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Vizio’s Thin + Light Touch laptops feel tight to the touch, still terrible for typing

Vizio’s new Thin + Light Touch systems make a play at the premium laptop market. We see if this relative newcomer to the PC scene has was it takes to compete. 

Vizio won’t be winning any awards for original branding with its Thin + Light,  but that’s okay. It turns out the company has some impressive hardware lined up for 2013.

The Thin + Light pair is made up by 14- and 15.6-inch models. Both offer a simple, sleek design that’s light on flash yet extremely sturdy. Apple’s MacBook Pro is an obvious inspiration (as is the case with many PC laptops) but Vizio has done a particularly good job of replicating the rock-solid feel Apple is so often praised for. That’s not to say everything is the same, however. The bottom of the laptop is covered with a grippy textured surface, instead of the smooth plastic or metal found on most competitors.

What separates these systems from the crowd is the hardware inside. Both are under an inch thick, yet they use standard-voltage processors instead of the low-voltage parts found in similar Ultrabooks. Vizio also gives consumers a choice between AMD and Intel processors in both systems. The AMD versions offer an A10 APU with integrated Radeon graphics while the Intel versions pack a Core i7 quad.

The 14-inch model offers a resolution of 1600 x 900 while the 15.6-inch version is 1080p. IPS panel technology and touch come standard. That means wide viewing angles, solid color reproduction and deep black levels. We can’t comment on brightness, however, because the laptops were shown in a relatively dim environment.

We are impressed with the progress Vizio has made. The chassis itself is among the best in the business and exceeds well-known premium laptops like the HP Envy Spectre 14 and Dell XPS 13.

Yet the devil remains in the details. The touchpad is large but otherwise unexceptional, and keyboard quality remains a sore point. The flat silver plastic keys look and feel cheap. Users might find this acceptable in an inexpensive system, but Vizio obviously considers these to be premium laptops.

Vizio expects a March launch at an unannounced MSRP. The price Vizio decides on will be important. While we like what we saw, the poor keyboard could be a major problem if the company doesn’t undercut its competition.