This year has seen some big updates to my tech gear. After four and a half years of fantastic service, my beloved Sony Vaio Pro 13 finally gave up the ghost last November. How I loved this machine; purchased in June 2013 it was one of the last Vaio machines produced by Sony and, for the briefest of windows, it was their flagship; a 4th gen core i7-4500U processor with 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD and a 1920×1080 13.3″ touchscreen.
The killer feature, for me, was the weight; just 1050g (primarily as a result of the beautiful, if alarmingly flexible, carbon fibre frame). I think it’s fair to say I thrashed the hell out of this machine with daily use and some serious processing (for work) not to mention multiple international trips. The battery started off at around 6hrs but progressively dropped until I was squeezing less than 2, the touchscreen developed an annoying shadow screen left just 2 years in but it was a failed fan that ultimately lead to an overcooked CPU (and some worried fellow employees after a noisy demise in my open plan office).
Time to hit the savings account
So off I went on the hunt for a replacement for the best laptop there ever was… starting with some requirements 😉
- Lightweight. Just in case that wasn’t obvious? I’m kinda interested in the weight
- I’m a Windows kid; mostly because of the database I need to use for work
- I need a lot of disk space for all my photos and all the database crunching for work
- During my work day I tend to move from meeting to meeting with my laptop so a decent enough battery life would be good
- I’d also like to upgrade to a form factor that supported tablet mode which is useful on planes when space it as a premium.
After five years I naively assumed I would easily be able to improve on the Vaio specs without taking a hit on weight. I was wrong. While the processors are faster, the storage is bigger and the screens are better there are literally no machines on the market that are lighter than the Vaio with even an equivalent spec.
HP Spectre x360
After discounting most of the leading lighter weight ultrabooks for lack of ports (Surface Pro) or mediocre specs (Dell) I finally settled on the HP Spectre x360. Weighing in at 1238g it offers an 8th gen core i7-8550U processor with 16GB RAM, a whopping 1TB SSD, a gorgeous 3840×2160 13.3″ touchscreen and a form factor that works remarkably well for me (I find myself using the ‘tent’ mode in presentations a lot). It also ships with a ‘Tilt’ stylus that has proven surprisingly useful (16g with a 6g AAAA battery) which replaces my old 25g Kensington PresentAir Pen (same battery).
The battery life is a significant improvement (a claimed 12 hrs) and I love the dual IR camera for Windows hello. I made a small compromise on the ports (no HDMI so a 17g adapter is required) but the single USB-A 3.0 and dual USB-C (one for charging) means I can cut down my other peripherals and compensate for the weight gain in the machine.
I had to travel to the UK to buy the ‘dark ash grey’ version over the garish Aussie native ‘silver’ version. I needn’t have bothered as the trim is still showy in ‘rose gold’, but in addition to a UK jolly, this enabled me to buy the matching HP Z5000 Bluetooth mouse (right) which is just beautiful, and weighs just 60g with a 15g AA battery, as opposed to my old Logitech M337 (left) 74g with the same battery.
In 2013 the Sony Vaio shipped with a charger that weighed 270g and featured an extra USB 3.0 charging port which I used a lot. Despite charging via USB-C the HP Spectre ships with a single purpose 60W charger that weighs an entirely unnecessary 315g. Unsurprisingly this was replaced very quickly with a much lighter alternative: the awesome Mbeat Gorilla 45W charger. This well constructed little device weighs a paltry 131g and offers two USB-A charging ports in addition to a 45W supply via USB-C (it’s 45W total output across all ports – so a little slower to charge than the HP, particularly while charging other devices, but perfectly adequate). It comes with interchangeable mains plugs (AU 17g, UK 26g, EU 17g and US 11g) and a little black 11g polyester bag for stashing the mains adapters not in use. You will also need a decent USB-C cable to connect to the laptop (I went for a 2m Anker cable at 52g). Unlike other adapters this doesn’t run hot, doesn’t spark when inserted in to sockets and offers an earth pin on the AU and UK plugs (ensuring a secure connection each time). I discounted the otherwise rather interesting Card adapter for this reason. All up that’s 265g for a charger that works the world over and can power all your USB devices. At just 5g less than the Sony Vaio charger this wasn’t a huge saving but the universal adapter function of the Mbeat (with two USB ports) allowed me to ditch my 132g Skross Pro Light USB World adapter.
Finally the HP Spectre’s on-board storage bump from 512GB to 1TB allowed me to downscale my backup drive, in quite a big way. My trusty Samsung 4TB portable HD had served me well for over 3 years but at 242g (plus a 22g cable) it was a bit on the heavy side. I had been eying up the hellishly expensive portable SSD drives for a while now and when Samsung finally released their flagship T5 USB-C 3.1 2TB device I knew it was time. This thing is so small and light I actually thought I’d been shipped a fake on unboxing. It’s about half the size and half the depth of the HD and it weighs just 51g. Remarkable. It’s also incredibly fast, supports USB-C data transfer, and being SSD is (presumably) incredibly robust. Certainly I’ve not had any issues in the first 6 months of ownership. I also managed to find a crazy small Momax USB-C cable weighing just 6g (so 57g instead of 264g)
So what was the overall weight impact?
|Sony Vaio||HP Spectre|
|USB-C to HDMI Adapter||17|
|Presenter Pen / Stylus||25||16|
|Universal Adapter / Plugs||132||65|
A whopping 162g saving. Yeah… could have just ditched a tee shirt.