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At the time I started reviewing the Flip 13, it became apparent how much smartphone technology is now inspiring computing (and not the other way round), with ambient sensor and touch-sensitive displays that even detect the sensitivity of touch to give appropriate thin or thick lines. Of course, the Vaio Flip 13 is also meant to be used as a tablet too, hence the design choices are somewhat like the Sony Vaio Duo 13 but the top does have a seam where the display hinges and can change from laptop to presentation mode. But does it manage to succeed where others haven\’t?
Design & BuildOnce you take the Vaio Flip out of the box, you realize how similar it feels to the Vaio Pro 13, the same Aluminium body and well-crafted design meets you like an old friend. In its clamshell position, the body is tapered towards the open-end. The whole hinge system might look fragile, but it is very sturdy and durable no complains whatsoever. There is a bit of an over-hanging right above the ports which are on the side panels, which is more pronounced toward the open-end than on the rear. Thankfully the ports are closer to the rear, so there isn\’t much of an issue there, except for the two USB 3.0 ports being so very close to each other. I would\’ve liked them to be a little more spaced out, especially if you use dongles and/or data connectors which eat up space at the very mouth of the ports. There is an SD card reader as well, along-with a full-sized HDMI port too and at the back panel is a volume rocker, kept there when you use the ultrabook as a tablet. The strange choice of placing an Exmor-powered 8MP camera at the bottom of the Flip was surprising, the results were not. They were just about average with no sharpness and average colour reproduction. The bottom panel itself is made of plastic, however, which means you can put the Flip on your lap safely and not worry about the heat burning up your skin.DisplayThe 1920x1080p display is gorgeous to look at and consume multimedia, thanks to the TRILUMINOS technology that Sony has mastered. The screen itself, being touch-enabled, is a finger-print magnet and the gloss does not help when viewing in brightly lit conditions. It must be said that the browsing experience on Chrome was quite different once we upgraded to Windows 8.1, with all text and images appearing a lot larger on the screen. In the tablet-mode, you can use a generic digitizer to make full use of the pressure-sensitive 10-point touchscreen and use apps meant for designers to their full potential.SoftwareSadly, the Vaio Flip 13 doesn\’t come with Windows 8.1 out of the box, and even though upgrading is free it is time-consuming. Once we upgraded, quite a few things changed as expected, but we were also able to upgrade all the Vaio software that the laptop came bundled with. Things were a lot better with the upgrades, with sound quality, functionality and graphical performance improvements all round. With the Jive app you can stream and download from a wide variety of songs, though the collection isn\’t as large as some we\’ve seen. Sony\’s also bundled in some other multimedia software, but all of which eats up considerable amount of storage space which isn\’t ideal for most.PerformanceThe machine comes loaded with 64-bit Windows OS powered by a 4th gen Intel core i5 Haswell processor- specifically the i5-4200U CPU. This is ably supported by 4GB of RAM and on-board Intel HD 4400 GPU. Every benchmark revealed that the ultrabook is well-equipped to handle anything you can throw at it, although some of the disk-write performance from the Samsung-powered SSD was a bit sub-par. Speaking of which 128GB of storage felt incredibly less for an ultrabook, though we must remember that this does double-up as a tablet too. The Vaio is also equipped with various sensors to ensure the experience when using it in the tablet-mode is not hampered and it really shows, except for the fact that the laptop doesn\’t go in ˜Sleep\’ mode even when it\’s idle for a long time. You will need to tinker around a bit to get this changed, as the fan does keep whirring all the time, which can annoy some people.
By the time I was about done with the review is when we all learned that Sony had decided to sell the Vaio sub-brand to Japan Industrial Partners and everyone started calling it an end of an era. To think that Steve Jobs once wanted Vaio laptops to run Apple\’s Mac OS just speaks volumes of the brands presence and wonderful design. Unfortunately, the Vaio Flip 13 is bogged down only by unavoidable omissions and a steep price tag, which take away nothing from the fact that this ultrabook is a great product that can be put to heavy use and still come up trumps against competition from all other major players.
13.3 Full HD LED TRILUMINOS display
Intel Core i5-4200U CPU
Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU
4 GB DDR3 RAM
128 GB SSD
Windows 8 OS (64-bit)
2xUSB 3.0 ports, 1xHDMI port, 1×3.5mm Audio Jack