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Sony Vaio Fit 14 review: An exemplary thin-and-light laptop

With very good performance and battery life and even better design and features for its price, the Vaio Fit 14 is an exemplary thin-and-light.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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7 min read

Editor's note: While the Vaio Fit 14 starts at $649, our review unit is actually a more expensive configuration intended for sale at Best Buy that costs $849. While this is still a very good mainstream laptop, we are revising the rating downward to reflect the higher price.

Sony_Vaio_Fit_14_35757138_02.jpg
7.7

Sony Vaio Fit 14

The Good

The <b>Sony Vaio Fit 14</b> is an attractive thin-and-light laptop with excellent features, performance, and design for its price. It has a bright and very responsive touch screen and higher resolution than some competing models.

The Bad

Those who need five-plus hours of battery life, a really light body, or extreme performance will still need to spend more money. Its speakers sound a bit thin and its battery isn't removable.

The Bottom Line

The Sony Vaio Fit 14 is an all-around excellent laptop for the money that will satisfy the basic demands of everyday use for many people and look good doing it.

The Sony Vaio Fit 14 is proof that a budget-friendly laptop need not look like one, nor sacrifice performance to get a better-looking design.

True, there are more laptops these days with nicer designs down below $1,000, but the Fit is one of the nicest we've seen starting at a sub-$650 price. There's no creaky, cheap-feeling plastic on this thin and light notebook. Instead you get a brushed-aluminum lid with a diamond-cut Vaio logo and a solid body feel.

A responsive capacitive touch screen lies on the other side of the lid, as do a spacious, backlit keyboard and large touch pad. And inside, you'll find a good mix of components to keep everyday tasks humming along without slowdowns.

It doesn't have all-day battery life, and the model we tested uses a hybrid hard drive instead of a solid-state drive (SSD), making it a little slow when it comes to accessing files (though it still boots quickly), and its screen resolution isn't 1080p. You'll need to spend more to get those things.

Considering all that you do get for the price (including an optical drive), though, we're not complaining.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Though it collects fingerprints like a crime scene investigator, the aluminum-clad lid gives the Fit the appearance of a higher-end laptop and adds some strength. The bottom of the system is almost as nice, with a smooth, matte black finish and no fan vents, which are somewhat hidden at the back. There's also no removable battery, but the bottom of the case is removable, with just a handful of screws to attend to.

Price as reviewed / Starting price $849 / $649
Processor 1.8GHz Intel i5-3337U
Memory 8GB, 1,600MHz DDR3
Hard drive 750GB+8GB Hybrid
Chipset Intel HM77
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4000
Operating system Windows 8
Dimensions (WD) 13.3x9.3 inches
Height 0.8 inch
Screen size (diagonal) 14 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 4.3 pounds / 4.75 pounds
Category Midsize

At less than an inch thick, the Fit 14 easily slides into a bag, and even with its power adapter you'll be hauling less than 5 pounds. Travel weight is one of those things that usually increases as price decreases, so we're pretty happy with this reasonably svelte laptop.

Raising the lid reveals more brushed aluminum on the palm rest and a diamond-cut edge around the large touch pad with gesture support. It's one of the better touch pads we've used on a Windows laptop, with none of the cursor jumpiness we're used to finding and a subtle texture that allows your fingers to smoothly glide across the surface.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The island-style backlit keyboard is spacious and comfortable, though the shallow deck doesn't permit a lot of travel. If you really like to hammer on your keys, the lack of movement might be jarring.

For the Fit 14's LED-lit capacitive touch screen, Sony didn't use the 1,366x768-pixel native resolution we've gotten used to seeing on midsize laptops in its price range. This model has what Sony calls HD+, with a resolution of 1,600x900 pixels, which results in sharper text and better detail with pictures and video. The touch screen is extremely sensitive, barely requiring pressure to get a response, which in turn means you can work faster and not end up with your screen covered in fingerprints as quickly.

Above the screen is a 1-megapixel Webcam that uses one of Sony's Exmor R backside-illuminated CMOS sensors, which should be better for low-light video. It isn't, so we still recommend having as much light as possible for the best results. Or even just good results.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Though Sony really talks up its ClearAudio+ sound on this laptop, it must actually be referring to another model in the Fit series. The sound quality from the small stereo speakers that fire at the screen isn't terrible, but it's definitely not worth bragging about. With music they were pretty thin and tinny, though they did get reasonably loud without distortion. They were better with movies, but in general you'll be better off with external speakers or headphones. Plus, the speakers are right next to the fans, so when the system heats up, the speakers start to compete with fan noise from the same location.

Sony Vaio Fit 14 (model SVF14A15CXB) Average for category [14-inch]
Video HDMI 1.4, Intel WiDi ready HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jack Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 3.0+charge, SD Card reader 2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive DVD burner DVD burner

All of the Fit 14's ports are on the left side, which makes them very easy to find, but also means there aren't a lot of them. Basically, it's just enough to get you by. Near-field communication technology (NFC) is built in, letting you do things like send Web site URLs and directly connect to the computer over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi simply by touching another NFC device to the Vaio Fit.

Sarah Tew/CNET

On the right side of the system is an optical drive, which, in the case of this preconfigured Fit 14, is a DVD burner. You can configure the Fit 14 with a Blu-ray burner from Sony Direct.

While we're on the subject of configurations, the Fit actually comes in two versions and two sizes: the Fit 14 and Fit 15, and the Fit E 14 and Fit E 15. The Fit 14 and 15 are available from Best Buy and Sony Direct. The Fit 15 has a full-size backlit keyboard with an integrated number pad, a Blu-ray burner, and a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution display. Both are configurable on Sony Direct with a Nvidia GT735M graphics card and SSD.

The Fit E 14 and E 15 are available from other retailers and don't have the aluminum lid and palm rest; they are slightly thicker and heavier and don't have hybrid hard drives. You can, however, get them with a higher-performance Nvidia GT740M graphics card and they have larger speakers, including a subwoofer in the Fit E 15. The starting price is $100 less for the Fit E at $549.

Worth mentioning, too, is that Sony includes four of its own software titles for movie and music creation: Movie Studio Platinum, ACID Music Studio, Sound Forge Audio Studio, and DVD Architect Studio. Also, if you want to take advantage of the touch screen for drawing and painting, ArtRage Studio is preinstalled as well (however, since the screen doesn't lie completely flat, it can be a bit awkward to use).

Sarah Tew/CNET

The base $649 Fit 14 we tested did very well in our performance tests, holding its own against more-expensive systems from Asus and Toshiba with similar components. If you're looking for a laptop for schoolwork or basics like Web browsing, e-mail, and word processing, as well as simple photo and video editing, the Fit 14 has plenty of muscle. It can handle casual gaming or more demanding games with settings dialed down, but in general, this configuration isn't meant for that.

We've gotten so used to manufacturers exaggerating battery life over the years that we were a bit surprised when the Vaio Fit 14 actually hit within a couple minutes of Sony's engineering estimate of 4 hours and 15 minutes.

Of course, that time will vary depending on what you're doing and how you have the laptop set up, but we're not disappointed by that time for this system. However, if you need better battery life than that without sacrificing the rest of what this system offers, you'll probably have to spend more money.

Conclusion
The Sony Vaio Fit 14 is a pretty excellent laptop for the money. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to someone looking for a general-purpose system that can handle day-to-day tasks. The fact that it looks and feels nice is a bonus, too.

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)

Load test (average watts)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test Windows laptops.

System configurations:

Sony Vaio Fit SVF14A15CXB
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 3427; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 750GB HD + 8GB SSD Toshiba 5,400rpm hard drive

Toshiba Satellite U845T-S4165
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3337U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Toshiba SSD

Asus VivoBook S500C
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB HD + 24GB SSD

HP Pavilion TouchSmart 15 Sleekbook
Windows 8 (64-bit) w/SP 1; 1.8GHz AMD A8-455M APU; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 512MB (Shared) AMD Radeon HD 7600G; 750GB Seagate 5,400rpm hard drive

Dell Inspiron 15z
Windows 8 (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 500GB HD + 32GB SSD

Sony_Vaio_Fit_14_35757138_02.jpg
7.7

Sony Vaio Fit 14

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 8Battery 8Support 7
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