Sony appears set on conquering the laptop/tablet hybrid market, but it keeps doing it with products like the Vaio Duo 13 and Vaio Tap 11, neither of which thoroughly impressed us. Today we're looking at the Vaio Fit 13A Multi-Flip, which is a different type of hybrid, in that it has a completely different mechanism for switching between laptop and tablet modes. Let's see if third time's a charm...
The Vaio Fit 13A Multi-Flip has a beautiful body with excellent finish, and you really get a little "wow" moment the first time you pick it up. The brushed aluminium on one section of the chassis and the lid makes a great first impression, even though it smudges easily. The lower section is made of high quality matte plastic.
The body is thin enough (17.9 mm) and light enough (1.31 kg) to make it easy to carry around in a backpack or briefcase. It flips easily into tablet form, at which point it's still thin and lightweight for a slate, making it good for prolonged use. It comes with a stylus that follows the same general vein as Sony's other styluses.
The backlit chiclet keyboard offers a nice stroke and has all the functions one expects out of a laptop keyboard. There are shortcuts for the volume and there's also a physical volume button on the back of the chassis for when you're using it in tablet mode. That's handy. The touchpad is spacious (10.5 x 5.5 cm), provides comfortable gliding and recognises all the Windows 8 touch gestures.
The connections consist of two USB 3.0 ports, a microSD card slot, an HDMI output and a 3.5mm audio jack for both incoming and outgoing audio. This is similar to what you find on competing hybrid laptops, but we still find it a tad scanty. For wireless connectivity it has Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n (the signal is super stable at -49 dBm from 5 m and 10 m away and -50 dBm from 20 m away), Bluetooth and NFC.
Just as we expected from a laptop this thin, the body can get rather toasty. We measured it at up to 42.1°C with the components under stress. It's a shame the fan does so little to help, considering how loud it churns (up to 41.5 dB). We aren't the only ones who have noticed this; several users have mentioned it in Sony's online forum. It's enough to make you long for a 13-inch MacBook Air or Aspire S7-392. Luckily, the hot air is expelled out the side, successfully avoiding your knees when you have it on your lap.
The Vaio Fit 13A has a 13-inch Triluminos IPS screen with 1920 x 1080 pixels.
As you can see in this photo (that's me—cheese!), it's a particularly glossy screen that reflects anything and everything in sight. And it's even like that when the computer's turned on, as the brightness only goes up to 202 cd/m². The contrast, however, isn't bad for a laptop (884:1).
Grey colour temperature
The colour temperature is a bit warm (6,202 K), but close to the ideal 6,500 K, and the Delta E is 4.2, showing that the colours aren't perfectly accurate, but above average for a laptop computer. It may not be flawless, but this is still a good screen for photos and movies, as long the room you're in isn't too brightly lit and you aren't the world's biggest stickler.
The audio connection is a four-contact headphone-microphone combo jack with extremely high volume for a laptop, low background noise and an excellent stereo image.
But the speakers on either side of the chassis are a whole different shebang. They're simply too small to offer good sound quality and are incapable of highlighting the lows or mids. The highs are skeletal, poorly defined, and they saturate at high volume. We wouldn't recommend them for anything but video chats or anything in the vocal range.
Note: The model we were sent to review features an Intel Core i5-4200U processor, 8 GB of RAM, an Intel HD Graphics 4400 chipset and a 128 GB SSD. The comments above refer to all versions of the Sony Vaio Fit 13A Multi-Flip, whereas the sections below apply only to the model we tested. Available configurations may vary depending on the country/region in which you live (see inset below).
The Core i5-4200U is normally a highly effective processor that can quickly execute most tasks. However, it performs much more slowly in the Vaio Fit 13A than in other laptops.
For example, on the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 (which also has an i5-4200U) it took us 325 seconds to export a batch of 100 photographs in Lightroom, whereas it took the Vaio Fit 439 seconds to export the same files. Same story in Windows Live Movie Maker, where the Vaio Fit took 62 more seconds to export the same video as the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro. It does, however, perform more quickly than the Core i3-4010U in the Transformer Book T300.
Anything graphics-related is relegated to the Intel HD Graphics 4400, which has a low score of 4185 in 3DMark06, placing it once again far behind the competition.
So don't expect to be playing any major, recent video games, especially not in the screen's native resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. You'll have to stick with older titles like Warcraft if you want fluid gameplay and enjoyable graphics. For newer games you'll have to lower the resolution and detail settings in order to keep motion smooth. That said, you can still run any of the tablet games from Windows Store just fine.
MOBILITY / BATTERY LIFE
Sony is advertising 6 hours of use, but we measured just 4 hours and 15 minutes of video playback (in airplane mode with the screen brightness at 100 cd/m² and headphones plugged in). This is a far cry from the best on the market, such as the Dell Inspiron 14 7000 Series and Surface Pro 2, let alone a battery master like the MacBook Air...