I really liked the inclusion of Beats audio and a subwoofer, which delivered a rich and full sound.
To communicate with the world, the Envy has a pop-open Ethernet port as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It can also wirelessly connect with a projector or TV via Intel's WiDi. When I tried it out, the Envy remained linked with a projector as far as 46 feet away, 9 feet farther than the Portege (which also has WiDi) could.
The system comes with Windows 8, a two-month trial edition of Microsoft Office Home and Student, and a 60-day trial of Norton Internet Security.
With a score of 1,422.6 on the PassMark PerformanceTest benchmark, the Envy was 30% percent slower than the Vaio T13, a result I attribute to a lower amount of system memory, slower processor and the use of a traditional hard drive.
At a Glance
Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 t-1100
Price base/as tested: $800/$895
Pros: Touch screen, backlit keyboard, Beats audio, sleek design, good battery life
Cons: Relatively thick and heavy, no VGA port
It was a virtual tie with the Portege on CineBench 11.5's processor tests with a score of 2.38, but again, was well behind the Vaio T13's 2.77 score. And as far as graphics goes, the Envy's 13.12 frames per second (fps) was well behind both the Vaio T13 and the Portege.
At 5 hours and 15 minutes of battery life, the system's 3,200mAh battery was the long-distance runner of the group, going for nearly an hour longer than the Portege; however, the battery is not user-removable.
The HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100 starts at an enviable $800, which includes a Core i3 processor and a non-backlit keyboard. The model I tested had a backlit keyboard and Core i5 processor, bringing the price up to $895.
While it is heavier and slower than the other two units in this roundup, the HP Envy is the value leader because it has the largest screen, is touch-enabled and it has the best sound.
If a nice balance between performance and battery life are what you're after in an ultrabook, Sony's Vaio T Series 13 delivers it along with an excellent touch screen.
There are a variety of configurations available in Sony's T series of ultrabooks, including both 13.3-in. and 14-in. displays; touch and non-touch screens; Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors; hard drives and SSDs; and 4GB to 8GB of RAM.
The review unit is at the high end of this list. It offers a 13.3-in. touch screen and Intel's 1.9GHz Core i7 processor (a step up from the 1.7GHz Core i5 CPU used on the other two systems), which can sprint to as fast as 3.0GHz if needed. It also includes a 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM.
I measured the Vaio at 12.6 x 0.8 x 8.0 in.; it weighs 3.5 lb., about 1.1 lb. heavier than the Portege (probably because of the Vaio's touch screen). With its large two-prong AC adapter, the system has a travel weight of 4.4 lb.
Capable of responding to 10 individual finger inputs, the Vaio's display reacted quickly and precisely to input. While I didn't find it quite as bright as either the Portege or Envy 4, I still found the display quality quite sharp and clear; I doubt there will be too many users who will be disappointed.
The lid has two small feet that brace it when the system is open, making the display much sturdier than the Envy's. Its keyboard, however, lacks the backlighting that the others provide.
The Vaio comes with one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 connection, down from the three USB ports that the others have. Over my time with the system, this proved to be a minor inconvenience.
There's also an HDMI port, a VGA port, and a combo microphone and headphone audio jack. It has a flash card reader that can work with SD and Memory Stick modules.
For getting online, the system has Wi-Fi (because Sony uses an Atheros radio rather than an Intel, it can't use Intel's WiDi technology). The system also includes Bluetooth and an Ethernet jack.