Friday, June 21, 2013

Sony Vaio Pro (One of the first Haswell Ultrabooks) Teardown, Upgrade How-to, Mini Review, & Benchmark

The new Sony Vaio Pro is one of the most promising ultraportable machines of 2013 - not only is it the lightest 13" ultrabook on the planet (at ~2.3 pounds), it's razor thin with a brand new energy-saving haswell cpu (giving it ~8+hours battery, supposedly) and the radical new Samsung PCIe SSD that offers 2-3X the speed of top-of-the-line SSD predecessors.

I got my hands on it to qualify its candidacy as a replacement for the Lenovo Yoga.
Here are some takeaways you might not surmise from photos & specs.

  • Backlit keys (with luminance control)
  • Definitely feels super light & well balanced (and can be opened one-handed)
  • Pretty good thermal management (vents most of the heat to the left side instead of your lap)
  • Nice sized keys + touchpad
  • Pretty sturdy (I was expecting it to bend in half based on other write-ups) for as thin and light as it is
  • Seemingly excellent battery
  • Bright, crisp, and clear screen
  • Good sound
  • Slope of the machine makes it more comfortable to use
  • Full hdmi out, SD card sticks in all the way (so you can leave one in for extra storage)
  • Optional sheet battery upgrade

  • Touchscreen only achieves about 10% usefulness compared to a convertible like the Yoga (due to gorilla arm syndrome). With such a huge and nice screen, it's a complete shame!
  • Corners are sharp! I could probably cut myself with the thing.
  • Fans are quite loud - and overall there seems to be much more heat/noise than on the Yoga (which has more than most other ultrabooks, in my experience)
  • No room for expansion - only one half msata slot for the wifi card and one pcie ssd slot. soldered ram
  • Can only upgrade the SSD, and barely
  • Power is on the opposite side as the rest of the ports (annoying if you want to plug something else in and use it on a couch/bed etc) - also, the power connector is the boring old barrel form factor
Here's how to open it up:

1. Peel off the long rubber strip

2. Pop off the middle tab

3. Peel/pop off the remaining two rubber feet

4. Remove the 12 newly exposed screws
5. Carefully pry open the case, starting in the middle and working towards the power port side first

Here's what the inside looks like:

Not much you can do to upgrade, unfortunately. 

The machine uses an uber-fast PCIe SSD, which I can't seem to find by itself online.

Your best bet for upgrading is really just throwing in a 128gB SD card.

Here are the rest of the benchmarks I took:

All in all, the pros of this machine do not make up for its lack of convertibility & lack of expandability. I'm gonna hold out for something better and stick to my Yoga + stand + support brace. What about you?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Haswell Ultrabooks, Touch Laptops, And Convertibles Available now for Order / Preorder - Which will you buy?

Eager to replace my 8gB RAM dual-SSD $999 touch/convertible Lenovo Yoga with something a little less carpal-tunnel-inducing & with battery life at least meeting if not exceeding the Samsung Series 9 (which I had been acclimated to immediately preceding the Yoga), I've spent a couple hours scouring the web for info on new Haswell machines & their availability.

TBF, I've been keeping an eye on ultrabook offerings pretty consistently due to my total and utter bewilderment at the lack of viable options - really, the Lenovo Yoga has been the only legitimate choice for quite some time now - and it certainly has its shortcomings.

Fortunately, Haswell promises to remedy the situation.

"Delivering Intel's largest generation-over-generation gain in battery life enablement in company history"1, Intel's new haswell CPU is key to bridging the gap in portability, power, and battery life between tablets and laptops. But you already knew that.

Tomorrow might hold some exciting releases for Haswell ultrabooks, but sadly, Intel & notebook manufacturers seem to be planning on a Fall launch for the majority of the first batch of Haswell machines, timed for back-to-school shopping.

However, there still are a few machines available now and available for preorder:
-HP ENVY 17"
-Several MSI Gaming Notebooks including a $1300 12gB RAM 17" w/ a GTX765M
-Lenovo's Y410P 14" for $720 and the 15.6" Y510P for ~$1000

Right now most machines available use the i7-4700mq haswell chip but there of course are lots of other flavors to go around.

I've found to be my favorite source for succinct, up-to-date info on ultrabooks, without all the clutter of other tech news sites. If you have other recommendations, let me know in the comments.

Personally, I'm thinking the Sony Vaio Pro 13" or the Asus Book T300 look like good candidates for my next machine (unfortunately I have to rule out the Zenbook Infinity because it's not convertible). What do you think?