For the uninitiated, an ultrabook is a higher-end type of subnotebook as defined by Intel. Ultrabooks are designed to be lighter and slimmer than a laptop without compromising on performance and battery life, and some even use design innovations so as to be a laptop and a tablet at the same time. In fact, because they are light, because they generally don’t have common laptop features such as optical disc drives and Ethernet ports, and because they use low-power processors, they tend to have a much higher battery life than a laptop.
Of late, there have been a number of companies climbing the ultrabook bandwagon—with Sony among the major first-entrants. The Japanese company has come out with the Vaio Duo 11 ultrabook (SVD11213CNB), which, on first look, does look like a fat tablet, because the cover is, in fact, a screen. A slight pull from the top of the screen turns it into a laptop (Sony calls it the Surf Slider design). This bit of a laptop and bit of a tablet uses a lot of innovation as far as design is concerned, and really stands out among the various flipping, twisting and dockable devices in the market.
Powered by Windows 8, the Duo 11 is quite light and slim—it weighs approximately 1.3 kg and is 17.85 mm thin. The display is 29.4 cm (11.6 inch) wide-view full HD touchscreen.
As a tablet: Using the Duo 11 in the touchscreen tablet mode is quite effortless. First, the touch is really responsive and the use of Gorilla Glass ensures that the screen, which is always exposed, remains damage resistant. Browsing the Web, listening to music or watching videos while you are on the move is a breeze. Then you have Windows 8, customised for touch. The screen itself is super-bright full HD OptiContrast panel and the display is clear even when you are using it outside on a sunny day. You also have the option of writing directly on the touchscreen with the touch of your finger—so making notes or drawing diagrams for your office presentation becomes easy. Add to the fact that the Duo 11’s smart text recognition lets you quickly convert handwritten notes into text for archiving or searches. Mention must be made here of the sound experience you get with it—the Duo 11 comes with a unique headphone that comes with digital noise cancelling feature. On the downside, there is the obvious problem of carrying around a slightly heavy ‘tablet’.
As a laptop: When in the office or home you can slide out the keyboard to turn the Duo 11 into a laptop, and a powerful one at that. The processor it uses is Intel Core i5-3317U 1.70 GHz with turbo boost up to 2.60 GHz. Then you have the quick boot feature that gets you up and running in seconds. In case you need a break, you can power down the Duo 11 into a deep energy-saving sleep mode at the touch of a button, keeping your documents safe. But people who graduate from a laptop will certainly find the keyboard deck cumbersome—the keys are small and so one has to make sure his fingers are at exactly the right place while typing. The BlackBerry Trackball-type mouse, placed right in the middle of the keyboard, also takes some getting used to. Additionally, in the laptop mode, because of design constraints, the screen can only be used at one angle—you cannot adjust it according to your sitting position. Also, the slide-up mechanism can wear down with use.
Priced at R89,990, the Duo 11 is a bit on the costlier side. It is powerful for its size, comes with very good specs, but lacks a bit on usability. Overall, it is more of a touchscreen laptop which is collapsible, and works good as that.
Estimated street price: Rs.89,990