At a Glance
Vaio T Series 13 Ultrabook
Price base/as tested: $670/$1,300
Pros: Touch screen, thin and light, access to battery, stable screen lid
Cons: Relatively expensive
Along with Windows 8, the Vaio T13 comes with a one-month subscription to Kaspersky Internet Security and a copy of Art Rage Studio, an excellent tablet drawing program. The system comes with a one-year warranty.
With its faster processor and larger cache of memory, the Vaio T13 swept the performance phase of testing with a 2,006.9 on the PassMark PerformanceTest suite of benchmark tests. Its scores of 2.77 and 16.62 fps on the CineBench 11.5's processor and graphics tests were also well ahead of the other two.
When I tested the Vaio's battery, it yielded a runtime of 4 hours and 57 minutes, a few minutes short of the Envy 4's battery life and 35 minutes longer than the Portege's.
Unlike the other two ultrabooks reviewed here, you can change the Vaio T13's battery. It's a little awkward, because rather than a slide latch, it has three screws that need to be loosened with a thick spade screwdriver or a penny, but it only takes a minute.
In the configuration I tested, the Sony Vaio T Series 13 is a bit pricey, but its top-shelf components, high performance and good battery life combine to make this touch ultrabook a winner.
Not quite ready to take the plunge with a touch-screen computer? Toshiba's Portege Z935-P390 is an ultrabook with a 13.3-in. display that lets you get the most out of Windows 8 without lifting a finger.
The Portege is slimmer than the Envy or Vaio T13: it measures 0.6 in. thick in the front and 0.8 in. thick in the back. It has a more businesslike, squared-off gray case with bright chrome accents on the hinges and around the touchpad. Its footprint measures 12.4 x 8.9 in., making it slightly deeper but narrower than the Vaio T13, which has the same size screen.
Weighing 2.4 lb., the Portege is remarkably light. With its AC adapter, the Portege has an enviable total weight of 3 lb., more than a pound lighter than the Vaio T13; happily, it requires only a two-prong outlet to power it up.
The Portege's display was quite clear and offered rich colors; it was about as bright as the Vaio T13. Because it lacks a touch screen, the Portege relies on a 3.4-x-2-in. touchpad, which has a nice texture to it and a button for turning it off when doing a lot of typing. It was able to bring out the Windows 8 Charms Menu with a swipe of a finger right to left and let me zoom in by pinching an image, but I needed a bit of practicing before using it became second nature. The comfortable keyboard is backlit for late-night work or gaming.
Inside the Portege is the same 1.7GHz Core i5 processor that the Envy uses. It also includes a 128GB SSD and 6GB of RAM.
The system's assortment of ports includes two USB 2.0 and a single USB 3.0 connection. It also has an HDMI port, SD card reader, audio port and old-school VGA port. The system comes with a Gigabit Ethernet connection as well as Wi-Fi. Its WiDi system was able to connect to a projector at a range of 37 feet, 9 feet short of the Envy's range.
Along with Windows 8, the Portege includes Norton Internet Security with 30 days of file updates as well as a handy Toshiba PC Health Monitor for observing the system's components. It comes with a one-year warranty.
At a Glance
Portege Z935 P390
Price base/as tested: $1,000/$1,000
Pros: Strong performance, backlit keyboard, thin and light, SSD
Cons: No touch screen, short battery life
The Portege scored 1,680.9 on the PassMark PerformanceTest suite, right in the middle of the pack. Its CineBench 11.5 processor score was halfway between the those of the Envy and the Vaio T13, while the system's graphics score of 14.51 fps was 13% less than the Vaio T13's score of 16.62 fps.
The system's 3,000 mAh battery was able to go for 4 hours and 22 minutes on a charge. Unlike the Vaio T13, the system is sealed and has no way to swap batteries.