Sony Vaio Pro 11 review: Lighter-than-Air ultrabook winner

Sarah Tew/CNET

Waking the laptop from sleep takes less than 3 seconds, which is awesome for when you want or need to just start working. Also, with the Pro 11, from off to the Windows 8 Start screen takes less than 10 seconds.

The integrated graphics were plenty for basic photo editing and we didn't have problems with trimming or playback of 1080p video clips, either. The Pro 11 can handle some graphically demanding games, but it's not a pleasant experience -- stick to casual games. Also, the system will heat up under heavy load and its tiny fans really start to whir.

If you think you might need more storage or a bit better performance, the Pro 11 can be configured with a 256GB SSD and a Core i7 processor. It is limited to the 4GB of system memory that it comes with, however, and there's no option for discrete graphics. Stepping up to the Pro 13 will get you 8GB of RAM (but that's the maximum), slightly better integrated graphics, and a PCIe solid-state drive that is faster than a traditional SSD (though we didn't have any sluggishness when opening applications or large files on the Pro 11).

True to Intel's claims of better battery life, the Pro 11 ran for 5 hours and 56 minutes in our video playback battery test. Sony's engineering estimate puts battery life at up to 6.5 hours and we have no doubt that with power management and normal use, you could hit that mark.

Sarah Tew/CNET

That's not the end of the story, though. For $149.99, a sheet battery that fits on the bottom of the laptop can double the Pro 11's battery life. So, although its battery can't easily be swapped out for a fresh one (and you're still stuck with a service call when the internal battery out and out dies), you aren't without options for keeping the laptop up and running past its 6-hour battery life.

The Vaio Pro 11 comes with a standard one-year limited warranty that covers hardware, parts, and labor. You can also opt for extended Vaio Care with protection against accidental damage, an on-site service plan, and express shipping coverage. And the laptop's Assist button, positioned above the keyboard, gives you one-button access to tune up, update, and troubleshoot the Pro 11, and includes the option to connect with a Sony expert by phone, chat, or online.

The Sony Vaio Pro 11 is an excellent little laptop for frequent travelers or daily commuters. You're paying for a reduction in size and weight here, so if you don't need to travel with a laptop regularly, there are certainly less expensive options. But for those who spend more time working in coffee shops and airports than in an office, it's a smart choice.

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)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations

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 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; HD 1 24GB SSD, HD 2 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive

Apple MacBook Air 11.6-inch (Summer 2012)
OS X 10.7.4 Lion; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 384MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 64GB Apple SSD

Acer Aspire S7-391-9886
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 256GB Intel SSD

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