The lightest Ultrabook on Earth, the Sony Vaio Pro 11 catches critics' eyes with its stylish carbon-fiber shell and beautiful full-HD touch screen. Performance is on par with other Ultrabooks equipped with Intel's latest Core processor. The responsive touch screen is well liked, but the keyboard isn't.
Standard Ultrabook stuff. Performance compared to the current crop of Haswell-powered Ultrabooks isn't earth-shattering, but experts say you'll get peppy performance for day-to-day tasks whether you pick the Core i5 or i7 version. You can configure either one with a 128 GB or 256 GB solid-state drive. Integrated graphics mean no intense gaming, but that's standard for an Ultrabook.
Battery life, however, isn't consistent in tests. In ComputerShopper.com's "grueling" video-playback test, the Sony lasts for just four hours and 20 minutes. PCMag.com gets the same numbers, but other testers get six to seven hours, even while playing video. An optional sheet battery (Est. $150) doubles the juice, but it adds about 10 ounces.
"Impossibly light." The Sony's featherweight feel is the first thing you'll notice. "Impossibly light," says Engadget.com. "You can imagine what a convenience that is on a day-to-day basis," especially if you're a business traveler. A fantastic touch screen and mostly smooth touchpad make it easy to navigate Windows 8. The Vaio Pro 11's small keyboard feels somewhat flexy and cramped, however; some testers get used to it, but others never do. Ports are standard Ultrabook fare: two USB 3.0 jacks, an HDMI port, headphone/microphone combo jack and memory card slot.
Rich-looking, inside and out. Sony's carbon-fiber body looks "delicious," Engadget.com says. Plus, it just feels great: "Its construction exemplifies quality," reports ComputerShopper.com. Yet both the black and silver models scratch easily in tests. The Vaio Pro 11's 11.6-inch, full 1080p HD display looks sharp and brilliant, but there's no option to upgrade to an even sharper 2,560-by-1,440-pixel screen like you can with the Acer Aspire S7 (Est. $1,330 and up) . The speakers are OK, but nothing special, reviewers say.
Rock solid. Sony outclasses all other laptop brands, even Apple, in Laptop Magazine's tech-support test. Staffers throw anonymous questions at Sony's live chat, Twitter, Facebook and phone techs, and all prove friendly, prompt and helpful. Searching Sony's website turns up useful answers, too. PCMag.com's reader survey, which also considers reliability, ranks Sony laptops near the top for overall satisfaction.
Lightness costs extra. Small but mighty, the Sony Vaio Pro 11 is an excellent choice if a lightweight laptop is paramount. If you can deal with an extra pound, however, you'll find bigger screens and more comfortable keyboards on the Acer Aspire S7 and 13-inch MacBook Air (Est. $1,050 and up) .
1. Laptop Magazine
The Sony Vaio Pro 11's keyboard holds it back here. Howley finds it flexy, with small keys and uncomfortably sharp front corners, but otherwise likes the laptop. It performs well in benchmark and real-world tests, and has a nice screen and better-than-average battery life.
Review: Sony Vaio Pro 11 Ultrabook Review, Dan Howley, June 4, 2013
The Sony Vaio Pro 11 wins CNET's award for the best ultraportable and is "everything we expect from an excellent ultrabook," Goldman says. Despite some built-in limitations like the max 4 GB of memory, it performs day-to-day tasks well, plus it packs a lovely screen and long battery life.
Review: Sony Vaio Pro 11 Review: Lighter-Than-Air Ultrabook Winner, Joshua Goldman, June 4, 2013
3. Computer Shopper
The Sony Vaio Pro 11 wins an Editors' Choice prize here. Battery life is just OK and benchmark test scores are "middle-of-the-road," but Grevstad says the "handsome" screen, quality construction and mega-portability more than make up for that.
Review: Sony Vaio Pro 11 Review and Ratings, Eric Grevstad, June 4, 2013
"Epic" battery life, "impossible" lightness and a reasonable price make the Sony Vaio Pro 11 easy to recommend, Wollman says. Performance in benchmark and real-world tests is sprightly, but not groundbreaking. She's not crazy about the touchpad, but it's not a deal-killer.
Review: Sony Vaio Pro 11 Review: Finally, a New Flagship Ultraportable to Replace the Z, Dana Wollman, June 4, 2013
Although "middling" graphics performance and short battery life hurt the Sony Vaio Pro 11's score here, Delaney says it packs enough power for all but the heaviest graphics tasks. He likes the Sony's beautiful 11-inch 1080p touch screen, but not as much as the MacBook Pro's 13-inch Retina Display.
Review: Sony Vaio Pro 11 (SVP11215PXB), John R. Delaney, June 5, 2013
6. Laptop Magazine
Sony wins this tech-support shootout, just edging out longtime champ Apple. Phone help, live chat, answers via Facebook and Twitter -- all prove prompt, friendly and accurate when Laptop Magazine staffers pose anonymous questions.
Review: Sony Tech Support: 2013 Rating, Michael Andronico, Oct. 21, 2013
Sony places fourth among 10 laptop brands for customer satisfaction in this reader survey, just one-tenth of a point behind Asus and Samsung. Only Apple scores much better.
Review: Readers' Choice Awards 2013 Winners: Laptops and Desktops, Ben Gottesman, Feb. 20, 2013