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Technology Today - July 2013 - Review Sony Vaio Pro 13
By Robert Sanborn

I have seen the future as once thought of by Intel with their “Ultrabooks” and it is a Sony Vaio Pro 13. Everything about it is impressive to the look from the packaging to the ridiculously light 2.34 pound computer. Start with the packaging. Besides the usually compartmentalized cardboard case, the notebook sits in its own foam and cloth tray. Open it up and the screen is covered by a 12x8 inch microfiber cloth.  Inside the box it comes with a nice small 52 watt power brick (with a USB socket) that connects to the notebook and a short 3 prong AC power cord which will still go about 7 feet from outlet to computer. Also in the box is a small Sony Quick Start guide, a Sony Windows 8 Getting started fold out flyer; an English & French warranty card; a four page fold out Recovery, Backup and Troubleshooting Guide, and a Safety Regulations booklet that is thicker than all the above put together.  That is it.  Of course, when you get an Ultrabook with no disc drive, you shouldn’t really expect any discs and to be fair to Sony, many of the companies don’t provide them anymore. Sony Viao Pro 13 Ultrabook

 

Intel Core i5 4th Generation Processor Raise the lid on the Vaio Pro 13 and it raises the keyboard to a typing angle.  This particular model came with an Intel Core i5 4th generation processor and a 128gb Solid State Disc drive so it should be plenty fast for anything you want to do. It also comes with Windows 8 Home Premium 64 bit version.  The Touchscreen is very responsive and easy to use if you can stand Windows 8 and the machine starts up very quickly.  
First impressions besides the small compact size; I like the silver finish on the case and keyboard and it is an excellent keyboard to use; bright screen; and did I mention light weight. Another is that the keyboard’s keys are all back lit with the light coming through the engraving on the keys. In my home office, I found it difficult to see them because of reflections from various things.  Fortunately, the F & J keys have the nub to help you orient your hands.  It is nice not having to deal with the touchpad but of course, if you are not use to Windows 8, finding where things are can be a challenge.  Once you get used to tapping things on the screen, it does work out very well. Sony Vaio Pro 13 Keyboard

The Vaio Pro 13 comes with the usual web camera and microphones on the top but have all of the connector cables (except for power) on the right side which is convenient. We have 2 USB 3.0 ports, one of which supports charging (the back one); a headphone jack, an HDMI video out connector; and an SD Memory card slot. If you plan on connecting to a projector, you may need a conversion adapter.

The Sony has a 13 inch screen with a resolution of 1920x1080.  The print is tiny and what I quickly discovered is that using the touch screen on such a tiny resolution is nearly as bad as typing text into my smartphone. Quite often I find myself hitting the wrong thing.  Right clicking on a touch screen is a bit tricky as well; you get so used to a touch pad or mouse that dealing with the touch screen is difficult.

With the Sony, you have both the Windows Update to keep up and Sony has its own Viao Update that has over 350mb of data to download and the wireless connection just seems to take longer.  In fact, you need to do all these updates before you can create your Recovery Media and in looking at the fine print, they say that you can only use DVD-R media.
So how do you keep it light? Well, the first thing is to not pack extra cables, keyboard, or mouse. Leave the external DVD drive at home; you will need to get one because at some point in time, you will need to install something else. You also better hope that you have a good wireless connection as there is no Ethernet connection on the Vaio. And that is the first thing that bothered me about the Sony.  I am so used to always using an Ethernet cable to connect to the internet mostly because of flaky wireless connections. Will just have to see how it goes.

The snags I have run into have mostly been from how Windows 8 interacts with the Touchscreen and the Sony software and the shell program I am using.  In fact, got so irritating that I gave up with the touch pad and plugged in a mouse.  I am not sure where the conflicts are and it might be because half the time I would use the touch screen and half would be through the touchpad. Getting it set up to use has taken quite a bit of time mostly because of the update process with both Windows 8 and the Sony software.  And I know that switching between the Touchscreen & touchpad can cause some confusion probably on both sides. The other snag had to do with the Sony Vaio Update which kept on hanging on one of the items and so forced them all to abort. I ended up doing them one at a time. The good news was restarting after each one was the fastest I have ever seen.

The light weight Sony is a joy to haul around and you need to get over the excess baggage that both Windows 8 and Sony give you.  You will need to spend some time ridding the computer of the excess software because of the smaller drive.

On this machine, I installed the Classic Shell http://www.classicshell.net/ to give it a look like Windows 7. So far, it has worked very well and rids the screen of all those of what I consider junk apps. And now, we can start to look to install applications and files from the old computer. Microsoft’s Easy Transfer Wizard will make that process easier but still, we will need to look at things closely. For me, the screen resolution at 1920x1080 was just too small and so while I noticed that I really couldn’t set it any smaller, I did set the text to 150% of size and it seems to do the trick just fine.

I really did enjoy using the Sony.  The light weight makes it worthwhile and if you need something to travel with, you won’t go wrong with it.  Pricing is pretty good as well at $1249 for such a sleek machine.

 

Robert Sanborn

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