Thursday, June 28, 2012

Premium 11.6-inch Ultraportables: Sony Vaio T11 (SVT11113) versus 11.6-inch MacBook Air

While there have been plenty of 13.3-inch and large Ultrabooks designed to compete with Apple's popular MacBook Air laptops (Apple does not like its MacBook Air series being referred to as Ultrabooks), the 11.6-inch battlefield has been pretty barren. You had two 11.6-inch MacBook Air offerings and the 11.6-inch Asus UX21 Zenbook. With the 11.6-inch MacBook Air notebooks having migrated to Ivy Bridge, and the new Zenbook's still incoming, Apple had that field alone for a few days. Now enters Sony's own offering in this arena, the 11.6-inch Sony Vaio T11.

Price. Neither of these two offerings is cheap. The price of the entry level 11.6-inch MacBook Air with a 64 GB of flash storage has gone down to Php47,990. This makes it the cheapest MacBook ever. Still 64 GB of storage, will leave you with just over 30 GB of storage after you install some basic software, like an office suite. For 5K more, at Php52,990 you can get the same 11.6-inch MacBook Air with 128 GB of flash storage. This model seems like the better choice to me. The 128 GB model is really worth the additional money.

Sony Vaio T11

The Sony T11 comes in at the same Php47,990 price of the cheaper of the two 11.6-inch MacBook Airs. But at this price you can actually get it at 12-months zero interest. Pay cash or make a straight payment trough a credit card and you can get about 10% off on the retail price. This would make the Sony Vaio T11 Php4K to Php9K cheaper than either MacBook.

Operating systems. The Apple, or course runs Max OSX, the Sony run on Windows 7 Home Premium. If you are not open to both operating systems, well that should decide which of this two is for you. You can install Windows on a MacBook, but I really think dual booting with boot camp is a waste of money. If you use Windows apps, but a Windows laptop.  

Storage. Ultimately, if you are looking for a premium 11.6-inch slim ultraportable, right now there are really just these two. The deciding factor for most buyers I think will be home much storage they want. The 11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air has two storage options, 64 GB and 128 GB of flash storage. The Sony Vaio T comes with a 500 GB conventional hard drive with a 32 GB SSD for cache (hybrid drive). Flash storage makes it more battery efficient, is lighter and loads apps and files store on the flash storage faster. The 320 GB hard drive on the Sony Vaio T11 offers much more space, and has a 32 GB SSD cache for quick resume from sleep and quick launching of frequently used apps.

If I was picking between a 128 GB SSD and a 320 GB hybrid hard drive, I would pick the 128 GB SSD. But I am only using 70GB on my current hard drive so 128 GB gives me sufficient headroom for a few more years. I think this will be a subjective choice.

11.6-inch Apple MacBook Air

Portability. The Apple MacBook Air is impressively thing at just 0.68-inches at its thickest point. There are thinner laptops now, but really at this point, who cares. The Sony Vaio T is a bit flabbier at 0.71-inches. Visually, the MacBook Air looks a lot thinner because of its wedge shape casing.

The MacBook Air  though is much lighter at 2.38 pounds, while the Sony Vaio T11 comes in at 3.04 pounds. The conventional hard drive and larger case make up the weight difference.

Battery life. The 11.6-inch MacBook Air has a 5 hour battery life. The Sony Vaio T11 comes in at 4.5 hours. Not much difference, but 30 minutes is 30 minutes.

Other specifications a very similar. Both laptops come with 1.7 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-3317U processors and 4 GB of RAM. Both have 11.6-inch (1366 x 768 displays). Both comes with USB 3.0 ports, WiFi, Bluetooth and the other trimmings you expect to find in a laptop these days. Both do not have optical drives.

What does the MacBook Air have over the Sony Vaio T11? A fair bit, actually. The 11.6-inch MacBook Air has a back-lit keyboard and a Thunderbolt port. Back-lit keyboard is a big plus. Thunderbolt storage, theres is little use of that for now.  We also like the 11.6-inch MacBooks keyboard a bit better, and the right shift key is full sized, unlike the reduced size one found on the Sony Vaio T.  

What does the Sony Vaio T11 have over the MacBook Air? A lot actually. The Sony Vaio T11 has a HDMI port. With the MacBook you get a Mini Display Port which needs an adapter to plug into your LCD TV. The Sony Vaio T only needs a HDMI cable. You also get an SD Card reader, something you do not get in the 11.6-inch MacBook Air. 

It also has a full sized LAN port. WOW. Seriously, does anyone still use these things?  

The thing we like most about the Sony Vaio T11 is that there is a standard laptop with a access panel at the bottom which makes it easy to remove and replace the battery when it gets older, and upgrade the memory. The Sony Vaio T11 comes with 1 4GB dimm soldered on with one empty RAM slot. Upgrading this to 8 GB is easy. You cannot upgrade the MacBook Air's RAM after purchase. I am not sure if it is possible to replace the hard drive from in there though.

Verdict. No winners or lossers here. Both fine choices. The MacBook Air costs more and gives you faster flash storage. The Sony Vaio T11 cost less and gives you 4 to 8 times the storage, but using a hybrid drive. 

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