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Vizio 14-Inch Thin + Light (CT14-A4) Review
The Windows 8 update of the Vizio 14-inch Thin + Light CT14-A4 ultrabook brings an improved trackpad and Microsoft’s new operating system, but a couple of familiar nits still keep the CT14-A4 from jumping to the top of our leaderboard
- 1,600 by 900 resolution screen
- Improved trackpad
- Good performance from SSD and Core i5 processor
- Dual band 802.11 Wi-Fi
- No Bloatware
- HDMI out port
- USB 3.0 only
- Screen lacks touch functionality
- Slippery keyboard
The Vizio 14-inch Thin + Light (CT14-A2) ($849 list) ultrabook, complete with Windows 8 OS, improves a little by swapping in a new trackpad to its already svelte package. While not the hit out of the park we were hoping for, it shows that Vizio, the new kid on the PC block, is listening to customers and making gradual changes to its laptops. Vizio is headed in the right direction.
Design and Features
The CT14-A4 follows its previous model the Vizio 14-inch Thin + Light (CT14-A2) ($1,100 list), and essentially it uses the same thin chassis. Both are built into a wedge-shaped all-aluminum chassis, looking very much like they’re spoiling for a fight with the Apple Macbook Air 13-inch (Mid 2012) ($1,199 list, 4 stars). With a weight of just under three and a half pounds, and dimensions of 9 by 13.5 by 0.7 inches (HWD), the CT14-A4 certainly is portable around the house or around the world.
The CT14-A4 has a gorgeous screen, fitting since Vizio has made a name for itself with high-quality, low-cost LCD panels in HDTVs. The 14-inch panel on the CT14-A4 isn’t true 1080p HD (1,920 by 1,080 resolution); rather, it is a 1,600 by 900 panel, well over the 720p spec of lesser 1,366 by 768 panels. This means you will see a clearer picture when viewing videos online, as well as having a bit more screen real estate when viewing large spreadsheets and websites. The 1,600 by 900 resolution is also more conducive to multitasking, as you can view more windows simultaneously.
The screen isn’t touch-enabled, which is a pity. Windows 8 really needs a touch screen to be truly useful, as our entry-level ultrabook with touch-screen Editors’ Choice Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51 ($699) shows. The VivoBook has a lower 1,366 by 768 resolution screen in order to meet that price point. Vizio has improved the formerly wonky trackpad that they shipped on the CT14-A2. With improved drivers and hardware, the trackpad on the CT14-A4 is a lot more responsive to taps and multi-finger gestures. The keyboard, however, has the same slick keycaps on it, so it’s less than ideal for the touch typist. Sure, the non-backlit keyboard looks nice, but you really need a good feel on the keyboard whether your goal is to create the great American novel, or to just make your deadline for quarterly reports.
The CT14-A4 comes with 128GB of space on its SSD, which is thankfully free of bloatware. The CT14-A4 comes with only a couple of extra tiles on the Start screen: Skype and Microsoft Office. In addition to the clean Start screen, the system’s desktop mode is also free of trialware, nagware, and bloatware. The 128GB SSD helps the CT14-A4 start up in seconds, whether from a sleep state or from a true power off situation. The system’s power plug has a charge state LED on it, showing solid green when the system is fully charged. Other ports on the system include two USB 3.0 ports, a headset jack, and a full-sized HDMI-out port.
The CT14-A4′s Intel Core i5-3317U processor with Intel HD Graphics 4000 is a familiar sight in ultrabooks. It appears in the majority of the ultrabooks we’ve reviewed, because it had very good multimedia and day-to-day performance in a package that fits in today’s slim ultrabooks. Consequently the CT14-A4 managed a Handbrake test time of under 1 minute 30 seconds, and a Photoshop CS6 time under five and a half minutes. Both are close to the best scores we’ve seen for a Core i5-powered unit. It’s certainly faster than similarly priced ultrabooks like the HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100 ($904.98 direct). It matches the performance of systems like the Toshiba Satellite U945-S4390 ($800 list) on the multimedia tests, but the CT14-A4 comes out ahead of the Toshiba U945-S4390 in day-to-day tasks since the CT14-A4 comes with a speedy SSD compared to the Toshiba U945-S4390′s hybrid SSD+HDD. The CT14-A4′s battery life of 4 hours 30 minutes on our rundown test is square in the middle of the pack—neither exceptional nor terrible.
The Vizio 14-inch Thin + Light is slowly, but surely, improving. It’s certainly a better laptop than the Windows 7-equipped Vizio CT14-A2 model we looked at last year, and cheaper to boot. If you like the styling and higher-resolution screen, it’s certainly a rival to older systems like our Editors’ Choice for mainstream ultrabooks, the Toshiba Portege Z935-P300. The Toshiba Z935-P300 still holds on to its crown, however, being much lighter while making better sense as a Windows 7 system without a touch screen. Windows 8 really begs a touch screen to fulfill its potential, so if you like Vizio ultrabook’s styling and screen, you may want to wait a few months or weeks for the next (touch screen) version.
Compare the Vizio 14-inch Thin + Light (CT14-A2) with several other laptops side by side.
By Joel Santo Domingo, PCMag
- Type: Ultrabook
- Processor Name: Intel Core i5-3317U
- Processor Speed: 1.7 GHz
- Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8
- RAM: 4 GB
- Weight: 3.4 lb
- Screen Size: 14 inches
- Screen Type: Widescreen
- Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics 4000
- Storage Capacity (as Tested): 128 GB
- Networking Options: 802.11n