Friday, August 30, 2013

Review of the Sony Vaio Pro 11

I've been using my new Sony Vaio Pro 11 for a week now and I wanted to finally write a full review.  I've talked a bit about the things I like, and on the whole I still like those things, but I have some other observations now that I've been using the computer for a week.

I have done several tests on the battery over the past week, and found that turning off the keyboard backlights made a huge difference in how long a charge lasted.  With the keyboard backlights on, I still got an impressive 4 hours -- but with them off, that skyrocketed up to 6.5 hours.  That's the first time I've ever gotten what the manufacturer said I'd get out of the battery, and I wouldn't be surprised if I could eek a little more out of it by using the power-conserving setting on the processor.

The battery is, of course, one of my favorite things, since I often take my computer places to write: Once a week I meet friends from NaNoWriMo (a small group of us meet year-round), and of course during November I attend write-ins.  Last year I didn't attend very many, but I am planning on doing more this year.

I am also still loving the touchscreen, although I'm finding I'm not using it as much now that the newness is wearing off -- not when I'm working at my desk, at least.  When I do find I really like it is when I am working with my computer on my lap.  I have to keep the touchpad off most of the time, as it is very sensitive and I bump it too often while I'm typing -- and if it weren't for the touchscreen, I would have to turn it back on when I disconnect the mouse and move the computer to my lap.  But with the touchscreen, I am able to keep it off.

The processor speed, wireless speed, and screen quality are all great, improvements on the computer I was using.  The computer is super fast, especially online.  And the screen looks fantastic, bright and vivid (though I keep it turned down for the most part, since I don't like looking at a bright screen).  I've tried out movies on the computer and those look fantastic as well.

And of course I'm loving Windows 8.  I didn't think I would like the tablet/PC crossover-style operating system, but I love it.  I love the apps and the ability to flip back and forth between apps and desktop programs.  I am finding a lot of useful productivity apps for writers, too, such as timers and timesheet apps.  The stickies on the desktop are a great feature too, and I use those in lieu of a to-do list app -- since they are right in front of my face every time I turn on the laptop, I don't overlook my to-do list as I normally would.

Besides the apps and iTunes, the only software I have downloaded is Scrivener, the primary program I write in.  I am going to try using Google Drive in lieu of Microsoft Office, and see how I like it.  My old printer and scanner don't seem to work on the new operating system, but a friend gave us a very nice wireless all-in-one a while back, so I've set that up.  Otherwise, the only software I still need to try to replace is my old version of Photoshop.  It sounds like there is the possibility that it might run on Windows 8, but even if it doesn't, I don't know that I'll buy a new version.  It's pricey for a program that I don't use that often, so if I can't get it to work I'll either continue to do my Photoshop work on my old computer, or see if there is a free or cheap alternative for Windows 8.

The solid state drive is a major upgrade for me.  I love how fast the computer turns on from hibernation or sleep, and that I don't have to shut down daily anymore.  The computer runs very quietly (and very cool!) without a moving-parts hard drive.  I am more than willing to give up a large hard drive (mine is only 128GB) for those advantages.

And, of course, I am in love with the size and weight.  At less than 2 pounds, I am getting spoiled, and I don't think I'll ever be able to go back to a heavier computer again.  For a writer who prioritizes ultra portability, this computer has everything I could ever want.

I have only two beefs so far.  One is that when I updated the Sony software right away -- as the quick start guide told me to -- I immediately lost the ability to scroll with two fingers on my touchpad.  Not a huge deal, since I don't use it that often for the reasons I've cited above, but still annoying to lose a feature right off the bat like that.

My other beef is that the computer constantly loses wireless -- I have to repair the connection (called troubleshooting on Windows 8, which seems misleading to me because the computer just goes out and repairs the connection, just like on Windows XP when it was called repairing the connection) half a dozen times a day, if not more.  It's only a minor annoyance, as all I have to do is click the mouse a couple times and the computer fixes the problem for me, but it still does pose a brief interruption to whatever I was doing at the time.

I still need to find an optical drive that is slim and light enough to make it as ultraportable as the laptop itself, but that's not a pressing need, so I plan to take my time and find one I really like.  And honestly, I'm not finding that I miss having it all that much -- burning music CDs is probably my biggest need for an optical drive, now that so much software can simply be downloaded online.

Despite a couple of minor complaints, I love nearly everything about my Sony Vaio Pro 11, which is possibly the most writer-friendly, ultra-portable machine I have ever owned -- and, if you know how much I loved my old Averatec 1020, that is saying quite a lot.

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