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Sony's Super Slim Sliding Tablet

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Sony VAIO Duo 11 doubles as a compact laptop for portable computing

The sliding tablet features a 3rd Generation Intel Core i7 processor, which means it’s as powerful as most Ultrabooks, but in the form of a demure 11-inch tablet.

The sliding tablet features a 3rd Generation Intel Core i7 processor.

The sliding tablet features a 3rd Generation Intel Core i7 processor.

The release of Windows 8 has heralded a host of new style devices, which are a breath of fresh air in a sea of similar-looking Android tablets. We're now seeing innovative devices to suit every need, and this strange looking Sony offers more than meets the eye.

The price tag of $1,499 will astound many people browsing the stores this autumn, and with most tablets entering at a relatively modest $600, the Sony device is a serious outlay. However, this is no ordinary tablet. The Sony VAIO Duo 11 is aimed at those who want an entertainment and business tablet, which packs Ultrabook power and usability.

Info

·         Product: Sony VAIO Duo 11

·         Price: $1,500

·         Website: www.sony.com

Two ways to work

When in tablet mode the Sony Duo 11 is an 11.6-inch touchscreen device with a full-HD 1080p IPS panel. However, unlike normal tablets, the screen slides back on a hinge to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. Unlike other hybrids, such as the Samsung ATIVsmart PC (previewed on page 35), which detach, the Sony Vaio Duo 11 stays connected by its large hinge. It's a slightly dated design, and one that's rarely seen, which makes it an interesting choice for Sony's flagship Windows 8 product. It makes for a more cramped keyboard and a bulkier tablet, but it does mean substantial gains in terms of performance.

Under the hood is an Intel Core i5 processor of the same low power variety found in Ultrabooks. That means you have the power of a leading laptop in the body of a tablet. This means that advanced photo and video editing are more than within its capabilities, and you can multitask apps to your heart's content. Windows 8 positively sings, and you can swiftly navigate around the operating system using swipe gestures that never leave you waiting.

Is bigger better?

Unfortunately, all that power comes at a hefty price point, and the Sony's pay off is an equally noticeable bulk and weight. The super-svelte iPad or Samsung ATIVsmart RT it is not, and the whole body weighs a significant 1.3kg, the same as a modern ultraportable laptop.

To make it easier to hold and use away from a flat surface Sony has tapered the edges, which does make a difference, although the edges are sharp, and we still feel this is destined to be used at a desk or on the sofa.

Of course, the added bulk makes way for added storage space, and while a $600 tablet may come with 16GB of built-in storage, and in the case of the iPad no room for expansion, the Sony is a completely different beast. There's a 120GB SSD drive as standard as well as an SD card slot, which can offer up to 64GB more. On top of this you'll find two USB.30 slots, which can be used for portable hard drives that could offer 10 times the capacity, and at lightning-quick transfer speeds, too.

While on the subject of connectivity, there's also an Ethernet, HDMI and VGA port too, which gives it the edge over many ultraportable laptops, such as the Samsung Series 9 and the MacBook Air.

The extra power doesn't do the battery life any favours, and the Duo 11 gave out after 150 minutes (2Vi hours) of HD video playback. That's less than most laptops and quite a long way behind mainstream tablets, which is a black mark against the Sony's portable credentials.

While it may lack the portability and sleekness of its rivals, it's not just power that makes the Sony a great proposition for those that need portable power. Unlike many laptops the Sony Vaio Duo 11 packs in a full HD 1080p panel, which looks simply glorious. Not only is Windows 8's new interface sumptuously represented, but also apps, games and movies too.

Stutter-free screenings

The screen is an IPS panel with a touch coating that allows for generous viewing angles, should you have people congregating round your screen. The only downside was that it's extremely reflective and like all tablets, a magnet for fingerprints. This combination meant we were regularly reaching for a cleaning cloth in order to see the videos we were watching.

The screen is an IPS panel with a touch coating that allows for generous viewing angles.

The screen is an IPS panel with a touch coating that allows for generous viewing angles.

As you might expect from all of the power on-board, HD video played seamlessly without stuttering. Unlike the iPad and Android tablets, using Windows means it plays nicely with every kind of file format, meaning you can watch movies in any manner you please, and you also get a valuable extra inch of real estate to play with.

If you are sitting back to enjoy a movie, however, you'll need to invest in a decent pair of headphones. The built- in speakers are woeful, with the sound barely able audible above the tinny din rather than filling the room with sound.

Like many Windows tablets the Sony ships with its own stylus, which can be used to enter text freehand and be more creative with apps. In time we expect there to be more apps that support pen interaction, and we tried it extensively with OneNote MX on the Windows Store. The pen worked a charm, with a reassuring weight and two function buttons which enabled us to cut out elements and paste them into our notes. If you're serious about pen technology then the Samsung ATIVsmart PC with its excellent S-Pen technology is a better choice overall, but the Sony is a close and more powerful second place.

The Sony VAIO Duo 11 is a fine example of the radical and new types of hardware that are being designed with Windows 8. If you're looking for a single device that's as portable as a tablet and as powerful as a PC, you should look no further.

QWERTY Keyboard

Unlike most tablets the Duo 11 features a full QWERTY keyboard that's revealed by lifting the screen up. The keyboard is generously sized, although not as comfortable as a full-form laptop.

The keyboard is generously sized, although not as comfortable as a full-form laptop.

The keyboard is generously sized, although not as comfortable as a full-form laptop.

Well connected

Unlike other tablets, there are two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI and even an Ethernet port at the back. Even new laptops can't match it.

Windows 8

The Sony Duo runs a full version of Windows 8, which means it will run any application, such as Photoshop Essentials or Microsoft Word.

No mouse

There's no trackpad as the Duo fully embraces touch technology. There is a track point nipple, but it's nearly impossible to use.

Try it with these

Great to get more from the Duo

Bose IE2

Bose IE2

Don't stick to the built-in speakers, get these headphones for serious sound quality.

Details

·         Price: $131

·         Website: www.comet.co.uk

Microsoft Wedge Mouse

Microsoft Wedge Mouse

If you still love your trusty old mouse try this portable USB one from Microsoft.

Details

·         Price: $74

·         Website: www.amazon.co.uk

 

Targus Pulse Sleeve

Targus Pulse Sleeve

Protect your tablet from knocks and bumps this solidly built sleeve.

One of the most powerful tablets you'll find, the Sony is not a toy.

Details

·         Price: $23

·         Website: www.johnlewis.com

·         Rating:5/5

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