Product snapshot: Sony VAIO Duo 11

A Windows 8 tablet with a hidden keyboard and slide-up screen

Sony’s VAIO Duo 11 hybrid tablet is a ‘slider’, with a flip-up screen that exposes a built-in laptop-style keyboard and track-ball mouse controller. Running the full, non-RT version of Windows 8, it can be used equally well as a tablet and an ultraportable laptop.

The VAIO Duo 11 is built around a sliding mechanism — when it’s in tablet mode, all you have to do is pull the screen up from the little tab at the top back of the screen. The screen flips up, locking to a moderate angle and exposing a miniature, but still usable, Ultrabook laptop-style keyboard (which is also backlit).

You won’t be wanting for extra connections with the Duo 11. Home and business users are equally catered for; HDMI and VGA mean a TV or monitor can be easily connected (and Windows 8 detects them automatically), and two USB 3.0 ports support high-speed external storage or a larger keyboard and mouse, or you can use the dual-size SD card/Memory Stick slot. A stand-out feature is the inclusion of a wired Ethernet port — much faster and more reliable than wireless, which businesses should love.

The keyboard of the Sony VAIO Duo 11 is alright. The key are are quite small compared to a full-size keyboard, and are spaced closely together to fit behind the tablet’s screen. They are backlit though, which is good for night-time work. There’s a nifty optical track-ball to replace a full-size trackpad; it works reasonably well but we would have preferred a joystick instead.

The screen on the VAIO Duo 11 is great. It’s a Full HD, 1920x1080 pixel unit that’s 11.6 inches in size, with Sony’s usual swathe of image-enhancing technology. It’s one of the best screens we’ve seen in a tablet or ultraportable notebook, and looks clear and detailed over a wide range of viewing angles — which makes the locked screen angle less of an issue.

Packing an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD, the Duo 11 is more than fast enough for any use you could find for a tablet or similar Ultrabook. It’s not going to be a gaming powerhouse by any means, and it will struggle with CPU-heavy tasks like photo or video editing, but for general Web browsing and mark-ups in Office, it works perfectly well.

The battery of the Duo 11 is rated for 4hrs and 30mins of use by Sony. This is a moderate figure, but it’s bested by Windows 8 tablets that have a second battery hidden in their removable keyboard docks. Sony does sell a secondary clip-on battery that doubles the Duo 11’s usable life to 9 hours per charge, though.

We liked the Duo 11, but its slider design does mean you’ll need to live with two signficant compromises — a fixed screen and a cramped keyboard.

Read our full review of the Sony VAIO Duo 11 hybrid tablet here.

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