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Sony Vaio T13 Touch review: Sony's solid ultrabook gets dressed with a touch screen for Windows 8

If you like the idea of having a touch screen on your Windows 8 laptop, the Vaio T13 Touch isn't a bad way to go.

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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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6 min read

The Vaio T series is Sony's line of 13.3- and 14-inch ultrabooks that start at a reasonable price of $669. When we reviewed a $799 13.3-inch version of it back in June, we noted that it really didn't stray far from other slim Sony laptops like the Vaio Z.

Sony Vaio T (13in, touchscreen)
7.5

Sony Vaio T13 Touch

The Good

The <b>Sony Vaio T13 Touch</b> gives you the convenience of a full-size keyboard and touch pad with a responsive touch screen for experiencing the Windows 8-style interface. It has very good performance for its class and excellent battery life.

The Bad

The T13 Touch doesn't have a backlit keyboard and it's on the heavy side (if you consider 4 pounds heavy). The screen doesn't go fully flat and its hinges aren't stiff enough to handle writing or drawing well.

The Bottom Line

If you like the idea of having a touch screen on your Windows 8 laptop, the Sony Vaio T13 Touch isn't a bad way to go.

For the launch of Windows 8, however, the company went all out...by adding a touch screen.

Now, to be fair, it is a nice and responsive touch screen, but that and Windows 8 are really the only changes. Well, those, and a price bump up to $899 to get the touch screen and 2GB more of memory.

Basically, there are no surprises here; it has a good port assortment, performs well, and gets great battery life for its components. And it looks pretty good, too.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features
With its brushed-aluminum chassis, wide island-style black keyboard, and edge-to-edge display, the T13 Touch does resemble a MacBook Pro as well as other Windows laptops that use the same combination of basic laptop design elements. Setting it apart from the others is the angular body shape with a strip of chrome along the back edge of the display and a large chrome Vaio logo on the lid among other things.

When closed, the T13 looks slim and flat, but at nearly 4 pounds its heft is more than you'd expect a laptop with Intel's Ultrabook branding to weigh. It's certainly not a back breaker, but if you want something super lightweight, this isn't it.

When open, the lid tilts back and under the rear of the computer, but the hinge isn't all that tight. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, however since it doesn't stiffen at any position there's a bit of bounce when you tap or swipe on the screen. As long as you don't poke too hard it's fine, but Sony includes a drawing and painting application, ArtRage Studio, which requires some pressure to use comfortably. And since the screen doesn't open all the way flat, either, you can't even turn it upside down to write on it that way.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The keyboard is large with generous space between keys. If you like a lot of travel to your keys, you'll definitely want to try typing on a T13 before you buy. The keyboard deck is shallow so some typists might find it jarring to work on. Personally, I had no problems with it. What I did have an issue with is that this $899 laptop doesn't have a backlit keyboard.

The touch pad is large, too, but if you like discrete mouse buttons, you're out of luck; it's just one big pad. The software for the touch pad allows you to add multitouch gestures for things like two-finger scrolling, rotating photos, or pinch-to-zoom enlarging.

Above the keyboard are a few dedicated keys: Assist, Web, and Vaio. Assist launches Vaio Care, a service for diagnosing and fixing problems, while Web launches your Web browser of choice and Vaio launches Media Gallery or PlayMemories, part of Sony's music and photo software that comes preinstalled.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Front-firing stereo speakers are tucked onto the Vaio T's thick front edge, emitting sound via a small hole on each side. Sound quality is thin and tinny, but the speakers do get reasonably loud. If you're going to be doing a lot of listening without headphones, I recommend getting a set of external speakers.

As to be expected, the T13 has a Webcam built-in above the LCD. Its 1.3-megapixel camera provided "good enough" video and photo quality in good lighting, but low-light results were predictably noisy.

Price as reviewed $899.99
Processor 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U
Memory 6GB, 1,600MHz DDR3
Hard drive 500GB 5,400 HDD hybrid with 32GB SSD
Chipset Intel HM77
Graphics Intel HD 4000
Operating system Windows 8 (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 12.7x8.9 inches
Height 0.75 inch
Screen size (diagonal) 13.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 3.8 pounds / 4 pounds
Category Ultrabook

Sarah Tew/CNET

The 13.3-inch screen has the same 1,366x768-pixel native resolution as the other T-series models. It's just that now you can tap away on it with your fingers and it will actually do more than just leave fingerprints. Windows 8 really is more enjoyable to use with touch, even if it's just for things like opening the Start screen.

However, I still find it a bit unnatural to reach across a large keyboard and poke at the screen (it'll take some adjusting I suppose). On the upside, the touch pad can be used for several swipe commands for the Windows 8 style interface, so you don't have to use the touch screen.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The system I tested was the base configuration from Sony using a 1.7GHz third-gen Core i5-3317U processor, 6GB of memory, and a 500GB hybrid hard drive with an additional 32GB flash memory for quicker access to the operating system and other commonly used files. Sony does offer some additional component options should you want to configure your own, including solid-state drives, 8GB of RAM, and a Core i7 processor.

Sony Vaio T13 Touch Average for category [13-inch]
Video VGA plus HDMI VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 1 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, SD/Memory Stick card reader 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, Bluetooth, 802.11n Wi-Fi Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None DVD burner

The Vaio T13 Touch 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. On the upside, one of them is a sleep-and-charge USB port, so you can connect a mobile device to charge up while the laptop sleeps.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Battery life
Considering it has almost the exact same components as the last T series we tested, it's not surprising that this one has same excellent battery life: 5 hours and 41 minutes. That's actually more than the life Sony quotes for the system.

Video playback battery drain test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Average watts (Load test)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Performance
Other than having faster memory and 2GB more of it, the $899 T13 Touch's internal components are the same as the T-series model we reviewed earlier this year. It's a good mix of components for everyday tasks and entertainment and it did well against similarly configured Windows 7 systems, beating or keeping pace with them in our tests.

The system also booted up pretty fast in less than 30 seconds. That's not as fast as SSD-based ultrabooks I've tested, but faster than a system running on a regular 5,400rpm hard drive.

Any additional demands that the touch display may have on system performance didn't seem to slow it down. Everything operated smoothly with no lag when quickly switching between Windows Desktop and Windows 8 style interface. Apps opened quickly and swiping between open windows was breezy.

The Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics, by the way, can't handle mainstream PC games all that well, but for casual games, such as those available in the Windows app store, it's sufficient.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Warranty and support
Sony includes a standard one-year warranty with toll-free 24-7 phone support. Online and e-mail support is available as well

Conclusion
For the most part, the Sony Vaio T13 Touch is a fine laptop. Everything we didn't like about the non-touch-screen version is still here, including the lack of a backlight on the keyboard and the pedestrian resolution and quality of the display. It does have very good performance and battery life, though, and the addition of the touch screen does make using Windows 8 more enjoyable even if this isn't the most ideal design for it.

Multimedia multitasking test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio T (13in, touchscreen)
7.5

Sony Vaio T13 Touch

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 8Battery 8Support 7
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