Haswell Ultrabooks Shootout Featherweight Battle Royale (Part 3) - Sony VAIO Pro 13, Toshiba PORTEGE Z30

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Sony VAIO Pro 13

Sony has a history of building premium ultraportable notebooks – long before Ultrabooks first arrived on the scene. The Vaio Pro 13 is the latest addition to that family, and boasts a Toray carbon fiber chassis, giving it both durability and an incredibly lightweight build. In fact, it's by far the lightest Ultrabook in our shootout at just 1.06kg.

The Vaio Pro 13 sports a sleek, executive-looking aesthetic with a black painted carbon fiber lid and base. On the inside, a strip of black, brushed aluminum covers the wrist rest and offers a smooth, if somewhat cold surface to rest your hands.

Description: Sony VAIO Pro 13

Sony VAIO Pro 13

Unfortunately, the keyboard well is plastic and, as a result, there's a fair bit of flex evident. The keyboard itself is also quite shallow, and the keys are a bit wobbly. And while the clickpad is large, with a firm, satisfying click, it's made with plastic rather than glass (like on many other premium Ultrabooks), which isn't as smooth, and doesn't look or feel as nice.

Like the Acer Aspire S7, the Vaio Pro 13 is fitted with a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution touchscreen display. Viewed by itself, the display is fine, with plenty of screen brightness, good viewing angles and sufficient clarity. However, if you put the Vaio Pro 13 next to the higher resolution displays of HP's Spectre 13, ASUS' Zenbook UX301 or Lenovo's Yoga 2 Pro and scrutinize each one, it starts looking a bit shabby in comparison. Still, this should be good enough for most users.

Description: The large clickpad isn’t made of glass like on other premium Ultrabooks

The large clickpad isn’t made of glass like on other premium Ultrabooks

As expected for a Sony Vaio notebook, the Vaio 13 Pro is quite pricey, with the i7 model retailing for $2,499 and the i5 (with 128GB SSD) variant available for $1,999. Surprisingly, both models only come with 4GB RAM.

Toshiba PORTEGE Z30

The Portege Z30 is Toshiba's follow-up to 2012's ultraportable Portege Z930 Ultrabook. While the Z930 measured just 15.9mm and weighed 1.12kg, the Z30 is slightly thicker at 17.9mm and heavier at 1.2kg.

The tradeoff for the extra weight comes in the form of a larger battery and a few extra security features. In fact, the Z30 is the only Ultrabook in this lineup armed with a TPM chip, fingerprint reader and SmartCard technology- all of which are must-have features for any enterprise environment.

Matching its enterprise features, the Z30 sports a serious business-like aesthetic, in a drab, metallic gray that is unlikely to turn many heads. Build-quality on the Z30 is fairly decent, thanks to a magnesium alloy body that keeps the machine light and portable, and also adds enough durability to protect it from light bumps and scuffs. Unfortunately, while magnesium is lighter than aluminum, it doesn't look as nice, and it's also not as stiff, resulting in a fair bit of flex evident in both the lid and keyboard well.

Description: Toshiba PORTEGE Z30

Toshiba PORTEGE Z30

The Z30 is the only Ultrabook in our shootout sporting both a full-size clickpad and a trackpoint nub with physical left and right click buttons. The nub has a gritty feel, very similar to the ones found on Lenovo's Thinkpad line of enterprise notebooks. As for the Z30's keyboard, it's a bit shallow, but the keys themselves are quite firm.

The biggest drawback to the Z30 is its 1366 x 768 resolution display. While displays of this caliber were acceptable two years ago, many manufacturers are now opting for Full HD and higher displays, and it's a shame that Toshiba hasn't chosen to do the same. Even worse, it's also the only notebook in our shootout without a touchscreen display, a feature that is almost mandatory for any long-term Windows 8.1 usage.

At $1,999, the Z30 is fairly affordable, but its low resolution, non-touchscreen display hurts its value rating.


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