Sony VAIO Duo 11
A new addition to the emerging market in Windows 8 tablet-notebook hybrids, this is a good-looking device with crisp visuals. Stretching a Full HD, 1,920 x 1,080 resolution across its 11.6 inch diagonal, the VAIO Duo 11 boasts exceptionally wide viewing angles and amazing colour reproduction (even if not the full range of colors in the sRGB gamut), with an excellent contrast ratio of 868:1.
This is a not-so-elegant system of tablet-notebook switching that, literally, hinges on the user resting the screen on the base at a suitable angle, with little room for a standard keyboard and trackpad. Sony has instead offered a compact, Scrabble-tile like backlit keyboard, and squeezed in an optical trackpoint in the middle of the keyboard. Below the spacebar are the usual left- and right-buttons plus a middle button which, when held down, permits vertical scrolling with a nudge. The trackpoint’s tap-to-click mode is a feature best left disabled, since it can cause accidental jogs of the cursor while typing, sometimes highlighting text unnecessarily. A bundled stylus, provided with two pen nibs, allows users to opt for a softer or firmer feel while inking. This metal-clad device has two buttons positioned on its brushed metal shaft, and is powered by a tiny AAAA battery.
The Duo 11 is well built, yet measures just 17.85 mm thick and weighs only 1.3 kg, so it’s as portable as most Ultrabooks are. Even so, that’s still quite heavy for a tablet, and you can’t hold the Duo 11 in one hand for very long when you’re browsing the web, as you can with a conventional tablet. The matte carbon base and metal keyboard are rigid, and tolerate many of the day-to-day human stresses.
But the winning card is obviously the insane battery life. Even among Ultrabooks, this tireless machine lasts for 7 hours with light usage. Buy the battery slice that clips to the VAIO Duo 11’s underside, and that figure will reach well over the 10-hour mark. As an added bonus, the battery slice provides a slot for stashing the supplied stylus, so that you have less of a chance of misplacing it.
- Intel Core i5-3517U (or i7)
- 4 GB (up to 8GB) DDR3L ;1600MHz SD RAM
- 128GB (up to 256 GB) SSD
- 29.4 cm (11.6″) OptiContrast™ Panel
- Full HD (1920×1080) with wide (16:9) aspect ratio; capacitive touchscreen
- Intel® HD Graphics 4000
- WLAN 802.11a/b/g/n; Bluetooth® Ver. 4.0 + HS; Ethernet (1000BASE-T/100BASE-TX/10BASE-T x 1); USB 3.0 (x1),
- USB 3.0 with USB charge (x1);
- VGA out; HDMI out;
- Memory Stick Duo / SD memory card combined slot;
- Stereo speakers with xLOUD™ ;
- Full HD Web Cameras (x2, front and rear facing) powered by ‘Exmor for PC’ (2.07 megapixels);
- Sensors (NFC, GPS, Accelerometer, Gyro, Digital Compass)
Despite the superb performance, sterling image quality and novel form factor, usability is a serious issue with this device. Shifting between tablet and notebook modes sometimes causes the display to refuse to automatically rotate the display to suit. As a tablet, the VAIO Duo 11 is heavy, and in laptop mode the fiddly track-point and average keyboard are no competition for those of a good quality Ultrabook. The VAIO Duo 11 is thus neither a great tablet nor a great laptop, and while you may be willing to forgive Sony’s flaws given the company’s reputation, right now, is it worth the 89,000 rupees?
Dell XPS 12
A successor to the deluxe XPS 13, the XPS 12 is about as crafty but with a trick up its sleeve – convertibility. With a flip of its screen, this laptop turns into a 360 degrees rotating tablet, and although conceived many years ago, this concept has finally been realized with the hot and happening Windows 8. While it looks almost exactly like the XPS 13, it has many distinguishing structural features – a carbon fiber chassis and lid, machined aluminium base and a Gorilla Glass touchscreen display, weighing just 1.54 kg.
The display is sharp and exceptionally good for a Dell. A Gorilla Glass-covered 12.5 inch panel offers a protected view of Full HD resolution videos, although Windows’ DPI setting needs to be altered to avoid painfully tiny text. With a contrast ratio of 681:1, the image quality is gorgeous, but falls short of better laptops this money can buy.
The ports and buttons are placed suitably for usage on both tablet and laptop modes.
- Left – headphone jack and power on/off , volume rocker and orientation lock button on tablet mode
- Right – two USB 3.0 ports, charging port and mini DisplayPort connector
- No LAN, card reader, or HDMI port.
The tablet mode is activated quite smoothly by simply rotating the display within the bezel, and it remains an XPS 13-like laptop with a backlit keyboard when the screen is held in place by latches on the lower end of the bezel. The trackpad, although facing the occasional pinch-zoom glitch and coming in the way of the keyboard, is soft to the touch, with a silky finish that makes for a lovely feel under the finger. It’s ample, and comfortable with the wrist-rest so invoking Windows 8’s edge-swipe gestures is easy and reliable. However, to get the sensitivity just right, modifying the settings was needed, and the odd hitch occurs with two-fingered zooming and scrolling, with gestures occasionally not being recognized.
The XPS 12 is available in four preset configurations, with the following common specs:
- Intel Core i5-3317U processor, (upto i7), speed 2.6 GHz, cache 3M
- Intel QS77 Chipset
- 4 GB (up to 8 GB) DDR3 Hard Drive
- Inbuilt HDD: 128 GB (up to 256 GB)
- Screen Size: 12.5 inches, 1920 x 1080 resolution
- WiFi Type: 802.11 a/g/n
- 2 USB 3.0 ports, Bluetooth V3.0
- 1.3 MP Built-in Camera
- Camera Resolution: 1280 x 1024
- In-built non-removable 6x Li-ion Battery Cell
Sadly, there’s no provision for installing a high-performance GPU for gaming and high-quality videos. Although the panel has very good viewing angles and excellent colour reproduction, the desktop environment does not scale as well as a modern user interface and graphics appear diminished. This makes it a real task to work on text documents or simply read anything without having to zoom in. Even the performance of this notebook is not extraordinary and it makes for a bulky, heavy tablet. Worth shelling out Rs 94,000?