Sony: Best and Worst Laptop Brands 2013

Sony dropped a couple of spots this year, going from fourth to sixth place. That puts this brand right between Sasmung and Dell. On the plus side, Sony’s designs continue to impress, with premium materials and clean lines. Sony also won our Tech Support Showdown. However, the brand’s first Windows 8 slider was a bust, and no Sony system earned an Editors’ Choice Award. 

Reviews (10/20)

Of the eight notebooks we tested from Sony, two — the VAIO E Series and the VAIO SE — were awarded four stars, and four other notebooks received 3.5-star ratings. However, the brand was one of two that failed to receive an Editors’ Choice award this year. The company’s overall score was also hurt by one of its notebooks, the VAIO Duo 11. This Windows 8 slider received a “not recommended” rating of 2.5 stars. 

[More: See most recent Sony laptops reviews.]

Design (13/15)

We’re perennial fans of Sony’s bold use of color, as seen in the VAIO S Series 13 notebook line (available in black, pink, red, silver and gold). Sony’s first Ultrabook, the VAIO T13, turned heads with its flat design, defined by clean, graceful lines and a svelte chassis packaged with ports. The VAIO Duo 11 embraced Windows 8 with a sleek but ultimately awkward sliding deign. Budget laptops such as the VAIO E Series 15.5-inch received much-needed makeovers, with brushed aluminum chassis that wrap gently around the notebook’s undercarriage to the keyboard deck.

Keyboard and Touchpad (9/15)

Sony’s keyboards suffered from two distinct issues: We noted leakage from the VAIO S Series 13 and VAIO SE’s keyboard backlighting, while keyboard flex dampened our enthusiasm for the S Series 13 and VAIO E15. Still, the Series 13 and 15 keyboards helped us either match or exceed our usual typing speeds. Overall, Sony’s touchpads functioned well, but reviewers noticed a few problems with responsiveness.

Tech Support (14/15)

Last year, Sony’s lack of a social media presence kept it from earning top marks, but this year the company offered responsive Facebook and Twitter support as well as live chats, and its website was excellently designed. Sony plays up its Premium Services Expert, which offers personalized tech support, ranging from on-site installation to repairs to software tutorials 24/7. On the phone, we were quickly connected with friendly and helpful reps. All of that added up to a first-place finish in tech support.

[More: Read Sony's Tech Support Showdown results.]

Display and Audio (6/10)

Just like last year, Sony’s screens and speakers were a mixed bag. Some notebooks, such as the Duo 11, included a beautiful 1080p display with wide viewing angles. But others, such as the VAIO T Series 13, suffered from narrow viewing angles. The VAIO T Series 15 Touch offered strong audio, thanks to both xLOUD and Clear Phase Technology. Other notebooks disappointed, however; despite having Dolby Home Theatre v4, the S Series 13 delivered harsh sound at louder volumes.

Value and Selection (7/10)

Sony’s lineup is streamlined (in a good way) compared with other brands, making it pretty easy for shoppers. The E Series (starting at $449) focuses on value; the S Series ($799 and up) emphasizes endurance with an available sheet battery, and the T Series ($669 and up) comprises Sony’s Ultrabooks. The pricier Duo line combines a tablet and notebook, costing more than a grand. You can buy Sony laptops anywhere from Best Buy to TigerDirect, but Sony.com lets you customize, with discrete graphics, color options and more. However, Sony’s touch notebooks tend to be pricier than the competition.

Innovation (4/10)

Sony’s most innovative effort last year was the VAIO Duo 11, a Windows 8 Ultrabook that transforms into a tablet. Unfortunately, while we appreciated the full HD display and pen support, there’s no pen holster. The somewhat confusing sliding action didn’t help either, nor did the poor battery life. We expect improvements in the sequel. Sony did a better job innovating in the all-in-one space with its Tap 20, a 20-incher with built-in battery that folds flat, making for a fun touch-computing experience.

Software (4/5)

Sony’s notebooks come with a number of useful utilities. VAIO Gate is a shortcut bar that lets you launch various programs swiftly, and VAIO Care lets you troubleshoot issues, optimize performance and install updates. We also appreciate PlayMemories Home, which makes it easy to manage your photos and videos. This software syncs with PlayMemories Online, which offers 5GB of free cloud storage for photos and videos. The only sour note for Sony was VAIO Gesture Control, which you can use to control programs such as Windows Media Player by performing gestures recorded by your webcam. However, the software didn’t capture gestures consistently.


Best and Worst Notebook Brands 2013


LEAVE A REPLY
Name*
Email* (will not be published)
Website
*Indicates required field
Comments*
Submit Comments

  1. Jorj X McKie Says:

    You guys are nuts to diss the Duo 11 like that. It is the best gadget currently available IMO. I looked at EVERYTHING before buying. Maybe the Lenovo Helix or Surface with Wintab drivers (big maybe) would be marginally better, but right now, the Duo is the combo with best screen, a digitizer what works great if you don’t need Photoshop, more memory than the Surface Pro, and a keyboard-tablet conversion that takes about 2 seconds. It boots from cold in 4-5 seconds. The slider mechanism is great, and the slider config is great in that your hands are close to the screen making it very convenient for touch and negating the need for a touch pad that Sony was smart enough to recognize as redundant. Very few reviewers seem capable of moving beyond the touch pad paradigm. You have optional battery with pen holder, so that criticism of pen holder & battery life isn’t fair either. A couple of negatives that *are* valid: 1) the device is slightly heavy and with angular edges it isn’t a great ‘tablet’ for holding for long periods of time (and there isn’t a folio case avail), and 2) a major failing is its lack of Wintab drivers due to the otherwise solid N-Trig digitizer. That is not likely to ever get corrected, so artists should take a pass–after all, it’s N-Trig, and they have a long history of incompetence, apathy, arrogance, or all three when it comes to supporting Photoshop pressure sensitivity. Other than that, the Duo 11 is the most enjoyable small and cozy laptop I’ve ever used and works very well for notes and non-professional artwork using Sketchbook Pro or Artrage, and makes Win8 a pleasure to use.

  2. Hector Says:

    Totally agree with Jorj. Duo 11 rocks

  3. Jimmy Says:

    My first Sony laptop was the good old VGN-CS215J, that cost a hefty amount at the time of sale. First the fan starting to make noises that sounded like a broken machine. Just a little after a year, the screen went haywire. It keeps flickering and too the point of unusable. And lastly, the whole laptop shuts down due to overheating even during idle usage. From then on, I question Sony’s quality control.

  4. Serena Z Says:

    I just got a Gateway laptop, was wondering what you think about those?

  5. drjochen Says:

    “Sony also won our Tech Support Showdown” – you have to be kidding me! Have you read the Sony message boards and seen how many people have unresolved issues with WiFi on the Vaio Pro, for example. Hundreds of posts. And Sony completely ignores everybody. Their support does not even acknowledge that we have a problem!

  6. JEZD Says:

    Tech Support (14/15) is very wrong.
    Most Sony parts are not standard, Sony not sell parts and pieces.
    When any piece is broken is the end of the machine, the only solution is buy another defective machine sony for change this part.
    If you live not in New York or Tokio, technical support is (0/15)

FIND A REVIEW
Laptops
All Product Types Accessories Cars Digital Camcorders Digital Cameras eReaders GPS Laptops MP3 & Video Players Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets / MIDs VoIP Wi-Fi
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Brand
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS Averatec BenQ CTL Corp. Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Sager Samsung Sony Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating Editor's Choice 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 4 5 6 7 8 9
Resolution
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1920x1080 1920x1200 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options
SUBSCRIBE