Sony VAIO Pro 11 (SVP11215PXB) review

The Sony VAIO Pro 11 (SVP11215PXB) ultrabook, powered by a 4th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU, offers a beautiful hi-res touch-screen display and is extremely thin and light.
Photo of Sony VAIO Pro 11 (SVP11215PXB)

Billed as the world’s lightest touch-enabled ultrabook, the Sony VAIO Pro 11 (SVP11215PXB) packs Core i7 power, ten-point touch technology, and a stunning high-resolution display into a sleek 11-inch ultrabook chassis. At $1,500 the Pro 11 is priced a little high considering it uses integrated graphics and comes with a single solid-state drive. But if style and portability are a priority, it’s a good bet. That said, its battery life is well shy of what we’ve seen from other ultrabooks, and I/O ports are scarce.

Design and Features
The Pro 11 is housed in a brushed black carbon fiber chassis that measures 11.2-by-7.7- 0.68 inches. Carbon fiber, a reinforced polymer known for its strength and durability, is also a lightweight material, which accounts for the Pro 11′s scant 1.92 pound weight. The lid sports the obligatory VAIO logo in shiny silver as well as a smaller, less conspicuous Sony logo. The rear edge of the lid is beveled and adorned with brushed silver trim and yet another Sony logo. And, just in case you missed the first three logos, there’s another VAIO logo etched into the base of the Pro 11.

The backlit chiclet-style keyboard has a bit too much flex to it but the keys travel well. The multi-gesture touchpad, slightly recessed into the aluminum palm rest, is responsive and works wonderfully with Windows 8 gestures, but to really appreciate the power of Windows 8 touch technology, stick with the Pro 11′s awesome touch-screen display.

The 11.6-inch display uses ten-point capacitive touch technology to deliver a responsive Windows 8 touch experience. Swiping in Charms, pinching, and zooming were effortless and accurate. Even more impressive is the display’s color quality; the 1,920-by-1,080 IPS panel uses Sony’s Triluminos Display technology (developed for their Bravia family of HDTVs) to produce rich, robust colors and dark blacks. The 1080p screen delivered a sharp, well-defined picture while watching a streamed episode of River Monsters via Netflix, and viewing angle performance was outstanding as well. The Pro 11′s audio output is loud and full; there’s no bass response to speak of but the overall sound is quite good for such a small laptop.

You don’t get many ports with this ultrabook; there are two USB 3.0 ports, a headphone jack, and a full-size HDMI video output. This model comes with a VGA dongle that plugs into the HDMI port, but that’s all you get. The Asus Zenbook UX51VZ-DH71, on the other hand, offers three USB ports and an Ethernet port.

The Pro 11 has an SD card slot on its front edge and is equipped with Intel Wireless-N 7260 and Bluetooth 4.0 adapters. It is also Wi-Di ready and supports NFC (Near Field Communication) technology so you can automatically connect to smartphones and other compatible devices.

The Pro 11 comes with a 256GB solid-state drive that is loaded with Windows 8 Pro and a couple of VAIO apps, including the VAIO Message Center, VAIO Movie Creator, and ArtRange Studio. There’s also a couple of XBOX apps, Skype, Slacker, Hulu Plus, and iHeart Radio. Sony covers the VAIO Pro 11 with a three-year warranty.

Performance
The Pro 11′s Core i7-4500u CPU is part of Intel’s new Haswell line. It boasts a core speed of 1.8GHz with a maximum speed of 2.39GHz and uses the new HD 4400 graphics circuitry. Armed with the new Haswell architecture and 4GB of system memory, the Pro 11 turned in a PCMark 7 score of 4,609, which trailed the Asus UX51VZ-DH71 by more than 300 points and the Toshiba Kirabook by more than 600 points. It should be noted that the Toshiba Kirabook had 8GB of memory and the Asus UX51VZ-DH71 used dual SSD’s configured for RAID.

On our Cinebench R11.5 CPU test, the Pro 11′s score of 2.46 lagged the field, which included the Asus UX51VZ-DH71 (5.60), the Toshiba Kirabook (2.92), and the Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch (Retina Display)(2.83).

Results from our Handbrake and Photoshop multimedia tests were similar; the Pro 11 finished last on the Handbrake encoding test but managed to squeak past the Toshiba Kirabook on the Photoshop test.

Intel’s new HD 4400 GPU showed slight improvement over its predecessor, the HD 4000, but not surprisingly, it still can’t compete with a discrete graphics solution like the Nvidia GeForce GT 650M. It scored 19 fps on our Alien vs. Predator test at mid-quality, edging out the Toshiba Kirabook by 5 fps. Both systems managed only 5 fps on the high-quality test. The Asus UX51VZ-DH71, with the help of its Nvidia GT 650M card, scored 43 fps at mid-quality and 17 fps at high-quality.

Likewise, the Pro 11 scored 13 fps (mid-quality) and 4 fps (high quality) on our Heaven benchmark tests, beating the Toshiba Kirabook by a single frame on both, but the Asus UX51VZ-DH71 blew them both away with scores of 32 fps and 13 fps, respectively.

Battery life was disappointing; the Pro 11′s sealed 4125mAh battery lasted 4 hours 21 minutes on our battery rundown test. Although that beat the Asus UX51VZ-DH71 by around 20 minutes, it pales in comparison to the 7-plus hours we got from the Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch (Retina Display) and the Toshiba Kirabook’s time of 5:50.

Sony has always been big on style, and the VAIO Pro 11 is no exception. It’s thin and light carbon fiber body will fit comfortably into a briefcase, carry bag, or backpack, and will withstand the rigors of frequent travel. It’s powerful enough for all but the most demanding graphics workload, and its 1080P touch-screen display is a pleasure to use and a beauty to behold. That said, the Macbook Pro 13-Inch (Retina Display) maintains its edge, thanks to its incredible 2,560-by-1,600 display and seven-hour battery life, which is why it remains our Editors’ Choice for high-end ultrportables. Our high-end ultrabook Editors’ Choice is the Asus Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A-BHI5T ($1,199), and if you can handle the extra pound and a quarter, the UX31A-BH15T is a better buy overall with over six hours of battery life.

Specifications
Touchscreen Yes
Processor Name Intel Core i7-4500u
Operating System Microsoft Windows 8 Professional
Weight 1.92 lb
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 4400
Screen Type Widescreen
Type Ultrabook
RAM 4 GB
Networking Options 802.11n
Processor Speed 1.8 GHz
Screen Size 11.6 inches
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 256 GB

Verdict
The Sony VAIO Pro 11 (SVP11215PXB) is a sharp looking ultrabook powered by a fourth-generation Intel Core i7 CPU. It offers a beautiful hi-res touch-screen display and is extremely thin and light, but its graphics performance is middling and its battery life comes up short.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc