3 Windows 8 ultrabooks: Lightweight and powerful

We examine the HP Envy TouchSmart, Sony Vaio T13 and Toshiba Portege Z935 to see how these new Windows 8 ultrabooks shape up.

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Sony Vaio T Series 13 Ultrabook

If a nice balance between performance and battery life are what you're after in an ultrabook, Sony's Vaio T Series 13 delivers it along with an excellent touch screen.

There are a variety of configurations available in Sony's T series of ultrabooks, including both 13.3-in. and 14-in. displays; touch and non-touch screens; Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors; hard drives and SSDs; and 4GB to 8GB of RAM.

Sony Vaio T13
Sony Vaio T13

The review unit is at the high end of this list. It offers a 13.3-in. touch screen and Intel's 1.9GHz Core i7 processor (a step up from the 1.7GHz Core i5 CPU used on the other two systems), which can sprint to as fast as 3.0GHz if needed. It also includes a 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM.

I measured the Vaio at 12.6 x 0.8 x 8.0 in.; it weighs 3.5 lb., about 1.1 lb. heavier than the Portege (probably because of the Vaio's touch screen). With its large two-prong AC adapter, the system has a travel weight of 4.4 lb.

Capable of responding to 10 individual finger inputs, the Vaio's display reacted quickly and precisely to input. While I didn't find it quite as bright as either the Portege or Envy 4, I still found the display quality quite sharp and clear; I doubt there will be too many users who will be disappointed.

The lid has two small feet that brace it when the system is open, making the display much sturdier than the Envy's. Its keyboard, however, lacks the backlighting that the others provide.

The Vaio comes with one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 connection, down from the three USB ports that the others have. Over my time with the system, this proved to be a minor inconvenience.

There's also an HDMI port, a VGA port, and a combo microphone and headphone audio jack. It has a flash card reader that can work with SD and Memory Stick modules.

For getting online, the system has Wi-Fi (because Sony uses an Atheros radio rather than an Intel, it can't use Intel's WiDi technology). The system also includes Bluetooth and an Ethernet jack.

Along with Windows 8, the Vaio T13 comes with a one-month subscription to Kaspersky Internet Security and a copy of Art Rage Studio, an excellent tablet drawing program. The system comes with a one-year warranty.

Test results

With its faster processor and larger cache of memory, the Vaio T13 swept the performance phase of testing with a 2,006.9 on the PassMark PerformanceTest suite of benchmark tests. Its scores of 2.77 and 16.62 fps on the CineBench 11.5's processor and graphics tests were also well ahead of the other two.

When I tested the Vaio's battery, it yielded a runtime of 4 hours and 57 minutes, a few minutes short of the Envy 4's battery life and 35 minutes longer than the Portege's.

Unlike the other two ultrabooks reviewed here, you can change the Vaio T13's battery. It's a little awkward, because rather than a slide latch, it has three screws that need to be loosened with a thick spade screwdriver or a penny, but it only takes a minute.

Bottom line

In the configuration I tested, the Sony Vaio T Series 13 is a bit pricey, but its top-shelf components, high performance and good battery life combine to make this touch ultrabook a winner.

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