The Vaio brand lives on. And while it’s no longer under the Sony banner, much of what we loved about those older Vaio laptops has returned. From its featherweight chassis to the borderline- absurd buffet of ports, the Vaio SX14 has plenty of highlights.
But as a business laptop that costs upward of $2,100, the Vaio faces a tough task: persuading people and companies to spend that sort of money on something other than an Apple laptop. We can’t fault that thinking; the 13-inch MacBook Pro is an excellent all-around machine that offers standout performance and good battery life in a premium, portable chassis.
So if you’re a business exec or a creative professional, which portable business laptop should you buy: the Vaio SX14 or MacBook Pro? Read on to find out.
|Vaio SX14||Apple MacBook Pro|
|Starting Price (as configured)||$999 ($1,999)||$1,799 ($1,999)|
|Colors||Black, Silver, Red, Brown||Space Gray, Silver|
|Display||14-inch, 4K||13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel|
|CPU||Core i5-8265U, Core i7-8565U||Intel Core i5, Core i7|
|RAM||8GB, 16GB||8GB, 16GB|
|SSD||256GB, 512GB, 1TB||128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB|
|Ports||VGA, Ethernet, HDMI, USB Type-C, USB 3.1 (Type-A), 2 USB 3.0, SD card, headphone/mic, lock slot||4 Thunderbolt 3, headphone/mic|
|Size||12.6 x 8.8 x 0.7 inches||12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches|
|Weight||2.3 pounds||3 pounds|
Larger screen means less portable, right? Not in this case. The SX14 is a deceivingly light laptop, weighing in at a mere 2.3 pounds.
Sitting at the ground of this laptop teeter-totter, the MacBook Pro weighs 3 pounds, which makes it fairly portable but heavier than many of its 13-inch competitors.
With a lid made of lightweight carbon and a deck finished with brushed aluminum, the SX14’s chassis is a smart balance of brawn and beauty. Our all-black model looks especially stealthy, thanks to its various shades of glossy and matte black.
The SX14’s lightness will grab your attention when you’re carrying it; On a desk, you’ll be intrigued by the laptop’s elevated deck, which is raised off the ground by two nubs on the laptop’s back edge. The downward angle of the deck makes for a better typing experience and maximizes airflow when the SX14’s fans rev up.
All the craziness going on with the SX14’s design makes the MacBook Pro look bland. Apple hasn’t made any major aesthetic changes to the MacBook Pro in years. We’d be more upset if the MacBook Pro still wasn’t one of the sleekest machines around. The utilitarian aluminum chassis with its iconic Apple logo is unquestionably elegant. Regardless, it’s time for a change.
Because of the thin bezels surrounding its display, the 14-inch SX14 (12.6 x 8.8 x 0.7 inches) isn’t much larger than the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro (12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches).
The MacBook Pro keeps things simple. You get four Thunderbolt 3 ports, two on each side, for superfast transfer speeds and connecting to multiple high-res monitors.
The SX14 took the opposite approach, including practically every laptop port from the last decade. On the right side of the SX14 is a VGA input (yes, it still exists), an Ethernet port, an HDMI, a USB 3.1 Type-C port, a USB 3.1 Type-A port and an SD card slot. But wait, there’s more. On the left side are two USB 3.0 ports, a lock slot and a headphone/mic jack.
We would have liked a Thunderbolt 3 port, but the SX14’s variety of ports is still more versatile than the MacBook Pro’s limited selection.
Your favorite shows will look great on either of these laptops, but the 4K panel on the Vaio SX14 is the sharper of the two.
Other than the extra pixels on the Vaio, the displays on the SX14 and MacBook Pro have practically the same qualities.
According to our colorimeter, the SX14’s 14-inch, 4K panel reproduces 113% of the sRGB color gamut, making it slightly less vivid than the MacBook Pro’s 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel panel (118%). Both of those results are short of the premium laptop average (130%).
The SX14 reversed its fortunes on our brightness test, peaking at 428 nits, whereas the MacBook Pro’s screen is a tad dimmer, at 408 nits. This time, both laptops beat the category average of 345 nits.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Vaio SX14 has one of the best keyboards and worst touchpads, while the MacBook has one of the worst keyboards and best touchpads.
The problem isn’t that the MacBook Pro’s keyboard is uncomfortable. Yes, the keys travel a measly 0.6 millimeters, but they have a nice clickiness to them and their 60 grams of actuation force means your fingers will feel a nice bump but aren’t ever slowed down.
We’re more worried about durability. Apple promises the mysterious new material used in this latest model will prevent double typing or keys failing to register, but we’re still weary of Apple’s claims, especially after the well-documented issues found in Apple’s Butterfly switch.
I have no qualms with the SX14’s keyboard, which has decent travel, at 1.2mm (though still below our 1.5mm preference) and clicky keys with 61 grams of actuation force. Also, the downward-angled deck put my wrists in a more natural position for a more comfortable typing experience.
The SX14’s 3.1 x 1.7-inch touchpad is a headache to use. Cramped and with stiff clickers, the touchpad made Windows 10 gestures more difficult than they should be. Conversely, Apple’s MacBook touchpads have long been considered the best in the business and the 5.3 x 3.2-inch surface on the latest MacBook Pro is no different.
Our MacBook Pro review unit outperformed the SX14 even though it was configured with lesser components.
On the Geekbench 4.1 overall performance test, the MacBook Pro with a Core i5 CPU and 16GB of RAM scored an 18,221, much higher than the SX14’s (Core i7-8565U, 16GB of RAM) 14,806 result and the category average (14,910).
The MacBook Pro even topped the SX14 on our video transcoding test, transferring a 4K video into 1080p resolution in 14 minutes and 20 seconds. The Vaio completed the same task in 16 minutes and 46 seconds, which is slower than the MacBook Pro but much faster than the average premium laptop (22:27).
The storage drives in Apple’s new laptops are ridiculously fast. Our MacBook Pro’s 256GB SSD transferred 4.97GB of multimedia files in 2 seconds at a rate of 2,573 megabytes per second. The SX14’s 1TB SSD is fast in its own right, with transfer speeds of 727 MBps (the category average is 558.5 MBps), but don’t expect anyone to top Apple anytime soon.
MORE: Best Apple Laptops
Neither laptop is meant for gaming and that showed on our real-world graphics performance test in which the SX14 played Dirt 3 at 38 frames per seconds while the MacBook Pro ran the racing game at 33 fps. Both are above our 30-fps playability threshold but well below the 67-fps category average.
Winner: MacBook Pro
The SX14 has remained competitive thus far, but here is where that ends in brutal fashion.
The Vaio SX14 lasted for 4 hours and 27 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits. With a runtime of 8 hours and 41 minutes, the MacBook Pro lasts nearly twice as long on a charge. Ouch.
Winner: MacBook Pro
Value and Price
Good luck finding a more expensive 13-inch laptop than the MacBook Pro. The new base model with two Thunderbolt 3 ports starts at $1,299 and includes a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. For $1,499, you can double the storage to 256GB and keep the same specs.
The higher-end version (with four Thunderbolt 3 ports) that we pitted against the SX14 starts at a steep $1,799 with a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Opting for 16GB of RAM brings us to our $1,999 review unit.
For $100 less, you can get the SX14 with a 4K display, a Core i7-8565U CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. Our review unit, which has the same specs but a 1TB SSD, goes for $2,199, or $500 less than a similarly specced MacBook Pro.
Overall Winner: Apple MacBook Pro
|HP Spectre Folio||HP Spectre x360|
|Battery Life (20)||8||15|
We’re happy to see the Vaio brand return with a successful business laptop that has a lot to offer to users. However, a few major missteps — awful battery life and a tiny touchpad — are the SX14’s undoing in this face-off. In Apple’s credit, the latest MacBook Pro offers blistering performance and solid battery life in a sleek, if bland, chassis.
If you can afford it, go with the exorbitantly priced MacBook Pro. Otherwise, you’re getting a great laptop with the SX14, but just be sure to buy a wireless mouse and an external battery.
Credit: Laptop Mag