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?


  1. Hi Will stone, thanks for the teardown!

    Very useful. I agree with you, that the way the case flexes doesn't feel bad, it returns to its original shape quickly and without ominous creaks. It feels like it was built to do that.

    But it does flex quite a bit and since Sony used a single large circuit board, stretching from edge to edge, this board will flex with the case.

    You can't constantly bend a multi-layer mainboard without inviting intermittent contacts and failure. You realize how tiny the leads are, and how metal doesn't suffer repeated bending / stretching very well?

    I had hoped Sony would use three smaller boards to account for the case flex, but after your teardown, we know they didn't.

    Given Sony's attitude in regards to warranty, I hesitate to buy this and then have them maybe fix it the first time after ~6 months for free, and another 6 months later, they'll tell me I've abused it and I'll have to pay for a new mainboard costing half as much as the machine was.

    I don't have the option of just leaving it on a desk, I actually need to travel with whatever I buy. Aside from that, Carbon Fiber is not much good at heat dissipation, which is why this machine runs much hotter (noisier) than others made from aluminum, which is great for heat dissipation.

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  3. Thanks for the teardown. Can the wifi card be upgraded?

  4. Nice to see a teardown before I do it myself, was wondering, is the antenna wire leads headed for the touchscreen panel or is it situated on the base?, with the issues on the WIFI (short range), I was contemplating on modifying the antenna system myself. (most would just opt to return the unit, but honestly I love the unit and would just like to take matters into my own hands regarding the wifi signal strength)

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    1. Hi at all!!
      i'm in the same situation of you, Josh. I'm a lucky owner as you of this fantastic laptop.
      But it has a problem, the wifi range. We can try all driver..but the problem is antenna's position.
      And i think Sony doesnt recall all notebook, because with the router close the wifi works.
      For that i have to decide if return it to Sony or modify antenna..
      One of two antennas is situated behind the sink and another one i cant understand..
      Maybe is possible put another antenna or on the side of the monitor or in the lower part behind the touchpad. Any ideas?

  6. Hi, Thanks for the doing this. I have a question. I usually apply a better heat compound to CPU/GPU, rather than the factory one on my laptops. This usually makes my heat/fan noise issues a little better. So, is it possible to pull the heat sink/pipe off ? Looks quite tight in the pictures.


    1. From what I remember it shouldn't be too hard to do - aftermarket compound shouldn't cause it to be any thicker assuming you scrape off what's there and only apply a similar amount...

      Does this really seem to help? Would love if you could take some kind of measure before + after!

  7. Has anyone ever taken apart the Vaio Pro 11...?

    Sony advertises the PCIe SSD for the Pro 13, but in the Pro 11 specs, there's not a word about PCIe.

    I'd actually be happy if the Pro 11 used the old mSATA SSDs, cause it would be much easier to buy a 512GB upgrade for it.

    But try as I may to find any glimpse of the Pro 11's mainboard, I couldn't find anything in 2 hours of searching...

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  9. Hi, I would like to replace the original WiFi card Intel 7260-N to the Intel 7260-AC.
    Has any one been able to do it successfully? Can someone post pic of the WiFi Card location/upgrade instructions (etc.)

  10. Dear Will, have you torn the display, I am very interested in knowing how many LEDs illuminate the backlight... thanks!

  11. Hi Will, thanks for this, it is very useful. Did you open up the display? I am very interested in knowing hom many LEDs illuminate the backlight unit, thanks in advance.

    1. Sorry I did not :( did you end up finding out?

  12. Wow... thanks for making this teardown. I am just looking for a new laptop for my girlfriend. She has 12" Chilligreen and she wants a new laptop with small measurements. The other day we were checking this one in the local store and she was totally amazed how light it is. And she wants to buy it. I thought that it would be easier to buy 4GB version and upgrade to 8, but now I see that this is completelly impossible. Reconsidering now buying a 8GB version.
    I have found a 750GB PCIe SSD at amazon... well... check out the price ;)

    Hey all of you owners... would you recommend this Vaio Pro in general or not? I have read the comment of Touko Akimoto about bending the laptop. It's really so bendable?


  13. How do i put the rubber band back, and why cant i unscrew it?

  14. I hav had this i5 vaio pro 13 for about 10 months, and i would recomend it for everyone who needs a quick, light mobile office.

    however there are ONE issue i have with it... after all updates and drivers, the famous wifi, fan and black-screen problems are gone, one fundemental designflaw remains. heat dissipation is really bad. trying to do even a moderatley heavy load for more than two minutes you will see the cpu and gpu throtteling down. on a hot day even viewing netflix in HD is impossible, because it goes all laggy for 30sec, then speeds back up for a minute, then laggs up again.

    really annoying when it happens. additionally there is as good as no diffrence in neither temperature or fan rpm when you change between silent, normal and the preformance-setting of the fan.

    I have been to some forums and there is people out there trying to move temperature thresholds and fan speeds, but i have yet to see real fixes, and nothing it seems from sony :(

    If sony had actualy tested this laptop before it hit the market, fixed things like, the wifi-driver, and the heat issue, then this i believe would have been a gamechanger in the laptop market.

  15. Hey Will,

    thank you for your teardown guide! It is really nice to see, how this device looks like under all that plastic/carbon stuff. I didn't want to open the case for myself, because i'm afraid of not being able to put the rubber band back. What is your impression? Is the adhesive still powerful enough, to keep the rubber band on the case?

    I also can confirm the problems with the fan and the wifi.. very poor. In my opinion, sony didn't test this device long enough. In this point I am absolutly with mm1234.

  16. Hi Will!

    I have one small request: can you run UsbTreeView utility on this laptop to check whether it has a debug-capable USB 3.0 port? You can download it here:
    Thanks in advance!