I’ve always been a fan of Sony’s Vaios, a line of notebooks that can be considered a dream for every geek. However, Vaios used to be peppery priced, so only available to a bunch of lucky ones. I said used to because things changed in the last years, with Sony launching netbooks like the Vaio M and the Vaio W series.
And now there’s another one, the Sony Vaio YB, a device meant to combine the mobility of a 11.6 inch mini laptop with the power you would need for all your daily apps, multimedia and even some games.
The Vaio YB is in fact the first Sony laptop to come with AMD Fusion hardware. The new AMD mobile platform impressed so much that even Vaios now house it and the results are quite impressive.
In the rows below you’re going to find a couple of things about the Vaio YB, a laptop that has in pros and cons, like the title of this post says. You’re also going to find a pretty thorough video review and pictures, so scroll along for the details.
But first, let’s take a look at the specs on this mini notebook:
- AMD APU with E-350 dual-core Zacate processor clocked at 1.6 GHz + AMD 6150 graphics
- 2 GB of memory (upgradeable to 4 GB)
- 320 GB hard-drive
- Bluetooth 2.1, Wireless N
- 11.6 inch 1366 x 768 px glossy display
- chiclet keyboard, cramped trackpad
- small 39Wh 3500 mAh battery
- measures 202.8 x 25 x 290 mm (11.4 x 8 x 1.25 inches) and weighs 1.46 Kg (3.2 pounds)
- Windows 7 Home Premium OS
And now that we know what to expect from the Vaio YB, let’s jump into details.
The video review
Those of you not really interested in all the buggers, please check out the video review. More details however will be available in the written post you’ll find below.
Exterior, design, build quality
Being a Vaio, you would expect the best from the YB in terms of exterior and construction. And it’s not bad, but not that good as I personally hoped. This mini laptop is covered in a matte plastic casing which is actually quite prone to scratching (managed to scratch the lid badly in the few days I was playing with it). Of course, the fact that this plastic is matte is a plus, but feels overall quite cheap for a Vaio and it even squeaks when grabbing it firmly.
Still, don’t get me wrong, the quality is high, just not as high as on previous Vaios I’ve got my hands on. And of course, we do have to keep in mind that this is a budget laptop and that’s probably why Sony had to go with this kind of plastic for the exterior.
Design and overall line of the YB is similar to most other Vaios on the market right now, with the rounded hinge and Vaio branded hood, as you can see in the pics here in the post. So not much to add there, the YB is as stylish as a Vaio can be.
And we also have to point out that this notebook is lighter than other AMD powered 11.6 inchers on the market right now, weighing only 3.2 pounds (but that’s mainly because of the smaller battery included, as you’ll see further down).
Ports and connectivity
There’s pretty much all you’d need on this one in terms of ports, including video output (VGA, HDMI), 3 USB slots (only 2.0), SD and Memory Duo card readers, LAN, Wireless N and Bluetooth 2.1 . There’s even a Kensignton lock and overall ports placement is good, although those 2 USBs on the right side are kind of close together and may be difficult to use at the same time.
The pictures below should tell you more about ports layout on the YB.
Keyboard and trackpad
There’s an island type keyboard on the YB, similar to what we saw on previous 13.3 and 15.6 inch Vaios. However, keys are just too small (and some of them are greatly undersized, like the right Shift and the arrows keys) and flat, so typing feels somewhat uncomfortable, although they are properly spaced. Plus, they are a tad noisy, especially that hefty big Space key. So not bad, but definitely there’s room for improvements, especially if you consider that most 11.6 inch laptops have bigger keyboards and the one on this machine seems like borrowed from 10 inch netbooks.
Trackpad is unfortunately even worse. Sony’s design leaves a lot of room on top of the keyboard and almost none below, so the trackpad is cramped. It does come with individual right/left click buttons and supports multi-touch gestures, which is something we appreciate, but there’s simply not enough space to actually make this touchpad comfortable to use daily.
Not much to say about the display, there’s a standard 11.6 inch LED backlit screen on this one, with 1366 x 768 px resolution and a glossy finish. Color quality is great and images are nice and crisp, but viewing angles are not that good, although well within the limits of this class and comparable to what competition actually offers.
This is probably the aspect most of you were looking for in this review: how does the Vaio YB with an AMD Zacate APU inside actually perform? For me, this is the first laptop on the new AMD config I get to test and was expecting to be somewhat similar to the Asus 1215N with dual-core ATOM and ION in terms of performances. But it’s actually even better.
Windows runs smooth even with Aero ON all the time and the little thing can multitask. Just don’t throw too much at it, this is still a low power configuration.
In terms of graphics, it impresses even more. 1080P multimedia content runs very well, both self stored or streamed (Flash clips from Youtube). Streaming services like Hulu or Netflix run great as well.
As for gaming, I do have to say I’ve tried Fifa 11 and COW Modern Warfare 2 on this one and managed to play them smoothly, on native resolution (1366 x 768 px), although with details set towards minimum. Still, this is better than I could get on the 1215N and don’t forget these are recent games, older titles like WOW, Counter Strike or Starcraft should run even better.
So the YB with AMD inside is for sure a compact multimedia companion, as it can run all kind of video content (and outut it via HDMI as well) and modern games as well, with details dimmed down.
I’ve also ran a couple of benchmarks and you can find the results below.
All in all, don’t think this is a power horse, not at all. But AMD’s platform really managed to bring the amount of CPU and graphic power most of us would need on a standard compact laptop in this class, all these while keeping power consumption and prices down. So Kudos for them for that, this is something we’ve been expecting in a while.
One of the main reasons people buy a mini laptop is portability and you really can’t get that one without proper battery life. And here’s where the YB really fails badly.
Because Sony only installed a 3 Cell 39 Wh 3500 mAh battery on this notebook, you will get only up to 4-5 hours of life tops. And actually less during everyday use. I managed to score:
- nearly 5 hours while typing with Wi-Fi OFF and screen dimmed to wards 40%, with no music playing in the background
- around 4 hours on everyday use basics, typing, chatting, listening to some music, watching some clips, with Wi-Fi ON and Screen at around 50%
- around 3 hours while playing a 720p HD clip with Wi-Fi OFF and screen at 80%, using the speakers
And that’s not bad, but other 11.6 inch laptops can do a lot better. Even my 1825PT Acer tablet is at least 25% superior and other AMD Fusion powered notebooks outbeat it even more.
So the problem is actually the size of the battery like I said, just too small for what this one would need. Not to mention that it takes forever to load, like on all Vaios launched in the last years.
Audio, noise, heat and others
Can’t say audio quality is impressive on this one, but can’t say the speakers are too bad also.
The EyeSight webcam placed on top of the screen is decent as well, even in low light conditions, but once gain, nothing impressive.
During everyday use, the Vaio runs fairly silent and cool, although the fan does kick from time to time and HDD’s cranks are easily noticeable when using it in a silent room, during the night. The good part is that not much changes when playing a game or running an HD clip, except for the fan running most of the time, but you won’t notice it at all cause there’s the sound from the game/movie covering it anyway.
Price and availability
As I said from starters, the Sony Vaio YB is one of the most affordable Vaios on the market. This config we have here goes for $550 in the States and around 500 euros across the pond, so that’s for sure a competitive price.
It is already available in most online and offline shops and can be found in a couple of different color options or can be upgraded with extras (like more memory, matching accessories or even SSD storage). You can find it discounted on Amazon and you also get the upgraded version with 500 GB HDD and 4 GB of memory for only a couple of bucks extra.
If you want a Sony Vaio for your everyday tasks and some multimedia use, this is the one for you, especially if you are on a budget and crave for a light and compact laptop.
However, if you’re looking for the best 11.6 inch device around 500-600 bucks, I’m afraid this is not the one, as other notebooks manage to outperform it in terms of finishing quality, ergonomics (keyboard and trackpad) and especially battery life. And I’m talking about both devices with AMD Fusion under the hood, like the HP Pavilion DM1z and the Lenovo ThinkPad X120e, but also devices powered by Intel ULV hardware (see the list of best 11.6 inch mini laptops for details).
All in all though, the Sony Vaio YB ain’t bad for sure. But it just lacks the details to be the perfect choice, unless of course you really want that to-die-for Vaio Logo on the hood of you compact notebook…