Vizio CT15-A4 Review: Performance and elegance in one slick package
At a Glance
It's not often that I'm taken with a laptop before even touching it, but I was with the $899 Vizio CT15-A4. Then again, I'm a sucker for minimalist design and that's the CT15-A4 in a nutshell: streamlined and elegant. It's also one of the thinner 15.6-inch laptops you'll run across. There are some imperfections, but when all is said and done, I wish I could keep it.
Appearance and Ergonomics
I've already tipped my hand about my appreciation for the CT15-A4's streamlined appearance, but let's get specific: the logo is cool, the beveled edges on both the bottom and top halves of the unit look nifty, and the pewter color makes the laptop look classy. I even like the fact that the bezel surrounding the 15.6-inch, 1920 by 1080 display is matte black rather than shiny. Nothing about this laptop shouts at you or demands your attention; it's very cool. I do have a minor nit to pick with the slim design: if you have short fingernails it is a bit difficult to open the unit. The indent on the lower half could be a bit deeper to ameliorate that condition.
It took me a while to get used to the placement of the CT15-A4's keyboard. There's a rather broad expanse of deck between the front lip and the keyboard, but it was easy enough to adjust once I realized I needed to cozy up a bit closer to the laptop than normal. The keyboard itself has short throw with a rather light feel. You will never mistake it for a Lenovo, but it's funcrional. The rocking touchpad has a better feel, with a nice median sensitivity to tapping.
The CT15-A4's display delivers crisp, sharp text, and 1080p movies look magnificent on it. Sound is about average for today's laptops: great through headphones, loud but not so great through the speakers at the top of the keyboard deck. The 1.3MP Webcam is top-notch and color fidelity is better than with most I've used.
The 14.9-inch wide, 9.9-inch deep, 0.7-inch thick CT15-A4 is a bit heavy for something billed as thin and light. The laptop itself weighs 3.9 pounds and the power adapter brings that up to 4.8 pounds. That may seem light, but in practice the laptop feels heavy during travel. On the other hand, the heft reassures you that the aluminum body won't flex too much and allow damage to the components.
Specs and Performance
The CT15-A4 we reviewed inludes an Intel Core i5-3317U processor, 4GB of DDR3 memory, and a Toshiba 128GB SSD for storage. Good basic specs, and there's also an $1199, CT15-A5 model available with a faster Intel Core i7-3517U CPU and a larger 256GB SSD. Ports on both models consist of one USB 3.0 port on each side of the unit, accompanied by a headset jack on the left and an HDMI port on the right. Vizio doesn't offer an Ethernet jack or card reader on either model, so you'll need to rely on the USB equivalents.
Performance-wise, the CT15-A4 is no slouch. Its 76 on WorldBench 8 is the highest we've seen so far (in what is, to be fair, a relatively limited group of notebooks), and startup time is a mere 8.6 seconds. Gaming framerates are exactly what you'd expect from an integrated Intel HD 4000 GPU: playable at lower resolutions (1366 by 768 is as high as you'll want to go with low detail), but not workable at higher resolutions, including the 1920 by 1080 that's native for the CT15-A4. The battery life in our rundown tests was about 4 hours, 30 minutes. Not the best we've seen, but not bad for a thin and light laptop with a high resolution display and a Core i5.
Aside from the Windows 8 operating system, Vizio doesn't throw in a lot of software. This laptop comes with Skype and...well, that's about it. In my book that is a very good thing; the CT15-A4 is truly one of the most junk-free computers I've ever tested.
For a relative newcomer, Vizio has done an outstanding job with the CT15-A4. It's an extremely nice thin and light laptop with great style and performance. Sure, at almost five pounds I could find fault with the "light" part, but I don't want to. I want to keep it.