The ultrabook genre has been around for quite a while, with Sony being conspicuous by its absence from the market. The Vaio T Series is here now though, and comes with a slim and stylish design, a 13-inch screen, an Intel Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM.
With a low resolution screen and an older generation processor, is this too little, too late? There's no word on pricing yet, but it's due to go on sale from June. Stay tuned for a full review soon.
Design and build
Although Sony hasn't specifically made an ultrabook before, it's no stranger to the thin and light concept. Its Z Series laptop is extremely svelte and the new T Series can certainly be seen as having come from the same family.
At 17.8mm thick, it's pretty slim, at roughly the same thickness as the stunning Asus Zenbook UX31. It's a few millimetres chubbier than the Z Series though and at 1.6kg, it's weightier too. Given that ultrabooks aim to be as slim and as light as possible, it's a shame not to see Sony at least match its other laptops in the size stakes.
The chassis if made from a combination of magnesium and aluminium, which Sony reckons will make it particularly sturdy. Exactly how sturdy it really is remains to be seen, but I'd hope it's got a strong enough body to put up with the sort of knocks and bumps it's undoubtedly going to encounter, given its portable frame.
I think it's a good-looking piece of kit though. The brushed metal lid is punctuated only by the Vaio logo, which acts as a badge of honour, telling everyone around you that you can afford Sony's products. You lucky thing, you. The same silver colouring continues around the sides and across the keyboard tray and wrist rest. If you're more drawn to floral prints and garish patterns then it won't appeal. But it definitely has a very smart, professional edge to it that might make it more suited to a business class lounge than a table in a greasy spoon.
Around the sides you'll find one USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports, VGA and HDMI outlets, an Ethernet socket and an SD card reader. It's unusual to see VGA-out on an ultrabook as the size of the port is better suited to larger desktop replacement laptops. It'll come in handy if you plan on hooking it up to a monitor at work and don't have an HDMI cable handy.
Sony has packed a 13.3-inch display into the T Series, which is at the larger end of the scale for ultrabooks -- unlike the Asus Zenbooks or Apple MacBook Airs, there's no 11-inch option available.
It's got a resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is a little disappointing given that the 13-inch Asus Zenbook manages to pack in 1,600x900 pixels into the same space. The T Series' resolution is what I'd expect to find on an 11-inch model so I'm hoping it makes up for this shortcoming by being extremely bright and vivid.
Sony has a long history of making high-quality TVs and its laptop displays are often excellent so I do have high hopes of it looking great -- it's just a shame that it didn't try to beat the competition, or at the very least, keep up with it.
Sony's press release states that the SVT1311M1E uses the "latest generation" of Intel Core processors, which suggests the new low-voltage Ivy Bridge chips. What it's actually packing is a Core i3-2367M chip that's the older Sandy Bridge model. I've asked Sony to clarify exactly what it means by "latest generation", but I'm yet to hear back.
The i3-2367M could still be pretty nippy though -- assuming it's clocked at a decent speed -- and with 4GB of RAM, it should at least be able to handle a good amount of multi-tasking and high-definition video.
There's no mention of more powerful Core i5 or Core i7 versions, which is a shame, given that these options are available from most of its competitors. It wouldn't have been a bad idea to offer a high-spec version to keep it feeling current against the oncoming wave of ultrabooks packing more powerful Ivy Bridge processors.
I'll be putting it through its paces when I get a model for a full review, so we'll have to wait and see exactly what it has to offer in the power stakes.
In terms of graphics power, it uses the built-in Intel HD 3000 graphics, meaning that you're not going to be able to tackle much by way of gaming. It will lend a hand when it comes to playing back video though. The latest Ivy Bridge chips claim a 2x increase to graphics performance, so if we did see a model using these, then it might be able to handle more demanding games.
In terms of storage, you can have it with just an SSD drive -- which is faster and more power-efficient than traditional hard disk drives (but more expensive), or with a combined HDD and SSD. With the latter, your computer can boot quickly from the SSD but you then use the capacious HDD to store your files.
Sony promises up to 9 hours of battery life from the SSD-equipped models, but how that number stacks up against my brutal battery benchmark tests remains to be seen.
With its slim frame and attractive brushed metal top, the Sony Vaio T Series looks every inch an ultrabook. I'm a little disappointed by the low-resolution screen and the relatively low-powered processor, but if the price reflects this, then it might be a good choice for Sony fans seeking stylish computing on the go. Stay tuned for a full review soon