Sony Vaio Tap 11 Review



Sony's engineering chops are really showing this year, across its phones, tablets and convertibles portfolio. The Vaio Tap 11 is just the next in the line of slim, sexy looking devices Sony churns out, and as far as Windows tablets go, it can brag with “the thinnest” title, too.

Despite the record for a full-size Windows tablet 0.39” (10mm) thickness, the Tap 11 manages to pack a Haswell processor line, 11” 1080p display, and plenty of storage. It also comes with an Active Pen stylus, and a completely detached keyboard that snaps on magnetically to serve as a screen cover, and charges from the tablet itself then.

Surprisingly enough, given the specs and the fact that it runs fully featured Windows 8, not the RT version, Sony managed to keep the Tap 11 pricing competitive, starting it at $799. If it sounds too good to be true, there's the inevitable catch, as this slim body fits a smaller battery, and the Tap 11 battery life is half of said iOS or Android tablets. Will this turn out to be just an inconvenience compared to the tablet's other virtues? Read on to find out...


Sony's creation here is one of the prettiest Windows tablets out there, period, and not only because it is so slim and comes at just 1.7 pounds (770 g). Sony has dressed the soft-feel magnesium alloy slate in white, and has included a kickstand to prop the display when using the tablet as a laptop, as the keyboard is not attached to it with hinges, or a dock connector. We can't say we dig the “unhinged” concept, with anything larger than 10”, as the screen part becomes somewhat uncomfortable to hold while watching videos on a long flight, for example. Sony's execution with the thin kickstand doesn't help in that respect, too, though it is good for desk work.

When we saw the relatively thin kickstand initially, we had qualms about its rigidity, but the weight is very well balanced, and the tablet doesn't wobble even when you poke at the touchscreen. Moreover, it allows you to adjust the screen at any angle in an 85-degree range, unlike Microsoft's new Surface line, which limits you in two positions. You still have to keep prodding the back and adjust the kickstand each time you need a simple screen tilt, unlike a laptop where you simply push back or pull forward the screen part.

The tablet and the keyboard only come together when the keyboard plops keys down on the screen, attaching itself with magnets as a protective cover, and only a small connector at the top goes into the tablet part for charging.

You can tell a real Windows tablet from the bevy of ports and slots around it, and the Tap 11 doesn't disappoint here. Since the goal has obviously been to make a standalone slate, the screen part houses all the ports and slots, and the keyboard only serves for typing and screen protection. You get a full-size USB 3.0 port and mini HDMI under a protective lid on the left, as well as a SIM card and microSD slots up top, again with a protective flap, and next to a Sony Assist key that enters the BIOS and troubleshooting mode.

The USB port has a sleep charge regime, so you can top off your electronics from it even when the tablet is not active. The very short and stubby plug of the wall charger feels a bit insecure, though the purpose of this has been to prevent the tablet from flying off your desk when you trip in the power cord. The power brick has a separate USB port, too, so you can charge a phone, for example, while juicing the tablet.

The power/lock key and the volume rocker on the right are easy to feel and press, with nice clicky feedback. The circular metallic lock key is done in the Omnibalance design tradition of recent Xperia phones and tablets, immediately implying this tablet is a Sony, regardless of the operating system. We get a physical home key with the Windows logo on it underneath the display, which is a bit too recessed and hard to easily press, with shallow tactile feedback.

Magnetic keyboard

The keyboard is rather thin in its turn, and with brushed aluminum looks on the back. It snaps magnetically onto the display, serving as a screen protector. The keys are recessed, so you needn't worry they'll scratch the panel, and there is a nice touchpad in the middle of the palm rest, with clicky one-piece mouse keys underneath. The touchpad dots are slightly elevated to mark its existence, but otherwise patterned in the palm rest's color, giving the keyboard an uninterrupted look.

The Bluetooth keyboard is just 4.5mm thick, so even when it's tacked on, the Vaio Tap 11 is still thinner than an ultrabook. Decked up in white with aluminum back, it looks rather nice with its chiclet buttons, and despite the thin frame, we get decent 1mm of key travel, making it very suitable for some serious typing. There aren't any charging ports around it, which probably contributed to the slim profile, and the keyboard latches onto a small three-prong dock connector in the tablet itself, juicing up from it when it serves as a display cover. It has an on/off slider at the top, along with an LED charging status indicator.

Active Pen input

The other input method Sony provides with the Tap 11 is a metal Active Pen stylus, powered by a small AAAA battery inside. It doesn't have a silo to become integral part of the tablet, but rather a clip-on holder, which can be a bit flimsy, so you have to keep it in mind always. Sony's responsive digitizer allows you to preview content such as titles, messages or pics, by just hovering the stylus over, similar to Samsung's Air View feature on the Note line. Sony has preinstalled apps like Note Anytime, which are meant for stylus use and let you quickly jot down notes, annotate with VAIO Paper, clip pics and web site content with the VAIO Clip app, or straight out draw on the display.


The 11.6” Triluminous LCD display of Sony is with the pretty 1920x1080 pixels of resolution, returning 190 pixel per inch count. Granted, there are tablets with much higher pixel density out there, but for most every need 1080p is more than enough on such a screen size.

The panel sports flashy, somewhat oversaturated colors, especially when running media, and deep enough black levels for an LCD screen, which make video playback a joy. Brightness levels are pretty high for a tablet, and screen reflections are kept in check, so when you need to take it outside, the Vaio Tap 11 won't disappoint.

Viewing angles are also great, with barely a shift in brightness and contrast, even at extreme angles. High-res tablets like the Vaio Tap 11 are worth it for their screen alone, especially if you are coming from a crappy laptop HD display of yesteryear, where a movie can be watched by only one person, for example, as the slightest screen tilt deteriorates the picture badly.

Interface and functionality

Sony Vaio Tap 11 is coming with 64-bit Windows 8 or 8 Pro, meaning you can run any legacy Windows program on it, and hook up any peripheral your heart desires to the fast USB 3.0 port. The desktop app isn't a speed king, though we'd attribute the general response sluggishness to the basic Pentium Haswell in our unit.

Sony has laden the touch-friendly Modern UI with a couple of apps of its own on the homescreen, such as Album, Music, and Video Creator, which take care of your media viewing and editing needs, and Socialife, which serves as a social networking and RSS hub.

In addition, you get Note Anytime, which makes good use of the supplied stylus for jotting down notes, clipping or drawing, and the ArcSoft Camera for VAIO app, that manages your video chat sessions through the front-facing Exmor R shooter that comes with dual array mics.

Processor and memory

The cheapest $799 version of the Vaio Tap 11 tablet comes with a very basic Pentium 3560Y processor, though still in the newest Haswell family. You can then climb up to Core i3, Core i5 and even Core i7 CPU, of the low voltage variety. The base Pentium is fine for general usage and web surfing, but you can forget about any but more basic games with the integrated Intel HD4000 graphics. On the plus side, the tiny fan inside the tablet rarely comes on, as we wouldn't imagine the weakling processor heats up all that much under pressure with this performance.

In addition, Tap 11 comes with non-expandable 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB, 256 GB or 512 GB of storage. With our 128 GB version, only about 70 GB are user-available after Windows, the recovery, and additional Vaio apps take their toll on the storage count. You can expand the storage with up to 64 GB more via the microSD card slot at the top, though.

Internet and connectivity

The now decent Internet Explorer 11 is what comes with Vaio Tap 11, but since it is a Win 8 tablet, you can pretty much install anything you want, and Adobe Flash support will be guaranteed. All major browsers now have versions with Modern UI looks and feel, too, so you don't even have to go to the desktop interface mode.

There are Tap 11 versions with a SIM card slot and 4G, while the rest of the connectivity options, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, DLNA and NFC are shared across the board. Sony's tablet also sports an IR blaster at the top, and the infrared port is managed by a dedicated app that lets you control your home electronics. We already mentioned the stellar wired connectivity suite courtesy of the full USB 3.0 port, and the HDMI one which can hook the tablet to your older TV directly.


Sony placed an 8 MP Exmor RS sensor on the back of the Vaio Tap 11, and a 1MP Exmor R front-facing camera, capable of HD footage, which comes with dual array mics for better Skype video chat sessions. The pictures come with enough detail for the resolution, and realistic colors, but the frames often get underexposed, making them much darker than reality. Indoor the photos are fairly usable when the lighting is enough, but noise quickly starts to creep up otherwise.


Annoyingly enough, pictures open with the Modern UI Windows viewer by default, which, besides rather slow to load, means a trip to the Metro interface - a nuisance, especially if you are doing something in the Desktop app.

Sony supplies an excellent music player app, which scouts for and categorizes your tunes, and flaunts a number of equalizer presets built in. The stereo speakers sound pretty potent for such a compact tablet, and produce a comparatively rich sound to boot, one of Sony devices' traditional strong points.

For video playback in the Modern UI you have to rely on the default media player out of the box, and even if you download a 3rd party app, MKV files might still play without a sound. Of course, Vaio Tap 11 is running Windows, so you can scratch all gripes that stem from the stock apps, and install any program your heart desires for your media playback needs.


The chief compromise one has to do with the Vaio Tap 11 is battery life. Such a thin tablet doesn't leave much room inside for a large battery pack, and Sony quotes about 5.5 hours of endurance from the 3800 mAh pack, despite the frugal Haswell processors. It is still pretty good for such a thin and light standalone Windows tablet, but Android and iOS slates are usually running twice as long, and the same goes for most current Windows convertibles with Haswell, so there's a price to pay for the Tap 11's footprint.


Vaio Tap 11 is one of the most evolved instances of the new device breed that became possible with Microsoft's touch-friendly Windows 8, coupled with the frugal Haswell processor family of Intel. It is incredibly thin and light for an 11” Windows slate, and still manages to pack some punch, giving you access to legacy programs and a million of peripherals.

Moreover, Sony supplied the tablet with an excellent 1080p display, and added more value with two additional input methods like the slim magnetic keyboard cover and the Active Pen stylus, without adding bulk in the process. Such a compact footprint, however, comes with a major tradeoff in battery life, which is much less than what we are used to with a Haswell-based machine. If you aren't bothered by the 5-hour endurance, and can afford to splurge a bit more for a better performance with the Core-i5 version of the tablet, Sony Vaio Tap 11 comes as one of the best Windows tablets of the season.

Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 is a direct competitor here, and its 128 GB version with a keyboard cover is about the same price as the Core-i5 Tap 11. Sony's tablet has a larger screen, and is much thinner and lighter than Microsoft's slate, whose thicker chassis, however, will offer you almost twice the battery life. If you aren't firm on the whole keyboard-screen part separation, you can also look at the Sony Vaio Duo 11 slider with 1080p display - it is much heavier than the Tap 11, and even the Surface, but at least you can prop it to watch movies on the plane without fatigue, for instance.

Alternatively, if you don't need legacy Windows program support and aren't going to use any wacky peripherals that need Windows drivers, you can always get the feathery iPad Air, or a slim Android tablet like the Sony Xperia Tablet Z for half the Tap 11 price, though with much less storage capacity.

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  • Slimmest, lightest design of a full-size Windows 8 tablet
  • Very good 1080p display
  • Included Active Pen stylus and magnetic keyboard cover


  • Battery life is on the short side for a Haswell device
  • Thin kickstand only lets you prop the tablet on a desk

PhoneArena Rating:


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