When shopping around for a new notebook, there is a great deal of choice on the market. There are models to cover every budget and use, with wild variations in price and specifications.
One question that comes up repeatedly, however, always pits the Apple Mac and the Sony Vaio against one another. This is partially because Apple and Sony are both huge brands that are bound to butt up against one another in any number of areas. A corollary factor is that they have both come to be ever-present, powerful players in the notebook market. Therefore, it is of course natural that consumers, when eyeing a new notebook, tend to compare the two.
Nevertheless, there are important and sizeable differences between the two; with each serving certain tasks better than the other does. As well as this, users want to know which is more reliable and, very importantly, which represents the best value for money.
To get to the bottom of the debate, we will take a look at some of the most important facets and capabilities of the MacBook Air and the Sony Vaio Fit 13A, compare them, and see what the answer is.
Most consumers know going in that neither the MacBook Air nor the Sony Vaio Fit 13A are ‘budget’ notebooks.
The cheapest, thirteen inch, decent spec MacBook tends to come in at around the £950 mark, whilst a comparable Vaio starts at around the same price, being perhaps a little more expensive. At the other end of the scale, a fully loaded MacBook Air will come in at £1,129, with the Vaio Fit 13A coming in at a slightly heftier £1,399.
The most obvious difference between the two, and one that we will address right off the bat, is the fact that the 13A operates as a touchscreen device, as well as a notebook. This dual functionality is a big pull for some, with the Vaio representing good return on investment when one considers the price of a notebook and tablet separately, without even considering that this would be a powerful notebook on its own.
Whilst these prices may seem high, it is key to remember that a MacBook Air or Vaio is not normally for everyday web surfing and general tasks. They are designed as powerful, ultra-capable machines that will deliver powerful performance and be able to cope with anything thrown at them. It is also important to remember that the Sony and Apple brands come with a certain price tag, and that price reflects the experience that the user expects.
In order to fairly compare the two brands, we will look at the capabilities of these top-price models and contrast them.
The Verdict: The dual functionality of the Vaio wins out, even though it is slightly more expensive.
That said, there are major differences between the MacBook Air and the Vaio Fit 13A that may sway some.
The first major difference between the two is their differing hard drives. The Vaio Fit contains a 1 Terabyte hard drive, whilst the MacBook Air packs a 256-gigabyte solid-state drive. The hard drive of the Vaio offers a massive amount of space – nearly 4 times as much as the Mac. The solid-state drive of the Mac, however, has the advantage when it comes to speed and start up. The solid-state drive it carries, unlike the Vaio Fit 13 A’s traditional hard drive relies upon moving parts within the hard drive to write and retrieve data. These types of hard drives traditionally take longer to warm up and get up to speed. The SSHD of the Mac instead has no moving parts or disc, and instead uses flash memory to access and retrieve data. Solid-state drives require no time to fire up and allow for instant access to the machine, with saving and retrieving data noticeably faster too.
In terms of RAM, though, the Vaio has a distinct edge. It comes with a whopping 8GB of RAM, whilst the MacBook Air has 4GB. This provides a compelling off-set to the difference in the notebook’s drive capabilities, with the boosted RAM of the Vaio Fit enabling speedier access to, and performance of, programs, games, and other tasks.
When it comes to the graphics cards of these two notebooks, the MacBook has the advantage, with its Intel HD Graphics 5000 outpacing the older Intel HD Graphics 4400 that is inside the Vaio Fit 13A.
The Verdict: The MacBook Air edges this one. The MacBook has the SSD advantage, whilst the Vaio wins the RAM race, but the Mac wins with a nose by virtue of its better graphics capabilities.
Alongside what is under the bonnet of these notebooks, there are a few other vital statistics that potential users want to know about.
The Vaio Fit’s screen, for example, measures in at 13.3 inches, with the MacBook Air coming in under that at 13.1, which is a negligible difference. Whilst talking about visuals, it is prudent to note that the Vaio also has the greater screen resolution, weighing in at 1920 x 1080, whilst the Mac delivers in 1440 x 900.
The Mac has two USB 3.0 ports, whilst the Vaio Fit 13A has two at its disposal and, whilst on the subject of ports, it is a good idea to study the difference between the Vaio’s HDMI capabilities and Thunderbolt, which is utilised by the Mac. The Thunderbolt connection can do many things that HDMI connections can do, offering great picture and sound quality, and is able to charge devices. Whilst HDMI cannot deliver a charge to a device, it is much more widespread and connectivity is probably going to be easier with the Vaio than the MacBook Air.
The Verdict: It is a tough call here, but the Vaio inches it in terms of a marginally better screen size, higher resolution, and easier connectivity.
Aside from the purely technical specifications, there are also a couple of other areas that these two notebooks can do battle.
OS X, Apple’s operating system that comes with the MacBook Air, bears mentioning. OS X, by default, is much less prone to viruses, Trojans, and other attacks than Windows. This is for a few reasons. At the base level, OS X, based on the UNIX architecture, is just naturally more secure than Windows. This is in part due to their design and the fact that Apple updates come from one trusted source – Apple. A Windows system must update from multiple sources, some of which could be infected.
Another reason is the sheer popularity of Windows. Now, this may seem counterintuitive, but it really makes sense. If someone is designing a virus, they want it to infect as many machines as quickly as possible, so Windows is the natural target as it is shared by more machines worldwide than Apple. It is the same reason thieves might rob a bank rather than a corner shop – the reward will simply be much bigger.
This is another area where Apple’s smaller stature stands it in good stead.
We have all had something go wrong on our Windows PC, and had one of those, ‘Would You Like to Send an Error Report?’ messages blink onto our screens. No one ever says ‘yes’, because we know that they are pointless. Microsoft is such a large company that we know there isn’t anyone looking at these notifications and, if something does go wrong, it is largely on our backs to fix it.
With Apple, because they have a much smaller, nimbler customer service program can offer real support that is a class leader in the field. In this area, there really is no competition between the two.
The Verdict: Apple wins this round, by virtue of its more centralised, security and customer service features.
Overall, it is a tight race between the Vaio Fit 13A and the MacBook Air, with both trading blows in terms of hardware, price, and myriad other factors.
Ultimately, the MacBook Air edges it. The superior security, SSD, and customer service put it over the top, though both are sterling worthwhile machines.