Sony Vaio Duo 11 review
This laptop-tablet hybrid is certainly powerful, but its transformation between the two feels a little awkward
Review Date: 19 Oct 2012
Price when reviewed: £1,500
Reviewed By: Kat Orphanides
Windows 8 is designed to work equally well on both tablets and traditional laptop or desktop PCs, so it's the perfect operating system for the new Sony Vaio Duo 11 ultra-portable tablet hybrid. In its closed form, the Duo is a 21mm thick tablet. Its sensitive and glossy 11in IPS touchscreen picks up fingerprints like mad, but it has brilliant colour reproduction. The 1,920x1,080 display is capable of playing video in glorious High Definition, too. Move a tab at one side of the tablet and the screen hinges open on a plastic support to reveal a narrow keyboard with small, widely spaced keys.
Whether in tablet or laptop configuration, the screen's orientation rotates freely by default, detecting its position using a combination of accelerometer and gyro sensors to work out the correct orientation for the screen position at any given point. This sometimes meant the screen switched to portrait mode when we were using it with the keyboard open. Fortunately, Sony anticipated the problem and has implemented a convenient solution in the form of a small button on the back of the Duo which enables and disables autorotation at a touch. You can do the same thing by manually disabling rotation in the Screen Resolution settings.
Although the keyboard is small, we were pleased to find that it's comfortable to use and enabled us to touch-type quickly and accurately almost immediately. The keys are flat, but the wide space between them makes it easy to strike the right letter. There's no numeric keypad, but there are cursor keys at the bottom right of the keyboard and a full set of function keys. The keyboard is backlit for ease of use in dark environments.
Although there's no trackpad, there are plenty of other options for controlling your pointer. The capacitive touchscreen responds readily to multitouch gestures with your fingers, but Sony has also provided a double-ended conductive stylus, complete with buttons. This is much better for fine control on the small, high resolution display, making it easier to complete delicate tasks such as selecting and dragging folders within a directory tree.
If you're not comfortable with touch controls or would rather not lift your hands from the keyboard while typing, there's also a touchstick controller nestled amid the B, G and H keys that you can use, along with three ersatz mouse buttons below the space bar. You can use these to right-, left- and middle-click just as you would with a more traditional input device. On the back of the Duo, just behind the keyboard, is a pair of volume control buttons, which rest next to one of the integrated stereo speakers. These provide a far richer sound than you'd have any right to expect from speakers of their size, although they're still a little tinny.
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