Sony: Best and Worst Laptop Brands of 2014

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It’s fitting — and sad — that Sony brought up the rear in this year’s Best & Worst brands report, as the company is exiting the laptop business. Sony sold its VAIO division to another firm, which will presumably attempt to build on some of the brand’s strengths. On the plus side, Sony offers best-in-class tech support, but it has a mixed track record with Windows 8 hybrids, and its keyboards are subpar. Based on our reviews, Sony simply didn’t offer the quality to match its premium prices.

Reviews (14/20)

We reviewed six Sony notebooks this past year, of which its four top performers earned a rating of 3.5 stars, and two received 3-star ratings. That was enough to boost the company’s 2014 reviews score by 4 points. While hybrid designs such as the Flip 14 and the Duo 13 were innovative, we ultimately found these machines somewhat impractical. 

Tech Support (19/20)

For the second year in a row, Sony wins the “Best Tech Support” category. We continue to like Sony’s well-organized website, which is chock-full of useful information, efficient Live Chat service, and strong and responsive social media presence. On the phone, Sony’s representatives are quick, responsive and knowledgeable, answering all our questions in an average time of 9 minutes and 36 seconds over three different test calls.

MORE: Sony: Tech Support Showdown Rating

Design (9/15)

sony design sf

Launching two of the lightest notebooks of the year, the VAIO Pro 13 and VAIO Pro 11, wasn’t enough to keep Sony from dropping from 13 points to 9 in the design category this year. Those same ultra-svelte notebooks were guilty of the cardinal sin of featuring sharp edges that made typing uncomfortable. The VAIO Duo 13′s awkward button placement didn’t help matters. Although it’s more of a tablet, the VAIO Tap 11‘s magnetic keyboard design was unwieldy at best.

Keyboards & Touchpads (5/15)

sony keyboard sf

Sony provides first-class tech support, but when it comes to keyboards, Sony is the one phoning it in. Nearly all of the Sony laptops we tested, from the $1,899 VAIO Duo 13 to the $850 VAIO Fit 14, suffered from some combination of shallow travel, weak feedback or serious flex. The company’s touchpads weren’t bad as a group, but a couple failed to consistently recognize complex gestures such as two-finger scroll and rotate.

Display & Audio (7/10)

With an average light meter reading of 267 lux, Sony’s laptops are generally brighter than your standard notebook (242). And thanks to Sony’s Triluminous display technology (borrowed from the company’s TVs), the notebooks tend to offer realistic hues. That’s not to say the viewing experience was perfect — we criticized the VAIO Fit 14′s glossy, 1366 x 768-pixel display for its distracting glare, and the VAIO T Series 15‘s 1080p screen suffered from narrow viewing angles. Both the high-end VAIO Pro 11 and 13 struggled with darker scenes; there wasn’t quite enough contrast. 

Audio sounded crisp and vibrant across Sony’s VAIO notebooks, and Sony’s VAIO Control Center helps to improve audio quality and to ease harshness. On average, Sony’s notebooks scored 84 decibels during the LAPTOP Audio test, which is just below the laptop category average of 85 decibels. 

Innovation (6/10)

Like ASUS, Sony took some design risks in 2013, but the results weren’t always successful. The tech giant’s appropriately named VAIO Flip series brought users a flip-screen design that utilizes magnets to let users transition among Laptop, Tablet and Viewer modes. However, you have to flick a lock switch before you transform. The VAIO Tap 11 offered another unique take on hybrids, featuring a tablet display and a Bluetooth keyboard that doubles as a magnetic screen cover. Unfortunately, you can’t comfortably use the device on your lap. 

MORE: 10 Biggest Gadget Design Fails

Value & Selection (1/5)

A budget of less than $500 won’t buy you a Sony laptop. Available via Sony.com or authorized resellers such as Best Buy, Walmart and Newegg, the company’s offerings mostly hover around the $1,000 mark. Its Pro and Duo (convertible) lines of ultrabooks start at $1,049 and $1,399, respectively. While these laptops are solid choices, other Ultrabooks, such as the $699 Toshiba Satellite E45T, offer equal, if not better performance at more affordable prices. Sony’s lower-cost options include its basic Fit line (starting at $579) and its hybrid Flip laptops, which start at $799. But those looking for basic rigs will find cheaper and better options with other brands. Each Sony laptop comes in several different configurations, but some of those upgrades involve costly price jumps.

Software (4/5)

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Sony software options continue to impress, thanks to a bevy of multimedia programs. The recent VAIO Pro 13 packs apps such as PlayMemories for photo sharing and ArtRage studio for making some touch-screen masterpieces. Sony’s Imagination Studio, found on such hybrids as the VAIO Flip 14, features programs for burning DVDs, making movies and creating pro-level audio. The Duo 13 comes with ArtRage Pro to make the most of the included pen. The VAIO Care app allows you to keep your system up to date and to troubleshoot issues.

Best and Worst Laptop Brands 2014

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  1. shahul Says:

    wanna buy it and then i ll add my comments. wait for a while

  2. Mike Says:

    Apple at number one really!? Give me a break.

  3. Jer Says:

    “Mike Says:
    April 23rd, 2014 at 6:37 pm
    Apple at number one really!? Give me a break.”

    Have you used one? I began thirty years ago on a IIe. Quickly switched to a 286 (in college and ‘work’) which evolved me into a Windows (only) user for almost twenty years. A decade ago, I bought my wife a MacBook. It was tough to hand it over at first. Very intriguing OS, excellent display and build, intuitive ‘everything’ (delete a program? Throw it in the trash…no add/delete programs, wait til it populates…). Anyway, fast forward a decade an I’m solely using Macs and iOS for my home and personal business of 19 years. While I continue to keep a partition on my MacPro for Win7, all others are OSx only. The rMBP is hands down the ‘BEST’ computer on today’s market. Frim the display and scaling capabilities of the OS, to the PCIe SSD and speeds in my four pound package, thunderbolt and HDMI, USB 3 and a trackpad that isn’t close to being duplicated, gesture based control and phenomenal iGPUs (Iris Pro) coupled with a decent dGPU, the excellent Haswell processing and energy savings…wicked WiFi speeds and, and ….and I could literally go on forever. As a ‘computer and tech’ fan my entire life, I’ll always have my feet ‘dipped’ in all aspects. I use a Note3 and iPhone 5s. As a small business owner and supplier of 32 phones to employees I’m able to take advantage of the updates each year and save cash in the process. Same with Windows. I just bought a small HP 2in1 before reading this article and I’m enjoying 8.1. That said, the trackpad is awful, the display crisp..yet dim. It’s got a bizarre hinge system but I’m able to carry an i5 processor and 128GB SSD in hand. Kinda cool in that respect (as well it’s integration with a Window’s only piece of software we use). Other than that, I’m certainly not sold on ‘touch’ based navigation (lifting arms). I think Apple has nailed it and refined it with Lion/ML/and Mavericks as mentioned. It’s fantastic and if you’re anything ‘other’ than a hard core, triple AAA gamer looking for frame rates irrelevant because of limited refresh rates on our displays…;), the Mac is worth ‘trying’. It actually comes with ‘training wheels’…allowing you to install ANY OS you’d like. Including Windows..and in my experience, it’s been the ‘best’ Window’s rig I’ve ever owned. Honest!
    I can’t recall the last time I’ve enjoyed opening, booting up and using a laptop so much in my life. I’m 45, fly for a living in Alaska and iOS devices have replaced 50lb flight bags. iPad and iPhone integration with OSx is phenomenal. I love my Note, but have yet to find a replacement for tablets and/or phones with such excellent cross platform integration and aggregation. Pretty amazing and incredibly powerful experience. Just Google ‘Terminal on Mac OSx’ and look at the control and power you have if you’re into tinkering. If you develop, check out Xcode. Free of charge and an iOS emulation program and simulator on your Mac. iLife…GarageBand is simply the most powerful piece of OEM software I’ve seen. The iLife suite is free and for all but the hard core spreadsheet accountant folk, it’s MORE than adequate and significantly easier and in many ways ‘better’ than the Office counterpart…and it’s free. iPhoto. iMovie. Real software. Not bloat. Incredibly useful and for the masses, all they’ll ever need
    Didn’t mean to go on this long but your comment seemed silly. As if they’re ‘making up’ their process and scoring system. If you ACTUALLY try one, keep an open mind, give it a week and you’ll be hooked. Just grab ‘Laptop Mag’s’ favorite. The 13″ rMBP. You’ve got a month to play, enjoy, and return for a full refund no questions asked. Oh…and the customer service, WOW! Once give used OSx’es scaling on a HiDPI display, update MS Office with a 360mb update in nine seconds, boot or shut down instantly…no drivers for printers. Almost ALL software vendors are now cross platform and when they’re not, you’ve got that nice little B/C partition of Windows just waitin…
    Good luck. Open minds achieve much more in life…not necessarily physically, but mentally. Open yours. You’ll be surprised

  4. naveen Says:

    sony is the best

  5. Lyss Says:

    I’ve had my Sony VAIO for over 5 years now and it works perfectly fine. I was surprised to see it at the bottom. Ive taken this thing everywhere and done everything with it and it works great, have never had to take it in to be “fixed” or anything.

  6. Tee-on-uh Says:

    I purchased the Sony Vaio Laptop the week of black Friday 2013 and its not even a year old and I’ve had to take it into Best Buy’s Geek Squad more times then I’ve actually used it. Thank goodness I purchased the full warranty for hardware and software because it would’ve been a fortune to have it fixed. The wifi signal on it is very weak, and my main problem is the screen keeps going black to where I can only turn it on and log in then I cant see anything. Ive had it sent off to the Geek Squad service center to be fixed and it came back the exact way it left. I’m fed up with this computer and going to see if I can return it for a better one. WOULD NOT RECOMMEND THIS PRODUCT.

  7. salsixmillion Says:

    Worst Customer Service I have ever experienced is with Sony NZ/Australia. Laptop was faulty (vaio fit), terrible information, no follow up from them any step of the way, just a series of delays, still waiting for the refund 3 months since purchase.

  8. dhanunjaya Says:

    Don’t buy sony vaio laptops.
    I bought sony vaio E series laptop worth of 48k just 1.5 years back and laptop motherboard has gone bad. The service center people said that they can’t repair the motherboard and can replace it which was worth of 18K. Total i spent 66K for the waste laptop. Guys please don’t buy sony laptops

  9. Udisha Says:

    I think a laptop that turns completely and can be carried and used as a note or cell (a big one) sounds pretty good

  10. Nutan Says:

    I wish to exchange my present VAIO lapton with a new VAIO laptop, Is it possible? If yes, then please let me know the steps. Thanks

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