Sony seems to have a bit of a fetish for developing "the world's thinnest" gadgets. They've already done it with the recently launched Vaio Pro, and they're now turning their attention to the tablet market with the new Sony Vaio Tap 11 Windows tablet.
Oddly, though, while Sony proclaims the Sony Vaio Tap 11 to be "the world's thinnest Windows 8 tablet PC", the product pages on the Sony web site don't actually tell you how thin it really is, nor how much it weighs. So you'll have to take our word for it that the Tap 11 measures just 10mm thick and weighs 800g. The new iPad Air undercuts that by quite a bit – at just 7.5mm thick, and a maximum weight of 478g – but of course, the iPad isn't a Windows tablet. Sony's closest rival on the Windows side of the fence is, of course, the Microsoft Surface Pro 2, which weighs closer to 1Kg, so the Sony Vaio Tap 11 does seem to have the bragging rights on this one for now.
The Vaio Pro was marred by its less than sturdy build quality, and I have to admit that the plastic case of the Tap 11 looks a bit cheap and cheerful for a machine that costs over £1000.00. There are also a few niggling flaws, such as the annoying and flimsy flaps that cover some of the ports on the edges of the tablet. But, to be fair, the plastic case does feel reasonably sturdy, and should be able to cope with life in a backpack or briefcase. See also: what's the best Windows tablet?
Sony Vaio Tap 11: display
The 850g weight and the elongated 11.6-inch widescreen display, mean that you can't really hold it in one hand for very long, so you'll probably need to rest it on your lap or on a table for casual web browsing. However, the Tap 11 also incorporates Sony's high-tech 'Omnibalance' system – also known as 'a stand', which folds out of the back of the tablet so that you can sit back and watch some streaming video at your leisure.
This is where the Tap 11 comes into its own, as the 1920x1080 screen is bright and colourful, with excellent all-round viewing angles. It will work very well for watching video or giving an impromptu presentation when you're on the road. The speakers aren't bad either – they're too small to produce much bass, but the overall sound quality is more than adequate for listening to a few tunes or watching a film online.
If you need to do some serious work then Sony also includes both a wireless keyboard and a stylus for use with the Tap 11. The keyboard is clearly an attempt to mimic the keyboard cover of Microsoft's Surface tablet, but isn't quite as successful. The slimline keyboard panel can be placed over the screen in order to act as a cover, but it's held in place magnetically and isn't really secure enough to provide much protection. Sony describes it as a 'full pitch' keyboard, which is accurate as the key pitch is a full 19mm, and there's also room for a small trackpad (90x40mm) and a pair of buttons. However, the keys don't travel very well and feel rather lifeless, so I'm not sure I'd want to use it for long periods of time.
Connectivity is a bit limited too, with just a single USB 3.0 port, micro-SD slot and micro-HDMI. There is a SIM slot for mobile broadband, though, and you can also buy an Ethernet adaptor for another £50.00 And while it's not the most powerful tablet we've ever seen, the Tap 11 is still perfectly capable of handling most routine computing tasks. See also: 9 best budget tablets of 2013.
Sony Vaio Tap 11: UK price, performance
Prices start at around £850.00 for a model with a Pentium processor – remember those? – but our review unit was equipped with a 1.5GHz Haswell i5 along with 4GB of (non-upgradeable) memory and 128GB solid-state storage for a total cost of £1048.99. That combination produced a score of 3392 when running the general-purpose PCMark 7 benchmark, which isn't going to break any records but is more than adequate for running Microsoft Office and handling web browsing and some online entertainment.
You can forget about 3D gaming though, as the integrated Intel HD 4200 could barely manage 8fps when running Stalker at 1280x720 resolution. The 8MP rear camera proved rather disappointing too, especially when the light started to fail on a rainy November afternoon.
The biggest disappointment, though, is the Tap 11's limited battery life. That slimline design clearly doesn't leave much room for a battery and we got just four hours and forty five minutes of streaming video out of the Tap 11. You might be able to stretch that to around six hours if you're not using wifi all the time, but Sony's claim of 'up to 8.5 hours', seems a bit optimistic. See also: The 14 best tablets of 2013.