The traditional clamshell 13.3-inch laptop has become an endangered species in the new era of Windows 8 tablets, and the tried and tested old form factor is certainly out of vogue in the head offices of Microsoft, Samsung, Sony and Lenovo.
The rise of the tablet and the Windows 8 revolution has thrown new designs into the mix and Sony has been one of the front runners of the hybrid PC. The Sony VAIO Duo 11 and Duo 13 are the flagships of its Windows 8 line-up and old-style Ultrabooks are relegated to business devices. Add to that a legion of hybrids, such as the Asus Vivobook, Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga and of course, the Microsoft Surface Pro 2, and it's a crowded space.
However, the hybrid gamble hasn't paid off. Touchscreen devices account for just 10% of PC sales, and complaints about usability, weight and battery life are well founded. For those who want to work, surf and create, the clamshell is still the best experience around – and the Sony VAIO Pro 13 (£999/$1150) is one of the most advanced there is.
Unbox the Sony VAIO Pro 13 and it's hard not to be impressed. This is far from your traditional, thick slab of a laptop. Out of the box slides a diminutive laptop that's one of the thinnest we've ever seen, and it's got a hidden trick up its sleeve. The screen is fully touch enabled, which means you get a fantastic Windows 8 experience. Coupled with the thin and light build, it makes the VAIO Pro 13 every bit as portable and impressive as the latest hybrids.
When closed the Pro 13 looks like a thin sheet of black plastic, with the classic VAIO logo adorned on the top. To match its Pro tag, the laptop boasts a corporate colour scheme of pure black, but unlike other business focused machines, it's far from bland. Each surface is contoured, with the interior boasting a mix of shiny glass around the bezel, brushed metal effect plastic, and then matte plastic around the keys.
The VAIO Pro 13 barely troubles the scales weighing just 1KG, and measures just 12mm at its thickest point. It's phenomenally light and while a saving of 200g from the competition may sound trivial, it's certainly noticeable.
Many laptops have attempted to blend the lightest weight materials with super-thin build which has resulted in a worrying flexing that detracts from the premium build. Not so here. While it's supremely light and svelte, the Sony VAIO Pro 13 only flexes with serious effort and feels strong and resilient, despite its meagre size.