In late 2013 I purchased, a first generation Sony Vaio Pro 13 notebook. After using it for a little more than two years I can say that I am still really satisfied with it. Back in 2013 I decided to get the device with the following configuration:
- Intel Core i7
- 8GB RAM
- 256 GB SSD
- FHD touch screen
- Premium package including the mini wireless router which can be attached to the power supply
Just to let you know: I never used Microsoft Windows on the device. One of the first actions in winter 2013 was to put a Linux distribution on it. Because the Sony Vaio Pro uses UEFI it was a little bit tricky at the beginning. Today it is one of the laptops with the best support for Linux I every had. Everything works and battery lifetime is good too.
But there is the one think Sony did not very well, at least at the first generation of the Vaio Pro notebooks: The wireless card is a mess! The signal is so incredible weak that some users simply disabled the internal wireless card and are using a 10€ WLAN USB-Stick instead. Sony tried to fix is for several month by issuing a BIOS/ UEFI update and several driver updates, but without success. To be fair, the signal improved by maybe 10-15%, but this means in a house you can sit now 5 meters away from the wireless access point instead if 4 meters.
In 2014 Sony released a 2nd generation of the devices in Europe. As far as I know they changed just two things:
- The SSD: From M.2 SATA to M.2 PCI-Express model
- The wireless card: From Intel 7260-N to Intel 7260-AC
Results of that were that the weak wireless signal was history and the data transfer rate of the SSD increased by 100%. The SSD thing is nice but also the SATA version has transfer rates which a good enough for me.
Because the wireless cards are modules, some users started to exchange the wireless card and put a Intel 7260-AC/ 7260NGW into the Vaio Pro 13.
My short blog entry will describe how to exactly do this and what needs to be taken into account to purchase the correct wireless card. Before I start with the descriptions and explanations, find some helpful links which inspired my to do the exchange too.
Link to the article at the Sony community where a member describes what he did:
Link to a Youtube video showing how to open the case of the Sony Vaio Pro 13:
Things to know about Sony Vaio Pro 13 Variants/ Models
The Sony Vaio Pro 11/ 13 notebooks are the last notebooks made by Sony and available for sale worldwide. All newer Vaio notebooks are from the company Vaio, which is the “old” notebook branch of Sony. Today this is an independent company and so far only selling their products in Japan.
As far as I know there are two generations of the Sony Vaio Pro 13. The first generation has this annoying wireless signal issue. But there is one more curiosity, because Sony made technically a difference between 1st gen. devices produced and sold for the US and Europe. The US model uses a M.2 PCI-E SSD and the European model has a M.2 SATA SSD. This means that the SSD of the European model has only 50% of the theoretical ready and write performance. The 2nd generation of the Sony Vaio Pro 13 has M.2 PCI-E SSDs only.
Opening the device
You will need to open your device for two things:
- Verify which version of notebook you have to select the correct wireless card
- Replacement of the old wireless card by the new one
Although the Vaio Pro 13 is an Ultrabook and a very slim on, the engineers of Sony did a good job when it come to the point of how to access the internals. The trick is that you can remove more or less the whole bottom cover/ shell of the device and access directly all major components. Next good news is that Sony did not glue the components together! But there are bad news: Yes, Sony used screws and yes, even standard one, but the are some plastic clips as well which can break easily. So be careful. Check the linked Youtube video from above which shows how to disassemble the device. My pictures will help, but to see is also once as a video can not be a bad idea.
To open the device you have to un-tighten the screws on the bottom of the device. To be able to access them, remove the extension battery, plastic covers and rubbers. The long rubber band at the front and also the rubber feet at the back need to be removed, because this thing covers the screws. Unfortunately the rubber was glued to the device… So you will have to glue it back on when putting everything back together.
To summarize it. You have to remove the following screws:
- 7 screws below the long rubber band at the front
- 1 screw inside the connection port for the extension battery
- 2 screws below the rubber feet at close to the left display hinges
- 2 screws below the rubber feet at close to the right display hinges
Next try to separate the bottom cover starting at the front bending it carefully open with your fingers. Be careful, because it is secured with some plastic clips. Continue separating towards the side where NO connection ports are. You will not be able to separate the bottom cover from the rest on the side where the connectors are yet!
When you separated/ opened the case everywhere except at the side where the connectors are, you should be able to simply push the bottom cover towards the direction where the connectors are and you should be able to remove the cover completely.
Now you have a good view on all components including the wireless card. Here I recommend to take some notes or pictures from the wireless card and if you may plan to update the SSD in the near future also from the SSD.
When having a look on the wireless card in my Vaio Pro 13 I recognized the antenna cables. Honestly this looks a little bit strange, because the antenna wires are just stuffed into the chassis. Check out this pictures and have a look on how the antenna cable (gray cable) is placed between the back cover and mainboard. Urg… I do not have a good feeling about this.
So in case the other wireless card does not improve the wireless signal a lot, I will disassemble the whole notebook and put new antenna cables in it.
Last words in this section. If you want to exchange the wireless card. Just remove the one screw, the antenna cables (works good with a plastic card and some gently force from below the pins). Put in the new wireless card, attache the antenna cables and here you go.
Remark: If you use Windows on the notebook, you do need to install after assembling the correct drivers for the new card! If you have not downloaded the right drivers so far, you have three options now:
- You own a USB-to-Ethernet adapter and you can get into the internet by using this connection
- You have access to a computer with internet access and you transfer the drivers via USB Stick onto your Vaio Pro 13
- You have to put in the old card again, boot Windows, do the download and execute the disassembling again – Sorry for that.
Shopping tips – Where to get the right wireless card
Before you start shopping for the Intel 7260-AC, first of all check which card is inside of your Sony Vaio Pro 13. As you can see on my pictures my build-in card is a Intel Bual Band Wireless-N 7260 model 7260NGW AN. This is the “old” card I really want to replace.
If you want to get more details about the cards, have a look into Intel ARK: http://ark.intel.com/products/family/59484/Intel-Wi-Fi-Products
When having a look onto the Intel ARK page you will recognized there are much more wireless cards listed than I mentioned. As you can see the 7260-N as well as the 7260-AC were released at the same point in time and there are newer cards! Whats special at the 7260-xx is that this card is available for two connectors! As “PCIe Half Mini Card” or “M.2 (NGFF) card”. All newer cards are available as “M.2” only.
My Sony Vaio Pro 13 uses the M.2 version, as you can find out by checking the Model “7260NGWAN” in the ARK database of Intel (http://ark.intel.com/products/75440/Intel-Dual-Band-Wireless-N-7260#@ordering
Therefore if I am looking for the 7260-AC, I will look for the M.2 version.
To do so you can simply do a search via Google Shopping. Because I am living in Germany, I used the Product/ Price comparison feature from heise.de.
The best search term is: “Intel Wireless-AC 7260”
Getting a M.2 version of the Intel Wireless-AC 7260 can be quite hard and it looks like (date: 20.02.2016) the cards got more expensive over the last month. From a good shop/ supplier I costs around 30 € plus shipping.
Because I do need a M.2 card. I decided to simply try the successor of the 7260, the Intel Wireless-AC 7265! This card costs around 20 € at a serious store.