Windows 8 has spurred manufacturers into making a series of hybrid devices like tablets with keyboards, laptops with touchscreens and even 27-inch table-like horizontal touchscreen computers. Nearly every new Windows 8 computer brings a new design to the market — a sign of how difficult it is to strike a balance between a Modern UI (user interface) optimised for touchscreens and a classic “desktop” mode.
We’ve reviewed two of Sony’s attempts at creating the perfect hybrid product for Windows 8 — Vaio P13 and Vaio Duo 11. Let’s see if its latest hybrid Windows 8 laptop, Vaio Flip, does the trick.
Build & Design
Vaio Flip is notable for its screen, which is attached to a hinge that lets it flip 180 degrees. The review unit was 13 inches, but it is available in 14- and 15-inch variants. There is a sliding switch that lets you lock the screen and the hinge has magnets that ensure that the screen snaps to it. You can flip it 180 degrees while watching a film and flip it back when using the keyboard. In theory, this sounds good, as it lets you use the device as a tablet and a laptop.
While using the device, we rarely flipped the screen. It’s convenient to do so while watching a video or a football match (you can use the free space on your table for food and drinks), but flipping it back and forth just to use the keyboard is cumbersome.
That said, the laptop has good build quality in spite of its portability. It weighs just 1.3 kg. The flipping mechanism feels durable and at no point did we feel it would break apart after prolonged use. Another new feature is the charging port, which allows the charging connector to move. This means that the cord will disconnect when you tug at it in a way that can damage it. This is a good addition, but it will cause the cable to disconnect sometimes, when you keep it on your lap while charging. The power brick is small and has a USB port for charging, which is a great feature.
Finally, the laptop has an 8-MP camera on its base. When you use it as a tablet, you can take photos too. Pictures were pretty good, but it’s hard to imagine anyone taking pictures with a 1.3-kg device.
Software & Performance
Sony Vaio Flip 13 comes with Windows 8 (you can upgrade to 8.1 for free) and on the hardware front, it has Intel’s Core i5-4200U processor (1.6 GHz), 4 GB RAM, 128 GB solid state drive for storage and an Intel HD 4400 chip for graphics.
When we reviewed Vaio P13 and Vaio Duo 11, we had said Windows 8 is a polarising OS. Things haven’t changed much with Windows 8.1. You will have to treat them as two different software platforms — desktop and tablet — in one OS. The touchscreen is impossible to use on desktop mode. The buttons are too small for your fingers, so you will end up hitting close when you want to maximise a window. The mouse is difficult to use in the Modern UI mode because most apps are designed for touchscreen input. We like Modern UI, but it increasingly appears that Microsoft would have been better off had it kept that side of the OS for tablets and phones and used the classic desktop mode for laptops and desktops. Now there are two sets of apps for the same OS, which harm the user experience.
If you use the Vaio Flip 13 as a laptop, it is a great machine. It’s very light for a laptop and gave us no reason to complain about its performance. It was able to play HD videos and managed light gaming very well. The Vaio Flip did heat up a bit when we put it through those two tasks, but not unbearably so. The battery lasted around six hours, which is satisfactory.
Should You Buy It?
If you are looking for a hybrid Windows 8 laptop, Vaio Flip 13 is one of the best in the market. At Rs 99,900, it is expensive, but it is a premium, powerful laptop. So, you get a great machine for the price. If you don’t like its flipping design, Sony Vaio P13 is a good alternative for Rs 74,990