style keyboards have been the norm on laptops for some time now, so when I come across one that's not, it stands out. That's the case with the Vizio with its wide edge-to-edge keys. If you're used to an island-style layout, it might take some adjusting. Or even if you're just a sloppy touch typist like I am, it might take practice before you're back up to speed.
A skinny laptop chassis generally means there won't be a lot of key travel. The CT15T's keys don't move much at all and, depending on how hard a typist you are, might feel like you're typing on a tabletop. If that's something that bothers you, you'll want to see if you can try out the keyboard before you buy, or purchase it from someplace with a liberal return policy.
The touch-pad performance on a previous Vizio laptop we reviewed wasn't great. This one is definitely better: more responsive, and I didn't experience any cursor jumping while in use or when typing. However, I frequently ended up launching the Windows 8 Charm bar with my right palm as it grazed the right edge of the touch pad.
It's a Synaptics touch pad; newer models typically have a palm check feature to help with things like this. Not only was there no palm check feature, but multitouch support is almost nothing: just pinch-to-zoom and two-finger scrolling. These things did work well, though.
The CT15T has a 1.3-megapixel HD camera with microphone above the display. It's good, but I'd stick to using it in very bright lighting if you want clear video. For audio, the system's stereo speakers are just at the top of the keyboard. Sound quality is somewhat thin and empty. They're fine for casual listening, but if you want to really enjoy music or movies, you'll want to put on a set of your favorite headphones or hook up some external speakers.
|Vizio CT15T-B1||Average for category [thin and light]|
|Video||HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jack|
|Data||2 USB 3.0||2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
Those who want or need to have a lot of physical connection options will find the CT15T more than a little constricting. It has just two USB 3.0 ports and a full-size HDMI port. That's it.
That means there is no Ethernet port or an SD card reader, so if those matter to you, well, you might as well stop reading. Maybe it's because the design didn't allow for it, but the omission of a card reader seems odd, especially considering the laptop's size and price.