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More than a year ago, Vizio set out with the goal of creating high-quality and attractive computers at affordable prices. With the Vizio CT15T-B1 Touch Thin+Light, it just about hit the mark.
Of course, affordable pricing is relative; the CT15T-B1 is $1,360 direct from Vizio. Now, that is a competitive price for what you're getting: a third-gen quad-core Core i7 processor, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB solid-state drive, among other things.
It's also missing a few things that should really be standard on a laptop at this price and size, such as a backlit keyboard. But, it is an attractive notebook and, thanks to the aforementioned components, it delivers very good performance and excellent battery life.
Design and features
Unless you were familiar with Vizio's logo, you likely would not know who was responsible for making this laptop. The only thing on the lid is that simple V branding that lights up when you open the lid. Its anodized aluminum unibody construction not only makes it feel solid, but keeps everything looking very clean. Even the bottom looks good, and all vents are at the back and all but hidden when the screen is up.
It's on the heavy side for a thin-and-light, coming in at 4.9 pounds without the power adapter. That's manageable for occasional commutes, but not something I'd want to drag to work daily or around campus all day. Besides, despite being 0.7 inch thick, it's not a small laptop at 14.9 inches wide by 9.9 inches deep.
Opening it up, the design remains clean and free of extra buttons (and stickers, for that matter). The display is definitely a highlight on this system. It's a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution IPS touch panel with wide viewing angles. This isn't much of a surprise given Vizio's TV background, but it's still nice to see it didn't skimp on the panel. It is a glossy screen, though, making reflections a bit of an issue in bright environments.
|Vizio CT15T-B1||Acer R7-571-6858 Touch Notebook||HP Spectre TouchSmart 15-4010Nr|
|Display size/resolution||15.6-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen||15.6-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen||15.6-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen|
|PC CPU||2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3635QM||1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3337U||1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U|
|PC memory||8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM||6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||32MB Intel HD Graphics 4000||32MB Intel HD Graphics 4000||32MB Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Storage||256GB solid-state drive||500GB, 5,400 rpm hard drive||32GB SSD/500GB, 5,400rpm hybrid hard drive|
|Networking||802.11a/c wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC|
|Operating system||Windows 8 (64-bit)||Windows 8 (64-bit)||Windows 8 (64-bit)|
Island-style keyboards have been the norm on laptops for some time now, so when I come across one that's not, it stands out. That's the case with the Vizio with its wide edge-to-edge keys. If you're used to an island-style layout, it might take some adjusting. Or even if you're just a sloppy touch typist like I am, it might take practice before you're back up to speed.
A skinny laptop chassis generally means there won't be a lot of key travel. The CT15T's keys don't move much at all and, depending on how hard a typist you are, might feel like you're typing on a tabletop. If that's something that bothers you, you'll want to see if you can try out the keyboard before you buy, or purchase it from someplace with a liberal return policy.
The touch-pad performance on a previous Vizio laptop we reviewed wasn't great. This one is definitely better: more responsive, and I didn't experience any cursor jumping while in use or when typing. However, I frequently ended up launching the Windows 8 Charm bar with my right palm as it grazed the right edge of the touch pad.
It's a Synaptics touch pad; newer models typically have a palm check feature to help with things like this. Not only was there no palm check feature, but multitouch support is almost nothing: just pinch-to-zoom and two-finger scrolling. These things did work well, though.
The CT15T has a 1.3-megapixel HD camera with microphone above the display. It's good, but I'd stick to using it in very bright lighting if you want clear video. For audio, the system's stereo speakers are just at the top of the keyboard. Sound quality is somewhat thin and empty. They're fine for casual listening, but if you want to really enjoy music or movies, you'll want to put on a set of your favorite headphones or hook up some external speakers.
|Vizio CT15T-B1||Average for category [thin and light]|
|Video||HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jack|
|Data||2 USB 3.0||2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
Those who want or need to have a lot of physical connection options will find the CT15T more than a little constricting. It has just two USB 3.0 ports and a full-size HDMI port. That's it.
That means there is no Ethernet port or an SD card reader, so if those matter to you, well, you might as well stop reading. Maybe it's because the design didn't allow for it, but the omission of a card reader seems odd, especially considering the laptop's size and price.
Configuration, performance, and battery life
The Vizio CT15T comes in two configurations: the one reviewed here, the B1, and the B0 with a 2.3GHz quad-core AMD A10 A10 4657M with AMD Radeon HD 8670M graphics, a 128GB SSD, and 8GB of memory. The AMD version sells for just slightly less at $1,189.99. Also, they are both Microsoft Signature systems. That means, among other things, that it's free of third-party bloatware.
Though it looks like some screws can be removed on bottom to access the inside, judging by the design and Vizio's system information, this is not a system easily upgraded. That said, what you get is pretty competitive with similarly priced ultrabooks (if not slightly better).
Performance -- both on our benchmarks and anecdotal -- is very good. Like all Windows 8 notebooks we've tested using a solid-state drive, the CT15T wakes up in a matter of a few seconds and a cold boot takes less than 10 seconds.
There were no slowdowns when doing normal everyday tasks like Web surfing, making Skype calls, streaming movies and music, word processing, and light photo and video editing. The integrated graphics didn't have any trouble playing back high-bit-rate 1080p content, but you probably won't want to play newer PC games with the settings cranked up.
Battery life is excellent. Vizio claims up to 8 hours battery life and our results weren't far off. On our video playback battery drain test, the CT15T ran for 7 hours before shutting down. Doing less intensive things like wireless Web browsing or word processing along with some power management could get you closer to that reported battery life.
Despite some odd omissions like an SD card reader and backlit keyboard -- especially given its price -- the Vizio CT15T-B1 is an excellent laptop. It would just be better and more worth its price if it had those things.
Find out more about how we test Windows laptops.
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3635QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 32MB Intel HD 4000 Graphics ; HD 256GB SSD
HP Spectre TouchSmart 15-4010Nr
Windows 8 (64-bit) w/SP1; 1.9GHz Intel Core i7- 3517U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 400, 500GB HD + 32GB SSD
Asus Zenbook UX51Vz
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.1GHz Intel Core i7-3612QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 512GB ADATA XM11 SSD (256GB x 2)
Acer R7-571-6858 Touch Notebook
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 3337U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 4000; HD 1 24GB SSD HD 2 500GB 5400rpm hard drive