What's immediately noticeable about the Sony VAIO Pro 13 (SVP13213CGB) is just how light it is. It weighs only 1.06kg (1.35kg with its power adapter) and it feels so light in a bag that there is a danger of forgetting you're carrying it around with you. It's a testament to Sony's engineering department that this light weight has been achieved with a screen that includes a toughened touch panel, which is a requirement for all Ultrabooks that use fourth generation Intel Core processors. We can only imagine how much lighter the VAIO Pro would be if the touchscreen was not a mandatory feature.
The VAIO Pro 13's Full HD screen looks bright and vibrant
It's a great screen if you're a photographer or artist, and even though it's a reflective screen, we didn't have too many problems viewing it in light-filled areas, thanks mainly to the high brightness and limited glare off the glass. The screen's viewing angles could perhaps be a little wider, but unless you somehow use your laptop while looking at it sideways, this won't be much of a problem, and the laptop is light enough to just turn towards anyone you want to show your work to.
The light weight and excellent screen are only two parts of the equation with this model. You also get a chassis that's as thin as its two USB 3.0 and one full-sized HDMI ports will allow (the base is about 11mm on its own, and the unit is about 16mm thick when the lid is closed). On the inside of the chassis resides Intel's latest fourth-generation Core i5-4200U CPU.
All of the ports and slots are on the right side: a full-sized SD card slot, a combination headphone/microphone port, two USB 3.0 ports and a full-sized HDMI port. There is also an extra port on the power adapter for charging USB devices independently of the laptop.
Rear view with the lid closed
This isn't that fastest chip around, but with a 1.6GHz frequency (it does up to 2.6GHz when Turbo Boost kicks in), two cores and Hyper-Threading, it should be fine for most office, Web and entertainment tasks. It’s an ultra-low voltage chip (15W) that provides a similar level of performance compared to a 1.7GHz third-generation Intel Core i5 model (17W), so there’s definitely a gain in efficiency with the fourth-gen CPU. It recorded 50sec in our Blender 3D rendering test and 56sec in our iTunes MP3 encoding test, which are times that we saw out of third-gen Core i5 ultra-low voltage CPUs running at 1.7GHz. It took over 29min to convert a DVD file into an MP4 using Handbrake, which isn’t a good time, but the VAIO Pro can definitely be used in a pinch if you need to do some video transcoding while on the road.
There is also 4GB of RAM installed, and the graphics are taken care of by the Intel CPU, which has Intel HD 4400 graphics, rather than Intel HD 5000 graphics. The 3D graphics performance from the HD 4400 chip is solid, though. In 3DMark06, the VAIO Pro got 4672, while in the latest 3DMark, it got 26425 in the Ice Storm test, 3191 in the Cloud Gate test and 443 in the Fire Strike test. It would have been great to see this model with a CPU that has Intel HD 5000 series graphics instead, but even the Core i7 version of the VAIO Pro offers Intel HD 4400 only.
Its keyboard has keys with surprisingly deep travel and responsive bounce-back considering the thin chassis. You can type on this keyboard for long periods of time without getting tired. Best of all, it's backlit, which means it looks great at night. The white backlight is on a timer, and it switches off after short while of inactivity. You can also use the touchpad without the backlight switching on. We also love the space that's been given to the arrow keys, which makes them very easy to feel for.