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.

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Cape Dave
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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
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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
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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… Read more »

Sean
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Sean

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

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

iCrunch
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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… Read more »

Tsais
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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… Read more »

Les@TheSSDReview
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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… Read more »

Sean
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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… Read more »

Allegator
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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?

Les@TheSSDReview
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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
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Sean

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