Sony VAIO T15 Touch (SVT15112CXS) review

The Sony VAIO T15 Touch ultrabook offers solid performance, a healthy feature set, and a generous selection of software.
Photo of Sony VAIO T15 Touch (SVT15112CXS)

First came the ultrabooks, and then came Windows 8, Now touch screens have come to reshape the laptop landscape. Sony’s own touch-enabled ultrabook, the Sony VAIO T15 Touch (SVT15112CXS), pairs a capacitive screen, a stunning 1080p display, and a healthy collection of features, then throws in a generous helping of bundled software and service trials that you’ll enjoy rather than resent. While there are aspects of the VAIO T15 Touch that won’t appeal to everyone, like the limited gesture support of the touchpad, there’s still plenty to like about this well-appointed ultrabook.

Design
The VAIO T15 Touch has a brush aluminum that’s finished with Sony’s distinctive design—bare metal brushed with strong horizontal lines, and angular corners and edges. Measuring 0.9 by 14.9 by 10.1 inches (HWD), the T15 Touch is just a bit thicker than Sony’s other ultrabooks, but the extra thickness is largely to accommodate the touch screen. The 15.5-inch display adds capacitive touch with 10-digit tracking to the already impressive 1,920-by-1,080 resolution. The VAIO T15 Touch also has a tray-loading optical drive (Dual-layer DVD±RW/CD-RW), which adds to the thickness of the laptop and contributes to its 4.9-pound weight.

The system has the same drop-hinge design seen on the Sony VAIO Z13 (SVZ13114GXX), which places the rear feet of the laptop on the hinge-edge of the lid, setting the keyboard at a comfortable angle when open. The black chiclet keys get LED backlighting, and the 15-inch chassis provides enough room to include a numeric pad in addition to the usual QWERTY selection. Just above the keyboard are three additional buttons, labeled VAIO, Assist, and Web, with each button launching a service or app—Assist launches help and troubleshooting, Web opens your default browser, and VAIO can be set to open your application of choice.

Set below the spacebar—and left of center on the palmrest—is a blank-faced clickpad. Gesture support offers intuitive two-fingered scrolling (both vertical and horizontal), pinch-to-zoom, and more. What it doesn’t support, however, are the usual Windows 8 gestures, like swiping from the edges to pull up the Charms Bar or cycle through apps. While this is likely due to the fact that those actions are already supported by the touch screen, many laptop users prefer to have both options available to them.

Features
Along the edges of the laptop you’ll find one USB 3.0 port (with power for charging smartphones and peripherals) two USB 2.0 ports, a headset jack, and card readers for both SD cards and Sony’s own Memory Stick Pro Duo. VGA and HDMI outputs let you connect your laptop to a monitor, projector, or HDTV.

Networking options include both an Ethernet port for wired connectivity and 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0 + HS for pairing headsets, speakers, or other devices. Above the display is a 1.3-megapixel webcam, equipped with an Exmor sensor from Sony’s camera and imaging department.

The VAIO T15 Touch is equipped with a 750GB 5,400rpm hard drive, paired with a 24GB solid-state drive (SSD) cache. The spinning hard drive offers considerably more storage space than a similarly-priced SSD would, while the 24GB SSD cache—invisible to the user—contributes to the snappy performance and quick boot times expected from an ultrabook.

While there are only so many features that Sony can put into a laptop without raising the price to premium levels, Sony has made a real effort to stand out with a selection of preinstalled software. Far from the usual bloatware, Sony includes premium media programs, like Sony Movie Studio Platinum, ACID Music Studio, and DVD Architect, providing excellent media creation tools without charging extra for the programs. Also on the start screen, you’ll find a collection of apps, like ArtRage Studio (a regular on touch-enabled systems), Skype, and a 30-day trial of Microsoft Office 365.

There’s also a one-month trial of Kaspersky Internet Security, but that’s significantly less impressive when you account for the fact that Kaspersky (and every other security suite maker) offers the same trial for free. Slightly more enticing, however, is the inclusion of a two-month trial of HuluPlus, a two-month trial of Slacker Radio Premium, and three free movies from GooglePlay. Some of those offers come with an expiration date, however, so check Sony’s promo page, sony.com/promo, to see which media offers are current when you purchase). Finally, Sony covers the VAIO T15 with a one-year warranty.

Performance

The VAIO T15 Touch has more than just a touch screen going for it; it also boasts a dual-core 1.87GHz Intel Core i5-3337U processor paired with 8GB of RAM, a half-step up from the i5-3317U found in ultrabooks from last fall and winter. The results can be seen in PCMark 7, where the VAIO T15 scored 4,112 points, ahead of the Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51 (3,013 points) and the Toshiba Satellite P845T-S4310 (2,635 points), but falling behind the Core i7-equipped HP Spectre XT TouchSmart 15-4010nr (4,720 points). In multimedia tests, it also came in near the head of the group, finishing Handbrake in 1 minute 25 seconds and completing our Photoshop test in 5:21.

The use of Intel integrated graphics instead of a discrete GPU limits the graphics and gaming capabilities—this isn’t meant to be a machine to run Skyrim on anyway—but 3DMark11 scores of 1,111 points (Entry) and 209 (Extreme) indicate that you can still fire up a less demanding game like League of Legends or Team Fortress 2.

The VAIO T15 Touch has a sealed battery compartment, so you won’t be swapping out the 6-cell, lithium-polymer battery when it runs low. While a common move, it is something of a shame, since the system lasted only 4 hours 18 minutes in our battery rundown test. Though this is longer than the HP Spectre XT Touchsmart 15-4010nr (4:03) and identical to the Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51 (4:18), it still falls short of the Dell Inspiron 15z-5523 (5:07) and the Toshiba Satellite P845t-S430 (5:22).

When stacked up against other touch-enabled ultrabooks, the Sony VAIO T15 Touch (SVT15112CXS) is an able, if not jaw dropping, system. It offers a healthy selection of features, from the hot-new-thing touch screen to the increasingly hard-to-find optical drive, and it adds a healthy serving of value with several premium programs and enticing service trials bundled with it. It doesn’t supplant the Editors’ Choice Asus Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A-BHI5T, but it makes a solid showing without a premium price.

BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS:
Check out the test scores for the Sony VAIO T15 Touch (SVT15112CXS)

COMPARISON TABLE
Compare the Sony VAIO T15 Touch (SVT15112CXS) with several other laptops side by side.

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Specifications
Touchscreen Yes
Processor Name Intel Core i5-3337U
Operating System Microsoft Windows 8
Weight 4.9 lb
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 4000
Screen Type Widescreen
Type General Purpose, Ultraportable, Consumer Ultra-Low Voltage, Ultrabook
RAM 8 GB
Networking Options 802.11n
Processor Speed 1.8 GHz
Primary Optical Drive Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW
Screen Size 15.5 inches
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 750 + 24 GB

Verdict
The Sony VAIO T15 Touch ultrabook offers solid performance, a healthy feature set, and a generous selection of software.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc