The Sony VAIO Pro has the DNA of the executive-class Z Series models that were ultra-thin and ultra-light and just plain sexy. However, unlike the VAIO Z Series, the VAIO Pro series will actually be offered at a reasonable price. It's still a bit more expensive than the MacBook Air, but it should be a worthy alternative to anyone who wants a thin and light device with a great screen.
The VAIO Pro is a premium range that has carbon fibre panels implemented in parts of its constructions, which is what makes it so light, yet acceptably rigid. Sony told us that the carbon fibre is located on the lid and in the base, while there is some mag alloy for the palm rest. It feels extremely light compared to many other 13.3in Ultrabooks out there — it's just over 1kg, while the 11in version is just under 900g.
It's based on Intel's fourth-generation Intel Core CPU, and this should give it greater all-round power efficiency, which should lead to a greater battery life over the third generation Intel Core CPU. Indeed, Sony claims that the 13.3in version of the VAIO Pro can run for about 11 hours before requiring a recharge. Since all user scenarios are different, take that claim (and the claims of all other manufactures) with a grain of salt for now.
Just like the MacBook Air that was announced earlier in the week, the Sony VAIO Pro has a solid state drive (SSD) that's plugged into a PCIe interface, rather than a SATA interface. In the demo we saw at Intel's fourth generation Core launch in Sydney last night, it was showing CrystalDiskMark scores of over 1000 megabytes per second (MBps) for reading. Traditional SSDs running on SATA tend to pull between 400-450MBps for reading and about 250MBps for writing, and that's if they're a fairly speedy model.
In addition to its very light weight, speedy storage, and claims of improved battery life and performance thanks to the fourth generation Intel Core chip, the other bright spot of this laptop is its screen. It looks absolutely gorgeous up close, with vibrant colours and lots of contrast. It also has a Full HD resolution and it supports touch, as do all fourth generation Intel Core-based Ultrabooks.
Other things to know are that it can use a second battery (it's a sheet style that attaches to the bottom of the unit), it has dual-band Wi-Fi (but not 802.11ac), and it has an accessories port on the end of its power adapter, which has an attachment for USB charging independently of the Ultrabook, and also an attachment for a Wi-Fi hotspot that can distribute the connection from an Ethernet port (because the laptop itself doesn't have Ethernet built in). You also get a couple of USB 3.0 ports and, importantly, full-sized HDMI and full-sized SD card slots. NFC is present, too, and it allows you to tap devices on the touchpad to transfer info.
The VAIO Pro is definitely a great little device that will give the MacBook Air a run for its money, even though it still has a slightly higher suggested retail price. The 11in Core i5-4200U version of the VAIO Pro is $1299, while the 13.3in Core i5-4200U version is $1399. Both models come with 128GB of storage and 4GB of RAM.
Core i7-4500U versions are available, too, with the 11in version costing $1899, while the 13.3in version costs $1999. These models come with 256GB of storage space, but they still have 4GB of RAM, which is a bit of a letdown considering they are high-priced machines.
The VAIO Pro is available to buy right now.