With Windows 8 set to be released in two weeks, Microsoft OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are going full speed ahead to launch their dedicated devices.
Sony's newest offering, the Vaio Duo 11, is being marketed as a full-HD Ultrabook and 10 point touch tablet in one device.
Use it as a tablet, slide the screen back and with credits to Sony's Surf Slider design, the keyboard is exposed to create an Ultrabook.
But other than being a two-in-one tablet laptop hybrid, the form factor for the new device doesn't scream wow.
Drawing inspiration from Robert X. Cringely at InfoWorld, I figured I could find a suitable term for the hybrid device. If a phone-tablet is a phablet then an Ultrabook-sliding-tablet is definitely a slablet. Apt considering it feels somewhat like a slab too.
The tablet part is undeniably solid, with a screen made from Corning Gorilla Glass and the durable aluminium chassis.
To get the VAIO Duo 11 into Ultrabook mode, you need to use one finger and lift the screen from the back much like opening the lid of a laptop. About halfway into the motion, the Surf Slide mechanism takes over and erects the screen into its position.
Sliding back the screen with a thumb on either side is not possible because the screen moves in an upward motion and not a back forth motion, Sony explained.
The keyboard is small of course, considering the tablet has a 29.4cm screen. Due to space constraint, there isn't a touchpad but instead a metallic nub similar to those found on a Lenovo ThinkPad. Responsive and elegant, the nub is a good alternative for a touchpad that would be redundant anyway, since the VAIO Duo 11 has a full-HD touch screen and runs on the touch focused Window 8 operating system.
The size of the keys may cause clumsy typing for some, but for the most part, the keyboard didn't constrain lightweight use. It's also good to note that the keyboard is backlit.
Sony mentioned that the Surf Slide mechanism could be used "thousands of times" during testing.
From the side, the hinges, springs and two ribbons that connect the screen to the keyboard are painfully obvious. Besides looking unfinished, items getting unknowingly lodged in the mechanism could badly damage the device.
Furthermore, there's no adjusting the screen angle, so if it's not at a good angle on your lap or table there's nothing much you can do.
At 17.85mm thick, the slablet is clear of the 18mm Ultrabook requirement. Although the device is slim, Sony has managed to fit 2 USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and VGA out, an Ethernet port and an SD slot.
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