Sony unveiled the VAIO Duo 11 hybrid laptop in Singapore on October 11, 2012. The Duo 11 hybrid (Figure A) is an ultrabook with a sliding 11.6-inch LCD display (Figure B) that switches the device between slate and keyboard mode. Its full-HD (1920×1080) touch sensitive screen allows for touch input or use of the digitizer stylus that comes with the package.
The Sony VAIO Duo 11 Hybrid (Photo by Paul Mah for TechRepublic)
The Surf Slider mechanism that makes the sliding possible. (Photo by Paul Mah for TechRepublic)
Specifications, availability, and pricing
Here’s a quick roundup of the VAIO Duo 11’s specifications:
- Processor: Intel Core i7-3517U or Intel Core i5-3317U
- Operating system: Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000
- Memory: 4 GB or 8 GB DDR3L 1600MHz SDRAM
- Drive: 128 GB or 256 GB SSD
- Screen: 11.6-inch capacitive touchscreen @ 1920×1080
- Dimensions: 320 x 17.85 x 199mm
- Weight: 1.3kg
- Ports: HDMI, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, 2x USB 3.0, Headphones port
- Memory expansion: Combo Memory Stick Duo/SD Memory card slot
- Other: Bluetooth 4.0, WLAN 802.11a/b/g/n, Multiple sensors: NFC, GPS, Accelerometer, Gyro, Digital Compass, backlit keyboard
Sony says the device has an estimated battery life of 4.5 hours, which is doubled with the included battery pack. Based on my experiences with claimed battery hours and actual usage times from multiple Sony laptops that I’ve owned, you can expect to get something similar for Web browsing tasks with the backlight set to about 50%.
A Sony representative told me the Duo 11 hybrid has a quick charge mode that is capable of delivering 60 minutes of runtime in just 10 minutes of charging, or charging it to the 80% mark in 55 minutes. A full charge takes 135 minutes.
According to Sony, the VAIO Duo 11 will be available beginning in November. The model with the Intel Core i5-3317U will sell for SG$1,999, and the model with the Core i7-3517U will sell for SG$2,699.
It impresses me how Sony incorporated every peripheral port (Figure C) that is important to IT departments and business users — this ranges from Gigabit Ethernet, VGA for legacy projectors, and the two USB 3.0 ports. Sony also incorporated premium features such as a full-HD touch screen, a backlit keyboard, and a rich suite of sensors. On paper, the Duo 11 Hybrid is a very compelling machine.
Peripheral ports such as VGA port and combo Memory Stick Duo/SD Card slot remains fully accessible in tablet mode. (Photo by Paul Mah for TechRepublic)
I got some hands-on time with the Duo 11, and I found the machine’s performance to be snappy. The hardware is very well-built, and I have no concerns that the excellent hinge design could stand the rigors of heavy use and abuse when you’re on the road.
As a fast touch typist, I found the smaller-than-usual keyboard to be cramped and its tactile feedback shallow. Some may argue that the Duo’s 11.6-inch form factor necessitates a scaled-down keyboard, but Apple has successfully incorporated a full-size keyboard on its 11-inch MacBook Air for years. The Duo 11 Hybrid also felt rather heavy and ungainly when used in tablet mode. This is probably not a problem when you’re using the device at a desk, though it will probably deter from using it when you’re in transit, such as while riding the subway.
While the Sony VAIO Duo 11 Hybrid has impressive specifications and is highly designed, it has an inferior keyboard that is not optimal for productivity work. In addition, mobile workers may be deterred by its underwhelming battery life and unwieldy heft compared to devices such as an iPad or an Android tablet.