Price: $1499 | From: Sony.com.au
Sony’s convertible notebook sacrifices good looks to deliver a much stabler touch experience. The Duo 11 uses a sliding mechanism to transform from tablet to laptop form, with the screen sliding upwards and away from the keyboard. It’s quite a stiff mechanism, requiring some force, but there’s nowhere to grab the sliding lid so your first few attempts will feel rather clumsy. There’s a rather large benefit to this taut mechanism, though, as it holds the screen firmly in place when it’s in laptop mode. This removes the bouncing seen in other convertibles when the display is touched. It’s not a very pretty solution, exposing springs and hinges when upright, but it’s still a much better option than a screen that acts like a trampoline every time it’s used.
Sony knows a thing or two about quality displays and it’s put its knowledge to work on the beautiful 1,920 x 1,080 screen used here. At 11.6-inch across, it’s slightly larger than other tablets, but the HD resolution keeps everything crystal clear. Colour and contrast performance were also superb. Touch accuracy was impressive, even more so with the included stylus. When used in conjunction with Windows 8’s solid handwriting recognition, the Duo 11 is a viable handwritten notebook alternative. When flipped out to laptop mode, the keyboard remains very thin compared to other convertibles, with no space for a touchpad. Instead, there’s a tracking knob in the middle of the keyboard. It works, but only just, being markedly inferior to a standard trackpad; luckily, there’s very little reason to use it.
Purring away inside is Intel’s speedy Core i5-3317U, one of the better CPUs we’ve seen in a Windows 8 tablet of this size. It’s paired with 4GB of DDR3-1600 memory and a 128GB SSD, a very healthy selection of specs at this price. This powerful collection of components saw it lead the pack in our performance benchmarks, albeit by a small margin. Twin USB 3.0 ports deliver fast external storage, while an RJ45 adapter allows for wired connection to your network — a feature missing in skinny tablets. HDMI out and a stereo minijack make this a viable media player, alongside the SD and Memory Stick Duo slots. There’s even a VGA output. The included stereo speakers are barely worthy of playing the Windows chime sound effect, let alone music or movies, so you’ll need to invest in a set of headphones if you plan on consuming your multimedia collection here.
The hardware combination requires good cooling, resulting in a weight of 1.3kg. It also chews through battery life, with the Duo 11 scoring a PowerMark result of a meagre 140 minutes, slightly less than the bigger 12.5-inch convertibles. If you’re looking for a device that can handle all-day operations, you’ll be pushing your luck here.
The Duo 11 is a surprisingly affordable convertible. Best of all, Sony hasn’t trimmed back the hardware at this price, with powerful components and plenty of storage. The hinge locking mechanism might not win any beauty pageants, but it more than makes up for that with usefulness, making it one of the nicer convertibles to use in laptop mode.
Pros : Speedy performer, sturdy hinge, crystal-clear display.
Cons : A little heavy, ugly hinge, poor battery life.
Rating : 8 out of 10. Highly recommended.