At IFA 2013, Sony introduces the Vaio Tap 11, a tablet-PC that is super-thin (0.39”) and comes with a detachable keyboard-cover. This is a beautiful design, and it turns out that this is NOT a slow computer. Despite its small internal volume, the Vaio Tap 11 can use the latest Intel Core processor – up to Core i7, says Sony. This is quite a feat for a device that would look like a 10” Android tablet at first glance.
When it is closed, it looks like a laptop, but instead of opening like a clamshell, the Vaio Tap 11’s wireless keyboard detaches completely and you are free to put it wherever you please. It doesn’t connect with Bluetooth, but uses radio frequency (RF) instead, so there is no pairing to do. The wireless keyboard is said to have enough battery capacity to run for one month, but since it charges when connected to the tablet, there’s little chance that it would run out of power. When you want to re-attach the keyboard, magnets guide it in place: there is no need to “aim” – it’s effortless.
Because this is an 11” tablet, the keyboard is a full-size one (or so it seems) and when I played with it, it felt better than the Microsoft Surface’s Type Cover, but it is not as good as a good laptop keyboard. It’s not surprising given the size limitations, but I wanted to set your expectations accordingly.
With the slim profile, it is not easy to add ports, but there is just enough room to add a full-size USB port, an SD card reader and a micro-HDMI output. The Vaio Tap 11 also comes with Intel’s WiDi (a wireless protocol to beam images to an external display), so if you have a compatible monitor or an external adapter, you could clone your display wirelessly to a TV for example.
Sony has added NFC to all its new laptops. While we were in Japan, Sony representatives told us that the company was taking NFC very seriously, and the sheer number of NFC products at Sony would confirm that. I have to say that NFC makes it so much easier to pair devices that it’s probably its best use today.
Sony mentioned to me that in their own tests, the battery lasted for 6 hours. We will have to run our own tests of course, but keep in mind that a Core i7 will definitely use more power than a Core i3, so we will need to clarify the conditions in which the battery test was done. However, the bottom-line is: recent laptops get about 8-9 hours of battery, so a difference of 2-3hrs would seem logical since the Tap 11 is so much smaller than the average laptop.
Sony has included a rear webcam “tablet-style” which can be used to snap photos of documents before working or writing a note on them. As usual the camera is connected to a Sony EXMOR R sensor, and we’re looking forward to testing it to see what kind of image quality it produces. Finally, there is no HDD option for this device. Since it is so thin, it was just not possible to have that option.
Last but certainly not least, the Vaio Tap 11 is compatible with Sony’s Active pen which works with technology from N-Trig. With that, users can draw in many of the compatible apps, but the most important of them is going to be no other than Photoshop. Sony told me that they are working with Adobe to make the Active Pen compatible with Photoshop, so this is huge for designers and artists.
The Vaio Tap 11 is a nice surprise at IFA. Sony has always been a brand that likes to come up with the “smallest this” or “thinnest that”, but it’s great to see a design like the Vaio Tap 11 that is “extreme” in some ways, but also designed with a lot of practicality in mind.
In some ways, the Tap 11 makes me think of the Surface Pro. Both machines have an elegant design and enough muscle to compete with full-on laptops, but their designs have taken a slightly different paths.
I think that this ultralight computer could be a great fit for someone who wants to be productive or creative, but not during long, continuous hours. Students and folks who do light computing may love it as well. What would you do with the Vaio Tap 11?