Sony VAIO Duo 11 review: first look
Sony kicked off Berlin’s IFA 2012 trade show with a bang: in amongst a bevy of new consumer smartphones, laptops, tablets and 4K TVs, Sony unveiled its luxurious vision of a Windows 8 tablet, the stunning VAIO Duo 11.
The first moments with the Duo 11 will be spent gawping at the Full-HD display — the glossy 11.6in screen is simply gorgeous — but that distracts from a multitude of other talents. In addition to supporting 10-finger multitouch, and having a a slide-out keyboard hidden away inside, Sony has also packed in a proper pressure-sensitive digitiser and matching stylus. Make no bones about it, Sony’s attempting to put together the ultimate hybrid Windows 8 device.
The VAIO Duo 11 oozes the kind of class we’d expect from a flagship device. It’s hard to make tablets — rectangles with buttons — look pretty, but the combination of crisp, angular edges and the smoothly curved, glossy screen bezel do their best. It feels reassuringly solid in the hand, too.
And while the Vaio Duo 11 works well in its tablet orientation, the patented Surf Slider design sees it flip eagerly into its convertible mode. Push the front edge, and the screen slides up and backwards to reveal the compact keyboard beneath. A little touchpoint sits in the centre of the keyboard, and two thin mouse buttons are wedged beneath the space bar. Disappointingly, though, there’s nowhere to stash the solid, metal stylus, unless you’ve got the optional battery slice clipped to the rear, which sports a neat little stowhole for storing it.
As you’d expect, it’s no lightweight: the fold-out keyboard adds a fair few millimetres to the chassis — Sony’s own measurements list it at 17.85mm thick — and it weighs in at 1.3kg. And as the models on show had the optional sheet battery clipped to their rear, they felt like they were much nearer the 2kg mark.
Sony’s capitalised on the extra girth, however. There are full-sized D-SUB and HDMI outputs, twin USB 3 ports and an SD card reader. Sony’s two megapixel Exmor sensors provide front and rear cameras, and hidden inside there’s dual-band 802.11n, Bluetooth 4, GPS, a digital compass and Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. There’s also a TPM1.2 chip for security needs.
The 11.6in display is simply stunning, though. It’s the best display we’ve ever encountered on a Windows tablet, and, even on first impressions, it’s probably up there with the finest laptop screens on the market. Sony’s employed its OptiContrast technology, and, whether its a particular type of backlighting or panel technology, it certainly seems to have done the trick. The combination of rich, saturated colours and excellent contrast make for an eye-pampering experience and the obscenely wide viewing angles mean that there’s no contrast shift or washed-out images even at the most extreme positions. Our bets are on it being an IPS panel, and it’s simply superb.
The specification beneath guarantees that Windows 8 responds instantaneously to every brush of the finger. The units on show sported low-voltage Core i7 Ivy Bridge CPUs, and with 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD alongside they felt fast. Sony confirmed that the VAIO Duo 11 would come in different flavours come release, however, with options including Core i5 and Core i7 processors, 128GB and 256GB SSDs and the choice of Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro.
The VAIO Duo 11 is due to land in Sony Centres and Dixons towards the end of October, but pricing remains unconfirmed. Given the quality on offer, though, this is one tablet that isn’t going to come cheap. If the Core i5, 128GB model hits the shelves for less than £1000, we’d be amazed, and a price nearer the £1500 mark seems entirely likely. If you want a piece of the Windows 8 tablet action, we’d get saving.