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Sony Duo 11 Ultrabook review: Blurring the line between tablet and laptop

Loyd Case | Oct. 15, 2012
Unpacking the Sony Duo 11 (aka the SVD1123CXB) reveals what appears to be a tablet; no keyboard is immediately visible. Yet when you pick it up, it seems a little hefty for a tablet. What's going on here? Well, the Duo 11 is not just a tablet. Lifting up the top edge tilts the display and reveals a sliding keyboard hidden beneath the panel.

Unpacking the Sony Duo 11 (aka the SVD1123CXB) reveals what appears to be a tablet; no keyboard is immediately visible. Yet when you pick it up, it seems a little hefty for a tablet. What's going on here? Well, the Duo 11 is not just a tablet. Lifting up the top edge tilts the display and reveals a sliding keyboard hidden beneath the panel.

Welcome to the world of Windows 8 sliders. The Duo 11 keeps its keyboard tucked underneath the tablet's bottom chassis--it's there when you need it, but you can hide it away when you don't.

The Duo 11 weighs in at 2 pounds, 13 ounces, decidedly on the light side for an Ultrabook. The 11.6-inch screen offers a full 1920-by-1080-pixel IPS touchscreen panel that provides good image quality and color fidelity. Sony also built a full Wacom digitizer into the touchscreen, complete with a stylus supporting 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity. Artists will appreciate the digitizer, but Sony didn't think to include a slot to store the stylus in the body of the unit, so you'll need to keep track of it as you travel.

The Duo 11 meets Intel's Ultrabook spec: It's light, it boots quickly from the 128GB solid-state drive, and it measures just 0.71 inch thick. The machine carries an Intel Core i5-3317U processor, and our review unit had 8GB of system RAM (the standard amount of included memory is 6GB). Since it's an Ultrabook, its graphics hardware consists of the on-board Intel HD 4000 GPU built into the Ivy Bridge low-voltage processor.

Performance

Since the Duo 11's Core i5 CPU is decidedly middle of the road, how does it fare on the performance front? PCWorld is still developing its WorldBench 8 benchmark suite, which is specifically designed to test performance of Windows 8-based PCs. However, since part of WorldBench 8 includes FutureMark's PCMark 7, which we also use in WorldBench 7, I was able to glean a little performance information. Note that we also test boot times as well, but gaming performance tests are still in development.

The Duo 11 posted a score of 2500 on PCMark's productivity test, a considerably lower mark than the 4028 we saw from Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon. That system has a higher-end, Core i7-3667U CPU, so it's not surprising that the Sony machine is slower, though the difference seems somewhat larger than might otherwise be the case. Overall performance appears to be a tad sluggish, especially for a system equipped with an SSD.

Sony rates the Duo 11's battery life at a little under 5 hours. Sleep mode seems to work particularly well, consuming very little power relative to other Core i5 units I've used.

 

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