Vaio Duo 11 (i7 8GB 256GB SSD) User Experience (Last update: 1/28/2013)
Accurate stylus* even at edge. Nicely weighted stylus help you controlling pen pressure. Ultrabook class performance which actually provide enough horsepower to do light creative works. Cool-looking design* that helped somewhat in cramped place such as bus and train. Crystal Clear Bright 1080p IPS monitor with 190dpi. Quiet at most of time. Nice weight balance which means no issues on switching from tablet to laptop. Back-lit Keyboard for such a thin base. Standard plug-in slots that provides all necessary accessibility for daily life without needs of adaptor. Powerhouse for tablet PC in 2012.
Slow refresh rate on stylus which cause jitter if pen movement is too fast. Also, writing details might missed at some points. Stylus (Pen pressure) does not support on some major graphic apps that use only WinTabs like Adobe’s. Not so impressive battery life for ultrabook (while it’s above average in ultrabook/tablet hybrid when released). Optical Track Point isn’t user-friendly. The base is a little bit sloppy to hold. The monitor is relatively weak on displaying blue color. Monitor can have image persistence easily. Fixed monitor angle. Weight is not light enough to be hold with one arm for a long time for note taking comfort. Bad camera.
It’s a new step for Sony and convertible tablet PC; it’s near ideal, near business friendly, and near perfect computer for creative amateurs (maybe workers as well) with few compromises that keep it from best choice of laptop/tablet pc in 2012. It does, however, one of the best choice for ultrabook/tablet hybrid as well as Windows 8 machine, and is a good example for Windows 8 machines.
Before I begin I should clarify that this is a user experience repot and/or feedback, not a benchmark or single use testing, and may write too much or too less things on certain aspect. You may consider this as something more or less than review, but this is a writing about how I use and feel about the thing I write.
This user experience could be a little bit too long for some readers to read, but I don’t think I can omit some details.
First thing I’ve noticed is its boot speed. Extremely fast. The computer can be booted in 2-6 seconds and can be rebooted in 7-15 seconds. For actual operation, I found Duo 11 has very fast read and write speed; it can copy and paste a 1GB file about 3-4 seconds (Could be faster on external SSD but I don’t have any external SSD as fast as Duo 11’s). Basically file managing will not pose any problem unless you are copying a file with more than 100GB in size but that’s very unlikely to be happened. Not to mention the fact that Duo 11’s Bloatware already reduce usable space to about 190GB.
So how’s Intel third generation i7 ULV CPU 3517U inside Duo 11 holding up? Generally pretty well for daily use. Um, I meant daily non-video media creation, something more than basic, but less than advance.
Duo 11 handles Sony A77 RAW photos (24.3Mpx) well in Adobe Lightroom 4.3 and runs smoothly. It doesn’t struggle much when changing white balance, exposure, tints, and so on. Noise reduction and sharpening can be processed in short time, mostly under 7 seconds. Also, because the card reader of Duo 11 capable reading SD card at 95MB, couple with its blazing fast SSD, importing RAW photos can be done quite quickly with ease, which makes Duo 11 a nice computer to manage digital photos.
Duo 11 can handles plenty of layers in Adobe Photoshop CS5 (I don’t have CS6 for windows) smoothly and apply filters quickly. It also generate content-aware fill quickly (2-10 seconds in my cases) that helps me remove unwanted image in a photo. While Duo 11 seems run Photoshop well, I generally won’t use Photoshop to fix photos. However, Photoshop does not support pen pressure on Duo 11’s stylus (possibility because Photoshop use only WinTab API while Duo 11’s stylus only use Tablet PC API), which pose serious issue because I usually finish painting digital illustration in Photoshop. I tried ArtRage 3.5 to paint but at the end I still use Photoshop to do the final touch, so this I a big letdown for me. Now I’m looking at Clip Studio Paint Pro (will mention details on later part), but I’ve seen many people still do final touch in Photoshop after all simulation and painting.
Speaking of ArtRage, Duo 11 can run ArtRage smoothly at most of time, except when simulating large watercolor brush size. My usual canvas size is above 1000px*1000px and under 3000px*2000px. I used to sketch and draw on Artrage, but rarely use it for painting. Nevertheless, aside from mentioned issue, painting run smooth generally.
As for Clip Studio Paint Pro, the software is highly optimized and rarely spin up Duo 11’s fan despite simulating watercolor brush and relatively large spray. Slow down still occur on normal spraying above 500px and advanced watercolor simulating on 100px-400px depends simulating type, but I usually can’t hear Duo 11 make noise with this software. At least, on 2000px*2000px canvas size.
To my surprise, Duo 11 can play 1080/60p without noticeable frame drop. Intel does concern graphics after all. This makes Duo 11 a nice presentation tablet PC just in case of need.
However, rendering videos in Duo 11 is a different story. That could be depends on which software were used, but I mostly use Adobe Premiere Pro to edit videos. In Premiere Pro, Duo 11 takes 5 minutes to render 1.5 minutes lightly edited (without color correction) 1080/24p AVCHD video in H.264 without maximum rendering quality; 1 hour to render 1.25 minutes color corrected 1080/60p video with RGB Curves in H.264 and maximum rendering quality. In CyberLink Video Studio 11, it takes 2 minutes to render 35 seconds color corrected video clips with Intel QuickSync in H.264. Not a good choice to edit video by judging these result.
While Duo 11 isn’t good on rendering video, it appears that it can do some graphic generation just in case of need. I tried to generate a background with some particle effects and it run mostly smoothly until lots of particle blends together. Take 5 minutes to render a 30 seconds 1080/24p composition with some particle effects in After Effect CS5.
I didn’t try any 3D object modeling or animation because I don’t know how to make it. A huge disadvantage for me to start career (no kidding, knowing 3D modeling is very useful in media creation). Would be great if someone share his/her Duo 11 experience on this topic.
Last but not least, word processing. Sure the i7 CPU can handle word processing without a hit, but Duo 11 is a tablet PC with keyboard. So how the keyboard performs? So-so, I’d say, but like someone said in forums, the keyboard is a little bit cramped, and sometimes it misses or double inputs same characters/keys for unknown reason (I thought I type too fast but doesn’t seems so), which hammer my typing performance a bit. Other than 2 issues I mentioned, the keyboard is okay, but not impressive. Yet, it serves well in case of need on typing, as well as traditional input (both mouse and keyboard) on some software.
Stylus is everything for tablet PC in my point of view. Those tablet PC without stylus hardly able to help on media creation like digital illustration, leaving no reason behind to buy. A garbage in home. It’s sad that most tablet PC or tablet devices don’t have or support pen pressure stylus. And luckily, Duo 11 isn’t one of them.
While Duo 11 doesn’t use Wacom stylus – which may disappointed for some – it’s surprising accurate for a small 1080p display, feels like it’s pinpointing at a single pixel on the screen, and it maintains accuracy even at edge of screen. Also, I think the stylus is nicely weighted that helps me controlling pen pressure in drawing, even though it’s reportedly has only 256-levels of pressure sensing. It feel natural in general, and calibration is unnecessary in my case.
Often because of my human natural, I put my palm on the screen while drawing, easily cause confusion for computer since it has 2 sources of input source providing differ input information, hence undesirable things happen. While Duo has better palm rejection than pervious tablet PC I have used, it’s still not perfect, and I still prefer to disable touch function (in Device Manager) for drawing. There’s no easy way to disable touch by default though, I need to call out device manager and disable 4th HID-compliment device.
While the stylus seems good at most situation, 2 things are really bad enough to kill all the good points I’ve mention and keeping it from being a serious business computer, leaving business capability questionable. The stylus has relative slow refresh rate that slow enough to cause jittering in drawing lines if curves drawn quickly, and detail may lost in note taking. Not that it would skip a word, but it sometimes cannot track every movement the stylus moves, hence some change point in writing maybe lost. “a” often becomes “u” in my experience, and for some fast writing person who can write 45 words per second or even faster, maybe even in language with complex character writing like Traditional-Chinese, will find that Duo 11 has hard time to keep up with them. Not that Duo 11 unable to handle this kind of work, but the stylus simply not responsive enough to deliver smooth, realistic inking. Second, the stylus doesn’t support apps that use only WinTab API, which cause huge problem because this renders some major picture/illustration software doesn’t support Duo 11’s stylus, like Adobe Photoshop. Yes, it run smoothly, but without pen pressure. Oh no.
However, the stylus works well on CELSYS Clip Studio Paint Pro, a software that currently available in Japan only (of course in Japanese), the software has superior smoothing method that not only able to counter jittering problems, but also smooth long drawing lines nicely, while preserving sharp corner details (i.e. corners you intended to make). Right now I think this software fits Duo 11 the best for digital illustration, and with it Duo 11 can do some advance painting simulation with special touch that only possible in digital illustration. But with plenty of limitation of Duo 11’s stylus, Duo 11 isn’t the best tablet pc for digital illustration or note dropping.
I haven’t test durability of Duo 11 display as I don’t want to waste a computer at its price. And it does have few issue. The display has fixed angle that you only put it flat or 120 degree. And the blue is a little bit weak. However…
The display is bright and crystal clear that helps a lot in media creation. Nice coloring and gamma on screen (color range isn’t very close to sRGB standard but at least enjoyable to normal people) which means it can help on and be used for visual work without much worries. Couple with accurate (but laggy) stylus that makes it suppose an excellent computer for digital illustration as well as photo enhancing. If only there is no issue on software support and the stylus is more responsive, as well as wider color range on screen….
Wide view angle helps countering fixed angle display, and makes it a good computer for sharing artworks/pictures/videos. However, that also pose security problem as anyone around you can look at the screen clearly, but I bet this computer never be used for confined works.
Still, some users like me encounter image persistence (or temporary burn-in) on monitor quite easily. It appears that the display have tendency to have image persistence after display something pale (or bright) to white. This is very noticeable when I switching to full screen neutral-grey start menu after displaying something “bright”. While I didn’t do any technical research, my guess is, displaying any image with above 85% illumination more than 5 minutes will cause image persistence for a period, presuming 5 minutes. Screen brightness doesn’t seem affect result. I haven’t encounter image persistence for recent 5 years.
While I haven’t aware and calculate battery consumption during standby mode, here’s my experience on Duo 11 battery life:
Sketching on Artrage should provide about 3-4 hours battery life with full charge, but it may vary based on artwork complexity. Battery life will be significantly affected by constant simulation of brush painting and/or water coloring. Battery can last longer on Clip Studio Paint Pro for brush painting but less realistic if you care about realism.
Word processing and music playing should able to run about 4.5-4.75 hours with full charge.
Playing music with visualization can be run about 2.5 -3 hours with full charge.
About 2.5-3 hours 1080/60p video playback with full charge, while 1080/24p video can be played for 3 hours.
Photo managing (as well as edit) should last 2.5-3.5 hours with full charge, depends how big photos are.
Slider is rare for PC so this actually makes the Duo 11 looks stylish. But don’t be fooled by its look, Duo 11’s slider design enable switching between tablet mode and laptop mode at ease even at cramped place like bus or train. Although it has fixed angle for laptop mode, and track pad was sacrificed to fit the design, the display will most likely face on user when using on laps. The optical pointer that replaces sacrificed track pad doesn’t work so well though, and it feels worse that point stick.
The connectivity on Duo 11 is pretty good, to the point that I almost forget this is an ultrabook. It has 2 USB3.0 port, 1 HDMI port, SD/MS Card Slot, VGA port, Eternal LAN Port, 3.5mm audio jack, all in standard size, something I don’t see often in ultrabooks. Aside from wired LAN rest of the plug-in port placed nicely.
However, the base of duo 11 feels a bit sloppy when hold which pose issue for user as tablet PC is more likely to be held. Also, physical extra button are badly placed, hardly able to adjust volume or disable screen rotation without seeing bottom of the computer. Furthermore, assist button is mostly useless for daily computer user, why don’t make it as touch screen switch, so illustrator can disable touch screen in 1 push?
Also, I don’t understand why Sony left a hole open and expose 2 cables that connect base and monitor. While I can take this as advantage to hold Duo 11 more firmly in bus, it seems vulnerable to almost everyone who see this. Though whether it’s durable or not I’ve to use Duo 11 longer to say such topic.
Duo 11 weighted about 1.3kg. While it’s lighter than many laptops, it’s hard to hold the computer in one arm comfortably for long time and take notes. In my case, 10 minutes can stress my left arm a bit while my right hand take notes.
While Duo 11 is so-so for ultra-portable, and quite thick for tablet device standard, it terms of mobility, there isn’t any issue, at least for me. Even added with Sony’s official case for Duo 11, the total weight is nice and I feel like I can take Duo 11 for my trip without noticeable differences on carrying effort, to the fact that I’m getting used to bring a computer whenever I go out. Also, because its design, I can take Duo 11 without other accessories, since it provides most basic ports and keyboard for everyday use. Of course, transferring files with MircoSD Card, CF card or other uncommon cards (or big/strange shape USB flash) still requires adaptor or card reader, but in my case the Duo 11 is perfectly fit my needs. For presentation I might need to bring some cables to connect with big monitors or projectors, but this is a very rare case for me, and usually place with these things also provide standard size port cable, which pretty much means I don’t need adaptor. Mobile without compromise.
However, due to its slider nature, it’s not recommended to bring Duo 11 without case or bag with extra protection, as its monitor being constantly exposed to environment. Bringing out the Duo 11 from official case could be a little bit difficult in cramped place, but otherwise the whole process is quite smooth, and quite quiet as Sony claimed. Even combined with the official case, Duo 11 can fit into most average size bag or backpack. I did bring Duo 11 with backpack loaded with DSLR and some lenses without issue, and I didn’t feel much different total weight, but again this result is very personal and may vary for different person and different backpack/bag.
Yet, because of its special slider mechanism, transition to tablet mode or laptop mode can be done with ease, and it actually can be deployed as laptop easier than traditional laptop in cramped place like bus (provided that user have a seat).
All In all, Duo 11 provide exceptional mobility even though it’s a little bigger and thicker than ultra-portables and tablets, except it need little extra protection on screen.
While Windows 8 is more touch friendly than Windows 7, it’s still not as touch friendly as Android or iPad. I can type words on on-screen keyboard quite quickly with few minor error (perhaps auto-corrected?) like I do on physical keyboard. However, it feels like on-screen keyboard is less secured as the screen is flat and I cannot tell where I’m pressing/touching without physical markers. Also, on-screen keyboard would take half of the screen away in landscape view, so I still prefer use physical keyboard to type, if it’s possible. Some software navigations are better to be controlled by tradition mouse/track pad because of its design nature, while Duo 11 doesn’t has track pad, the optical pointer helps somewhat.
Most pre-installed apps are useless. Including Microsoft ones. Most of them are non-desktop apps. Don’t want to go over the details. At the end, I still use my favorite desktop software for media creations.
The camera on Duo 11 is a joke. 2.0 Mega pixel is too low for current standard, especially for consumer image sensor standard. Also, it records low quality 1080p video… at 15 fps, I think. I don’t think I’ll use a tablet to record video anyway, cellphone will do the job, and I have camera and camcorder to better jobs. I’m sure I can live with a tablet PC without camera as I never used camera on pervious tablets, that included Android ones. Though face camera could be useful at times, I haven’t play video chat for 4 years.
Some may like holding iPad with bare hands and walk around, while I *think* user can do this with Duo 11 as well, it just feel uncomfortable for me to do that. After all, I consider this is a working computer and would like to treat it in better ways I know.
If it isn’t because of slow, limited function stylus and graphic/video processing ability, and not-so-impressive keyboard, I’ll love Duo 11 very much. I still like the current Duo 11, as it can do many creative things, but few limitations and compromises keep me from loving it. However, it’s more than a mere tablet PC that I can hand more works to it, and I like it more than my pervious tablet PC. It’s a versatile tablet pc that do more than digital illustration and word processing, but less than normal video editing. Its battery might be not long-lasting for some, but it can work for quite long time under medium work; it’s reliable for most user to use the computer for 3.5-4 hours. While this might not be the perfect laptop/tablet hybrid PC of 2012, it’s one of the coolest, most stylish tablet PC, and perhaps it’s the best tablet pc of 2012, though I don’t recommend it to anyone without particular need.
You may consider to buy this computer if…
You are amateur of creative digital visual works, that including but not exclusive to digital illustration artist.
You are someone who design/draw arts/things and need something portable that you can do quick sketch on the go. Finishing entire digital illustration is currently not recommended until its stylus support wider range of major software and has better refresh rate.
You have interests on digital illustration and need a versatile computer.
Not so recommended if…
You only manage/fix photos. While this computer has nice screen, the price is higher than those in the same class without stylus and/or touchscreen, and most photo software are not designed for stylus and/or touch.
If you only take notes with this computer. You should consider a cheaper tablet in this case, those run with Intel’s second generation of Atom, third generation of i3 or AMD Fusion should be good enough. Also, THE STYLUS COMES WITH THIS COMPUTER IS NOT RESPONSIVE ENOUGH FOR QUICK NOTE DROPPING DUE TO TECHNOLOGY IT USED. Those who can write more than 45 words per minutes (especially in language with complex characters like Traditional-Chinese) should consider tablet pc with Wacom stylus only.
You may waste your money to buy this computer if…
You only do word processing with this computer (seriously a waste)
You only watch movies with its nice screen. You’ll waste the stylus and its extra horsepower. There are lots of other computer/tablet with nice screen with cheaper price as well.
IF YOU THINK THIS IS AN IPAD ALTERNATIVE YOU SHOULD NEVER CONSIDER THIS COMPUTER
Word for developers:
Good job and good try on your company’s first Windows tablet PC.
Better use Wacom stylus if possible. If not, use a stylus with much faster refresh rate (very important, at least 3x of this computer’s stylus) and more level of pressure sensing.
Would be better to replace VGA port with Thunderbolt. HDMI can be adapt to VGA while VGA hardly able to adapt to other ports. Also, would be great to use Thunderbolt to connect external device and improve overall or just graphical processing power, like Vaio Z.
At first I don’t really like the choice of ULV CPU but now I see the reason and indeed they are now fast enough to handle many creative works. I used to think it would be great if it uses high-end quad-core CPU but now I think differently. The mentioned CPU would cause great heat that would burn the computer and user’s hand easily even with good cooling system. And tablet PC is more likely to be held by user hands and used on lap so it can never get too hot.
While I’m not sure if this is possible, but try to reduce weight even further. It’s just not enough yet. Weight balance is good though.
Physical quick control button should be placed somewhere better like side of the computer so user can press them more easily. Also, add a switch that can disable touch easily. It would be very useful for digital illustration artist as stylus’s palm rejection is hardly to guarantee works all the time.
I hope this gives you a little bit information about windows tablet pc and tips for next purchase. I seriously want to shorten this writing but at the end I can only expand it. Something that should not be done by stranger in internet, I suppose.
If you’re more digital illustrator than multi-media producer/creator/manager/whatsoever, I suggest you look at Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro instead. Another tablet PC I tried and would like to research and review but I don’t have one.
*12/29/2012 Update: added monitor image persistence as I found other users have such issue in forums.
*12/31/2012 Update: added camera feedback because someone I know thought his new low-end tablet can take nice video which end up record terrible videos.
*1/28/2013 Update: added mobility section, moved 3 photos into this section, removed 1 useless photos, and changed conclusion regarding of 2012 since 2012 is gone. Might will add new photos for mobility and move back 3 photos to its original section in soon.
*3/3/2013 Update: No chance for taking photo yet… Extra information on image persistence and note taking. Those who planned to use Vaio Duo 11 to take quick notes should be cautioned.