Sony's tablets look unlike its competitors' offerings, and now the same can be said of its Windows 8 convertible. Sony calls the Vaio Duo 11 Ultrabook a "slider hybrid," but by any name it's likely to win attention. (Sales are always another matter.)
The Vaio Duo 11 features an 11.6-inch full HD touch screen with Gorilla Glass that, via what Sony calls a "Surf Slider mechanism," can slide forward and down over the keys, transforming the already usual-looking laptop into a tablet. When in laptop mode, the display looks neither hinged to the edge of the keyboard nor snapped into place, but rather propped up a few comfortable inches in. The type of skinny-minnie, 90-degree profile some manufacturers like to show off? (The Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display comes to mind.) Not a chance with this Sony—and it seems just fine with that.
The Duo 11, along with a new Vaio Tap 20 all-in-one that can lay down as flat as a game board, "offer consumers flexibility to optimize their Windows 8 experience," Steven Nickel, vice president of Sony Vaio, said in an Oct. 11 statement. "Through the combination of compelling applications, Sony's network services and cross device connectivity, Vaio is leading the way in developing a new Touchworld experience. "
The Vaio Duo 11 weighs 2.84 pounds, has a backlit keyboard and comes with a pressure-sensitive digitizer stylus that offers, according to Sony, the "satisfyingly expressive feel of natural handwriting."
Much like Samsung with its Galaxy Note tablets, Sony has the expectation that users might like to write and draw and create. Because of this, it has included a choice of swappable pen tips and developed a Note Anytime app in which users can take down notes using the stylus and an Active Clip application that makes it simple to crop photos and graphics—a simpleton's Photoshop, it would seem. Which is also very Samsung. The latter worked with Adobe to develop a version of Photoshop for the Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Near-field communication (NFC) technology is included, so with a touch the Duo 11 can share files with other NFC devices. According to Engadget, Sony has also included an HDMI-out port, two USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet jack, a memory card slot, a headphone jack and VGA. It ships with a 4,960mAh battery but can be paired with a Sony "slice battery," a sort of super-thin, large chocolate bar–sized component that can be stuck to the bottom.
Pricing will start at $1,100 with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive, though up to a 256GB drive and a Core i7 processor are options.
Sony will begin shipping the Vaio Duo 11 Oct. 26—the same day that Microsoft will officially release Windows 8.
Engadget tried out the Duo 11 and found its hinge to be sturdy and its price "lofty." Though given its spec sheet, the site added, "We don't see how it could've cost much less."
Microsoft and Sony will have to convince consumers to feel the same. Gartner has warned that while it has little concern that great Windows 8 devices can be built—it's expecting to see a "broad range of tablets, convertibles and hybrids made with good materials and clean lines"—pricing may make or break these devices.
"Microsoft may need to educate the market and prove that these devices that may look like iPads, but will be much more expensive, are viable and less-expensive replacements for users currently getting a PC and an iPad," Gartner said a Sept. 14 report.
In instances where businesses expect employees to buy their own tablets—hello, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies—Gartner adds, "marketing will have to step in."