Saturday , 20 September 2014
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Sony VAIO Pro 13 Touch Ultrabook Review – Pre-Configured SATA PCIe SSD Far From Ideal

A few weeks back, we posted an article that stated our opinion of the new Apple MBA as being one of the top ultraportable laptops available today, and quite possibly, untouchable.  The backlash from Sony fans was amazing, many clearly noting that we hadn’t tested, or included, the new VAIO 13 Pro as a comparison system in that report…and they were right.  After looking into the VAIO Pro 13 specs a bit more closely, we felt that a definite contender had been excluded and, thanks to Sony, a VAIO Pro 13 was received for analysis not a week later.

Vaio Closed

In doing our background, we were impressed with the seemingly consistent accolades awarded to the VAIO Pro 13, many by top sites stating that this was an ‘Almost Perfect Notebook’. After all,  it has an IPS 1920×1080 screen, is worlds lightest 13″ ultra at only 2.37 lbs, and SSD performance of 1GB/s would qualify the VAIO Pro 13 as the worlds fastest ultra. Also knowing that  the VAIO Pro 13 contains the Samsung XP941 PCIe SSD that we had just reviewed, we believed that this ultrabook was well on it’s way to giving the MBA a run for its money.  In fact, our first impression was such that we had already  negotiated a price for retention of this ultrabook for future PCIe testing at TSSDR.

PRE-CONFIGURED UNITS MAY CONTAIN SLOWER SATA PCIE SSDS

Something not many people are aware of is that there are actually two physically different Sony VAIO Pro 13 ultrabook configurations being distributed, those that have been constructed for pre-configured sales and those for custom build.  Pre-configured configurations may use a SATA based PCIe SSD, while all custom builds use a much higher performing native PCIe SSD.  We were a bit confused as Sony was clearly advertising ‘PCIe solid state drive’ in its configurations worldwide, and even stating that the PCIe ‘booted-up faster, launched apps at lightning speeds and enjoy snappier overall performance capabilities versus a traditional mSATA SSD drive’  In the case of pre-configured SATA PCIe SSD systems, this marketing is incorrect.

This situation affected us directly as the Sony VAIO Pro 13 we received from Sony was a pre-configured model and contains a SATA based PCIe SSD, actually resulting in lower performance than the previous gen mSATA configuration.  We spoke with Sony.  Sony marketing confirmed to us that pre-configured models may or may not contain a SATA PCIE SSDs and that one of Canada’s VAIO Pro 13 pre-configurations contain a SATA PCIe SSD.  Although Sony wouldn’t confirm such, we were well aware that there was no way to identify one configuration from the next.  We knew this because the system we received for evaluation is SATA PCIe SSD based.  The perfomance difference between both systems is significant.  Later in our report, we will provide actual performance metrics and speak further on the difference between configurations.

UPDATE:  VAIO Pro 13 Native M.2 PCIe Review Posted!

SPECIFICATIONS

Getting away from PCIe SSD performance for just a moment, Sony has definitely put alot of time and effort into making the Haswell based Sony VAIO Pro 13 one of the best ultrabooks on the market.  Measuring 12.68″ x 8.5 x .68″ and weighing a mere 2.34lbs, the VAIO Pro 13 takes its place on the podium as the lightest 13″ ultrabook in the world.  It is available in silver or black and constructed of very durable carbon fiber which provides flex that some like and some do not.  The screen is one of the first IPS ultra screens available and has a 1920 x 1080p touchscreen with TRILUMINOS display.

Vaio Open Screen On

The Sony VAIO Pro 13 can be configured with a 4th gen Intel® Core™ i5-4200U (1.60GHz / 2.60GHz) or i7-4500U (1.80GHz / 3.00GHz) processor, 4 or 8GB DDR3L-1600MHz memory, a 128, 256 or 512GB SSD, along with a ‘no touch screen’ option and standard or pro versions of Windows 8.  Important to note is that the memory is integrated into the system board which means that it cannot be upgraded down the road.  We might suggest that the 8GB upgrade is one of the wisest decisions right off.

Vaio Left Side With FanVaio Right Side PortsOnly the power port can be found on the left side of the Pro 13 along with the fan vents. Our testing consisted of a period of just over 16 hours and we found the fan to be on at all times and loud in comparison to other systems, as well as the unit becoming relatively hot when being used in ones lap.  On the right side, there is a HDMI port, 2 x USB 3.0, a headphone jack and SD card slot.  It is always great to see a SD card slot, especially where future storage needs can be solved with a 64/128GB SD card quickly and at a decent price.

Vaio Screen Angle

BACKLIT KEYBOARD AND BATTERY LIFE

The Sony  VAIO Pro 13 Touchscreen ultrabook contains very shallow island style backlit keys that are silent to the touch.  Ww found the trackpad to be easy to manipulate and smooth, just as we did the touchscreen.  Along the top of the screen is a protective rubber seal that prevents metal to metal (or glass) contact when the system is closed.  Sony also includes an ‘Assist’ button that is held down when starting the VAIO Pro 13, should they need to reset or check the stability of the system for any reason.

Vaio Keyboard

We were able to pull just over 6 hours battery life from the VAIO Pro 13 in normal use which is very good for a Windows based ultrabook.  Even when we compare the Apple MBA  which will surpass the 12 hour mark in OSX, it doesn’t get anywhere near that when we are running the same system in Windows mode.

About Les Tokar

is a technology nut and Founder of The SSD Review. His early work includes the first consumer SSD review along with MS Vista, Win 7 and SSD Optimization Guides. Les is fortunate to, not only evaluate and provide opinion on consumer and enterprise solid state storage but also, travel the world in search of new technologies and great friendships. Google+
  • Cape Dave

    Kind of like a tire with not enough air in it :) It will never produce the results hoped for. Thanks for the heads up. MBA is still looking good!

  • vaio pro 13 user

    Been using it for 3 days and found wifi continuous disconnects every 5sec, plus slow wifi connection (1/3rd of the nominal achieved download speed) compared to other laptops. The SSD is only 52Gbytes free for the user. One should delete a lot of content to free up space. Apart from those a brilliant piece of ultrabook, but needs a lot of work from the user to be productive.

    • Tsais

      On almost all ultrabooks, this issue is the same and can be fixed in the same way: Set your preferred WiFi mode to 2.4 GHz in the WiFi card driver settings. The default is usually 5 GHz, which will cause the issue if your 5 GHz reception is marginal for one reason or other.

      It works like this: Unit tries to connect with 5GHz, fails, falls back to 2.4 GHz, gets connection: your internet works. After a short time, it tries 5GHz again, fails: your connection dropped. Falls back to 2.4 GHz: your connnection is back on again.

      And so it goes on, ad nauseam.

    • Sean

      You can order it without bloatware directly from Sony at no extra cost. I did today :)

      • http://thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

        Congrats Sean! You should join ther Forums and do a bit of a review! Welcome to the PCIe world!

  • iCrunch

    Wow, that’s great! I don’t actually want to buy this Sony machine, but it will force Apple to redesign (as opposed to just “refresh”) the MacBook Air, like adding a Retina display or how about just an IPS display vs. the atrocious TN panel they have in there now.

    Speaking of refreshes, I just ordered a CTO/BTO model of the JUST-refreshed iMacs with a 256GB PCIe SSD, which almost certainly will be the Samsung XP941, except it won’t be artificially slowed down for the purpose of battery longevity, which I think Apple did on the Air.

    I’ll do some benchies myself, but are you getting one of the new iMacs? Apple has come WAY down over the last two years with what they charge for what they call “Flash storage”, so it was only $180 upgrade (education pricing) to go from a 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive to a strict PCIe 256GB SSD. This also means it’ll be another pound lighter because of no hard drive. Boy, I can’t wait. :D

  • Tsais

    Les, I worry about the flex of the case. Not because I think the case would take any damage, but because of the main circuit board. Modern circuit boards are usually made with 6 to 8 layers, with tiny vertical interconnects between the layers. This is one reason why you should avoid bending them, because bending not only stretches the leads in the outer layers but will eventually shear off vertical interconnects.

    When I first saw the flex on this notebook, I figured Sony must have solved this issue by using several smaller circuit boards to alleviate the issue. But the first interior shots I saw showed that Sony used a single long circuit board from edge to edge, with the connectors soldered right onto its edges. This ensures the circuit board will be forced to follow the flex of the case every time.

    In my mind, this is a point of failure just waiting to cause you issues. Just a single sheared vertial interconnect is enough to lead to system instability. So you’ll be trouble shooting and reinstalling your OS for god knows how long before you figure out its a hardware issue. And then, Sony will just tell you the machine must have been mistreated and refuse repair on warranty. (enough evidence for this behavior from both Sony and Apple exists)

    If you have any opinions to the contrary, I’d be keen to know, since otherwise this laptop would suit me well, even though I’d like the display brighter than it is. (more like Samsung’s 9 series 400+ nits which works really well outdoors on last year’s touch-screen free models) Good thing Sony still offers non-reflective displays without touch on this. Trying to sell me touch on a clam shell laptop is like trying to sell a bicycle to a fish.

    • http://thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      Cant say as I agree with this thought at all. We have been using the Toshiba Z830 Ultra that we reviewed for years now and I have to say that the flex has been more beneficial than anything else. I believe there is actually more flex in the Z830 in fact.

      Right now, my main system is the new MBA and I did get won over in the ability to have all 3 OS’s up and running simultaneously (OSX/W7/W8) but I have to say, the rigidity of the MBA (as much as i love the feel of this system, has caused a few marks that may have been otherwise not seen with a more flexible system. Typically, my Ultras are thrown in and out of vehicles and used in the most unexpected places daily. Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I ALWAYS have an ultra in hand,

      • Sean

        I agree. I was also concerned with flex on laptops before, as seen on many light weight models. But when I look at my previous powerful work laptops like Dell M4500, M4600 and M4800 they all had dents in the chassis.

        I prefer flexing over dents and broken parts and I’m not worried about the circuit board unless you drop it from heights were it would take damage no matter if the chassis was rigid or flexible.

        I think if you can live with the flex in Vaio Pro 13, it’s a great laptop with a really low weight. If not (and you are going to worry constantly), take a look at the Zenbook series etc. There are many similar laptops (but heavier because of the more rigid chassis / gorrilla glass etc.)

  • Allegator

    I’m seriously thinking about this unit. My understanding from what I’d read was that the SATAs shipped to Europe while all 13 inchers sold in the US contained the native PCIe Samsung. Would I be able to see that I have the Samsung in Device Manager?

    • http://thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      Both of our units are bring shipped back to Sony so I cannot check, however, yes…the SSD identification should be visible in the Device Manager, as it has always been. Consider Amazon and our links if you enjoyed our report!

    • Sean

      Bought the Pro 13 today on Sony.no – could choose between SATA and PCIe SSD in the configurator. Went for 256GB PCIe SSD.

  • fez

    great review bro. is it possible to upgrade the pcie SSD manually? saving a fortune on the sony website upgrading SSD?

    • http://thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      Absolutely…. I have seen one or two on eBay but thats it.

      • Shamsudheen

        Bro,thanks for your review abot PCIE SSD,
        i just to want to that, in vaio 13 pro can we upgrade the SSD from 128GB to 256 or 512GB?
        because,im having VAIO 13 Prom with 128SSD, iwant to upgrade with 512 is it possible ?

      • http://thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

        They can be upgraded, so long as you can find the proper form factor M.2 SSD to fit your system with the capacity you need. If it is a SATA M.2, you must upgrade with a SATA M.2.

  • Vaibhav Sharma

    will you please tell what does this code word for vaio pro part relates to with a pic.
    MBX516-GT2

  • Jameel Baig

    Hi, I understand that Sony Vaio Pro 3 comes with Intel 7260-N WIFi card (Model# 7260NGW AN).

    I am wondering if I can upgrade the WiFi card to Intel 7260-AC (Model # 7260NGW).

    Has any one tried it?

    • Sean

      Bought it with AC installed today from Sony.no

  • Helge Sverre

    I might be interested in upgrading the SSD of my Sony vaio pro 13, could you point me in the right direction for buying a bigger one over 200~ gb?

    Did my own review on this ultrabook on my blog:
    http://helgesverre.com/blog/sony-vaio-pro-13-review/

    • http://thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      You can upgrade this SSD with same higher capacity type at RAMCity in Australia (linked in SSD review) as they are the only presently that have them.

  • PAPPACLART

    I have just bought this laptop though I am waiting for it to arrive. Based on the exact model number it is stated in the specs that it has a 128 GB*4 (128 GB x 1, PCI Express x 4) is this any indication of whether it will ship with the faster or slower SSD config?

    • http://thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      We might hope the *4 signifies 4 lane which means it would be PCIe, or even Pci Express X4, but, no…sorry.

  • PAPPACLART

    My pre configured Vaio Pro arrived today. First thing I did was check the SSD. I am please to confirm I am lucky enough to have to have the XP941 in mine. A quick SSD benchmark confirmed. I am chuffed.

    • http://thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      Excellent news and congrats on the purchase!

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