Sony VAIO Pro 13 Touch Ultrabook Review – Pre-Configured SATA PCIe SSD Far From Ideal

SONY VAIO PRO 13 PCIE CONFIGURATIONS EXPLAINED

Worldwide, Sony is presently marketing two completely different Sony VAIO Pro 13 ultrabooks under the same configuration and, but for our article today,  the consumer hasn’t any idea what system they will get until they do tests similar to that of which we have done here. The internet is filled with very unsatisfied customers that received their ‘pre-configured’ Sony VAIO Pro 13 with a SATA PCIe SSD, whereas Sony’s own literature led them to believe that the PCIe SSD installed in these systems is a step up from last gen’s mSATA performance standard.  We have addressed this with Sony who are considering our concerns and have guaranteed us a custom built native PCIe SSD for review soonest.

Sony VAIO Pro 13 Open 2

The difference between a pre-configured Sony VAIO Pro 13, and that which was custom built, is significant when we consider that, in one instance, performance of 1.2GB/s is achieved through a native PCIe (Samsung XP941) that is set into a native PCIe connector within the system board, which feeds the PCIe Ver. 2.0 x4 lanes.  On the other, SATA 3 performance of over 500MB/s is achieved through a SATA PCIe SSD that passes data through a different and compatible connector on the system board and to the SATA bus.  SATA 3 bottlenecks the performance to roughly half of what the native PCIe achieves.  Even more significant a fact than the two PCIe SSDs have completely different interfaces (connectors) is the fact that the connectors of the system boards have to be different as well.  Examine the difference:

XP941 Performance1VAIO CDM3The result on the left is our testing of the XP941 PCIe SSD (present in the VAIO custom build) we have on hand while that on the right is from the Sony VAIO Pro 13 we were sent.  While we recognize that capacity alone (512GB vs 128GB) will contribute to a performance difference, we believe these results demonstrate the performance of native PCIe on the left, while at the same time demoinstrating first hand the SATA 3 bottleneck on the right.

VISIBLE PERFORMANCE IMPLICATIONS

The most obvious question brought forward is that of how much visible difference will one see between the system that has 1GB/s transfer speeds and the other at 500+MB/s.  The answer here is a resounding “None!” for 99% of the population who don’t push their systems to the absolute edge, as many media professionals do.  Most will never see any difference whatsoever.  If we can let you in on a bit of a secret, it is next to impossible to observe any ‘visible‘ difference whatsoever in ANY SSD when comparing the SSDs in typical user scenarios.

Sony should be concerned with this, however, as there are many media professionals that have relied on the Sony name and VAIO for years.  These are the professionals that manipulate and transfer terabytes of data to and from their systems and for them, time is money so faster data transfer is vital.  These are the customers that you don’t want to lose to Apple and such marketing has the ability to do just that.

Vaio Opening

REPORT ANALYSIS AND FINAL THOUGHTS

There are things that we absolutely love about the Sony VAIO Pro 13 and that includes its light and durable carbon fiber construction, resulting in the worlds lightest 13″ ultra at just over 2lbs, and the fact that Sony went all out with an IPS 1920×1080 Touchscreen. We were the first to say that we had considered one of these systems for a test bench and, if our configuration had included a native PCIe SSD, that just may have been a great purchase.

Our receipt of a SATA based PCIe system was an eye opener and one that caused us to explore further if this may have been an isolated incident or one that had been experienced by others as well; it was.  Let’s face it.  A SATA based PCIe SSD is no different than the previous generation mSATA SSD that it replaced for any typical user. Our discussions with Sony have somewhat clarified that one would only be seeing the lesser performing SATA PCIe SSD in pre-configured systems.

As well, Sony has assured us that a ‘custom design’ Sony VAIO Pro 13 will be on its way to our facility soon enough and this means that it will contain the biggest and baddest SSD on the market today, the Samsung XP941.  Although we have had some misgivings about the system received, the Sony VAIO Pro 13 will once again be given its opportunity to prove that it is the best of the best in ultrabooks available today.

– FORUM DISCUSSION –

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32 comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

    • 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.

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

  3. 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. 😀

  4. 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.

    • 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,

      • 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.)

  5. 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?

    • 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!

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

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

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

      • 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 ?

      • 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.

      • Les, first thanks for sharing.
        I hope you can give me a little idea.
        I am trying to upgrade SSD and I stuck with some issue.
        there are many different types of SSD M.2 form.
        I want to make sure which one I need to find.
        would it work with 60mm SATA M.2 NGFF (2260)?
        if you can tell me, it would be very appreciated!

      • The Sony VAIO runs off of the Samsung XP941 and is a M.2 PCIe laptop, unless it is the SATA M.2 version.. As such, the only I guarantee that would work with that system would be another Samsung XP941….unless of course it was one that was shipped with a M.2 SATA SSD to which, any similar SATA 3 M.2 SSD would work. The size should matter.

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

  8. 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?

    • Bought it with AC installed today from Sony.no

    • yea it actually worked and works great!
      I have replaced to Intel 7260NGW AC for a month now and it works as charm.

      it kept disconnecting with any other network so i had to use usb wifi adapter but it never got disconnected nor had to install driver all the time over and over for using bluetooth and wifi/

  9. 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:
    https://helgesverre.com/blog/sony-vaio-pro-13-review/

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

  12. i can’t find ram ddr3 in motherboard, where is the RAM?

  13. Hello! I have Vaio Pro with toshiba SATA SSD 128gb. If i upgrade SSD to PCIe XP941. It’s fit? Will work?

  14. Hi,
    I have read all the upgrade stuff on
    the web and still went with the Gen 3 card, for my Pro 13 Ultrabook upgrade
    from 128G – 512G. It simply didn’t work!!!!!

    Card tried Samsung SM951M.2PCIe 512G original card Samsung XP941 M.2 PCIe 128G

    Back up & restore, clean install or cloning. I
    wasted days trying everything possibly posted on the web threads.
    I got Ram City to replace it with the 512G Gen 2 card (XP941 M.2 PCIe 512G ) and everything
    worked first time! They say there is no difference between the drivers for the 2 cards but Sony must have something
    somewhere that is stopping this card to working. Issue – wouldn’t recognise the drive when booting, even when full clone – could view the drive as an external SSD connected by a USB adaptor no problem at all.

    Hope this helps
    someone out there Steve

    • Agree with you.

      I have recently upgraded the VAIO PRO 13 with Samsung XP941 AHCI M.2 PCIe 2.0 x4 – model number MZHPU512HCGL. This is the only one that will work. I cloned it with EaseUS tool and worked perfectly.

      You do need to rest the BIOS to defaults for the laptop to recognize the SSD.

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