While picking up the Sony VAIO Flip 15A today, I had a chance to see the recently released Sony Tap 11, the Windows 8 tablet most likely to give the Surface Pro 2 a run for its money. 

Since I was focused on the convertible laptop, I didn't have the chance to really look closely at the Tap 11, but fortunately TabletPCReview forum member @ravisurdhar just posted a very interesting review of the new device with specific comparisons to the Surface Pro 2. 

He graciously agreed to let me reprint his story in full, but please make sure to visit his original thread if you'd like to share you thoughts on his predicament. 

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I just got my Tap 11 yesterday and I've been running it through its paces this weekend. I also picked up a Surface Pro 2 a few weeks ago, with the intent of returning whichever device I didn't like. Bottom line: It's a hard choice. Both have a lot of strong positives, as well as a lot of strong negatives. (Note: When I use the term "Surface" below, I'm referring to the Surface Pro 2, not the original Surface). 

Initial impressions and build quality: WOW. You're telling me this 3/8 inch thick tablet has a dual core i5, 4GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD, and runs Windows 8? Welcome to the future! Why can't all tablets be this thin and light? It really makes the Surface feel like a brick. However, when you start to examine it a little closer, you wonder also why Sony skimped on a lot of external design features. The port covers are incredibly flimsy, don't stay closed very well, and are ultimately unnecessary (reference the exposed ports on the Surface). The plastic casing on mine separates from the screen a little on the top, enough to wedge a fingernail in there. Same at the bottom when you press the Start button (which requires about twice as much pressure as I'd want...it's fairly hard to press. The capacitive button on the Surface is a much better solution). The pen clip is a bit finicky to get on (though once on it stays put very well), and it blocks the USB and HDMI ports. The power connector is the worst I've ever seen. It requires a lot of force to shove in, and then once it's in it's very loose in the socket. The variable kickstand is great, just very small. Works fantastic on a desk, not so much in your lap.

Screen: Wonderful. Colors look almost identical to the Surface. It's maybe very slightly less crisp than the Surface, but you don't really see it unless you've got them side by side. The screen is the same resolution, but noticeably bigger than the Surface. The Tap 11 has a 10-1/8" x 5-11/16" (257mm x 144mm) display, while the Surface has a 9-1/4" x 5-1/4" (235mm x 132mm) display. In the desktop mode I use 100% font scaling (instead of the default 150%), and its quite manageable on the Tap 11 but difficult on the Surface, due to the different display size. 

Pen: If you're an artist, you can stop here: get the Surface. In OneNote, I don't notice a difference between the two. However, NTrig uses Microsoft's pen API, whereas Wacom uses both Microsoft's and the WinTAB API. Adobe applications use only the WinTAB API. Meaning, the pen works in Photoshop/Illustrator, but there's no pressure sensitivity. I've tried installing various drivers and whatnot and I can't get it to work. I'm not an artist, so this isn't a limiting factor to me, but it is annoying that Sony went with an NTrig pen instead of a Wacom. The tracking is also far slower on the NTrig, so you still get problems like this: 

Keyboard: The Tap 11's keyboard is great. It feel almost like a normal, though maybe cheap, laptop keyboard. Key spacing is nice, stroke length is decent, and there are few "dead zones" (where you press a key but it doesn't actually register a keypress. I've noticed one area on the Enter key and that's it). Compared to the Surface keyboard, the spacing is much better, and the fact that there are gaps between the keys is so much nicer than the Surface's keyboard which has no gaps. The trackpad is almost unusably bad though. Just use your finger or the pen. The magnetic attachment works well and it keeps the keyboard/cover in place very securely. The keyboard doesn't use bluetooth, but its own radio that can be turned on and off in Windows. I'm not sure how I feel yet about the fact that the keyboard does not hinge off the screen like on the Surface. Also, you can't charge the keyboard without placing it on top of the screen, causing the computer to be unusable as the batteries charge. I imagine this could get annoying. 

Performance and battery life: I don't have any hard numbers, but performance seems to be on par with the Surface. I rarely get any hangups or pauses, even when multitasking between Chrome, Mail, Photoshop, and Reader. You can find battery life tests online, but I'm estimating about 4 hours for the Tap 11 and 6 hours for the Surface. 

Overall: I'm conflicted. The Surface has impeccable build quality, feels very sturdy, and uses a Wacom pen. The Tap 11 is far thinner and lighter and has a significantly bigger screen. But the build quality concerns me...I don't want this to break in 3 months. And for that reason, I think I'm going to be sticking with the Surface...but I'm not really sure. 

Feel free to PM or leave a reply here if you'd like to see any specific tests run. I have about 2 more weeks before I have to make up my mind!

AuthorRick Rodriguez