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Sony VAIO T review: Sony VAIO T

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The Vaio T13112FXS covers the necessary bases on ports and connections, including everything that I look for in an ultrabook: USB 3.0, HDMI, an Ethernet port, Bluetooth, and an SD card slot. The USB ports are limited here, but no more so than most ultrabooks.

Sarah Tew

The fixed $769 configuration of the Vaio T13112FXS I reviewed has 4GB of RAM, a 1.7 GHz third-gen Core i5-3317U processor, and a 500GB hybrid hard drive with an additional 32GB SSD. Including hybrid hard drives with larger storage capacities and small amounts of fast-loading SSD flash storage instead of more expensive full-size SSDs is a trend you can bank on seeing on many budget ultrabooks this year: it cuts the cost of the system, and arguably offers the benefit of more space for your media. I prefer hybrid hard drives until SSDs can get large enough (256 or 512GB) to avoid compromise. The 4GB of RAM can be expanded to 8GB.

This is the first third-gen Intel Ivy Bridge ultrabook I've reviewed, and the experience was positive, if somewhat uninspiring. The 1.7 GHz Core i5-3317U processor compared favorably to the Intel ultrabook "white box" we received at CNET, which had a slightly faster and better-performing 1.8 GHz Core i5-3427U processor. It performed more slowly on benchmark tests than the Asus Zenbook UX32V, which had an even better Core i7-3517U CPU.

Compared to ultrabooks with Sandy Bridge second-generation Intel processors, there's a definite but modest improvement. The Vaio T13112FXS performed better than the 13-inch Samsung Series 5 Ultra we recently reviewed, the 15-inch Samsung Series 9, and the Toshiba Portege Z835. Yes, it's a faster ultrabook, and speeds are getting to the point where you won't really miss having a "full-voltage" mainstream dual-core processor much at all. This system doesn't outperform a last-gen full-voltage Core i5 laptop like the Toshiba Portege R835-P88, but it comes closer. This Vaio T also performed a little more slowly than the last Vaio SB and Vaio Z units we reviewed this spring, but that's to be expected: those had full-voltage second-gen Core i5 processors, too.

Boot-up times were reasonably quick -- about 27 seconds by my stopwatch -- but not as fast as on an SSD laptop like the Samsung Series 9 or MacBook Air. The Vaio T woke from sleep more rapidly, taking about 3 seconds. It's still a zippy machine, even if its boot times don't rock your socks off.

Graphically, however, I was a bit disappointed. Intel's much-heralded improved HD 4000 integrated graphics provide an improvement over last year's HD 3000 graphics, but it didn't seem like a quantum leap on this ultrabook. Street Fighter IV played at 15.1 frames per second at native 1,366x768 resolution and 2x AA. One of the first ultrabooks with a hybrid hard drive we reviewed last year, the Acer Aspire S3, ran that same SFIV test at 11.9 fps. That's not exactly a massive leap, and it doesn't get this laptop to the point where it can play mainstream PC games easily, or even well. Diablo III ran at about 16 frames per second with graphics set to low. Quad-core Ivy Bridge CPUs exhibited better graphics performance, but it's a different story here in ultrabook-land. (The Intel white box played Street Fighter IV at 21 frames per second).

The Vaio T13112FXS's integrated battery ran well, topping 5 hours and 42 minutes in our battery-drain test. That beats out ultrabooks like the Dell XPS 13, HP Envy 14 Spectre, and most ultrabooks from last year, while the HP Folio 13 and 2011 MacBook Air still edge it out. Anything approaching 6 hours amounts to excellent battery life. And, in case you're comparing, it also handily beats the Sony Vaio SA and Vaio Z laptops without slice batteries attached.

Sony includes a standard one-year warranty, which can be upgraded at the time of purchase. The new Vaio T wasn't live on Sony's Web site at the time this review was written, so the price for extended service plans isn't known (the T is a new line).

Sony's first ultrabook, the Vaio T, is really more of a budget-themed Vaio Z with some corners cut and a slightly larger body. Because of that and its affordable $799 entry price, it's a success: however, it's not a slimmer or more revolutionary product compared to other Vaios. For the first time I can remember, the ultrabook isn't the classiest or best thin laptop in a laptop manufacturer's stable.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio E15116FXS
Sony Vaio T13112FXS

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio E15116FXS
Sony Vaio T13112FXS

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio E15116FXS
Sony Vaio T13112FXS

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio T13112FXS
Sony Vaio E15116FXS

Annual energy consumption cost
Sony Vaio T13112FXS
Sony Vaio E15116FXS

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