The Sony VAIO Pro 11/13 Series: Notebooks Are Not Dead!

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A few weeks ago, billionaire hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb asked Sony to focus on electronics by selling off its entertainment division. At Taiwan’s Computex show in early June, Sony showed off its new VAIO Pro 11/13 Series ultrabooks.

Judging from The Verge and Laptop reviews, Loeb is right. From uncomfortably sharp corners to a mushy keyboard that flexes to general flimsiness to running uncomfortably hot to a poor webcam, it’s abundantly clear that Sony, which in 2011 employed a whopping 168,000 employees, lacks an intensity of focus.

While everyone labels the PC market dead, I don’t know anyone who runs his or her business entirely on an iPad not even travelers who need to navigate more of their world remotely than simply checking email from a browser.

Bottom line, notebook computers remain the preferred productivity tool. Let’s examine what the Sony VAIO Pro 11/13 series offer in this regard:

  • Base pricing – The Sony VAIO Pro 13 base configuration costs $1,249, which includes a Core i5-4200U CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
  • Intel Haswell – Intel’s fourth-generation i7, i5 and i3 chipsets reportedly offer much improved battery life but Laptop saw no increased performance from the integrated Intel 4400 graphics card.
  • Display – Laptop magazine labels the 1920×1080-pixel LED screen “one of the better laptops screens we’ve laid eyes on, but not the best.” Unfortunately, the screen’s high resolution “makes it difficult to close apps and do other things in the desktop UI.” Score one for Apple, which made its Retina technology a seamless experience.
  • Windows 8 – The OS no one wants but since this lappy has a touch screen, it’s mandatory.
  • Weight – The 13-inch carbon fiber model weighs just 2.4 lb. (1kg), and is 0.68 inches (17mm) thin — as thin as the MacBook Air but a half pound lighter. The 11-inch Pro is equally thin and weighs a svelte 1.9 lb. (871g).

Daniel Loeb is on target. Sony would do much better if it simplified its product line and focused getting things right. It’s amazing to me that a company with its own huge design staff needs to resort to creating a MacBook Air knock-off.

Instead of designing me-tops, Sony would do much better paring its line down to, say, two notebook computers, a high-end and low-end line, and design a VAIO that wins in all regards, much like the Z-series of the last decade.

You’d be better off with the new HP ProBook 430 G1, starting at just $500, which scales resolution down to a more usable 1366×768 and weighs 3.3 lb. Watch HP’s video below and download the HP ProBook 430 G1 spec sheet.

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