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Sony Vaio Y Series Review: Proving Fusion's Potential

Author: Matt Smith
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Sony

Heat and Connectivity, Battery Life and Portability

 Heat and Connectivity 

Temperatures inside the Sony Vaio Y Series were what you’d expect; generally around 40 degrees Celsius at idle, but jumping up to the mid-50s at load. These readings are completely average, and translated to external surfaces that felt warm but never hot. While many laptops have noticeable hot-spots that become significantly warmer than any other part of the device, I didn’t notice this with the Sony Vaio Y. Stress-testing caused a uniform warming of the laptop’s bottom as well as the keyboard and palmrest areas. 

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The cooling of the Sony Vaio Y Series is courtesy of a fan that very much wants you to know that it’s there and working. The tone of the system fan varies from a light whirr (when the system is at idle) to a full-blown rush (when the system is under stress). Although the fan noise is thankfully smooth and gentle, its volume is distracting, particularly in a system with such weak speakers. You’ll have no problem hearing the Sony Vaio Y Series from across your office or bedroom if there aren’t any other sources of ambient noise.

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Connectivity is very netbook. On the left side you’ll find HDMI and VGA out as well as one USB 2.0 port. On the right side you’ll find two more USB 2.0 ports as well as an Ethernet jack and individual microphone and headphone jacks. Bluetooth is also standard. Overall, these connectivity options are as standard as one could imagine for a netbook, but since the Sony Vaio Y has a considerably higher price than many competitors, I was expecting more. 

Battery Life and Portability

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The display size of the Sony Vaio Y Series instantly implies that this is a laptop meant to be used on the go, but as chunkier competitors like the Dell Inspiron M101z prove, a small display doesn’t always lead to a svelte frame. 

Fortunately, the Sony Vaio Y isn’t packing unnecessary pounds or bulk. While the laptop is up to 1.25 inches thick (at the laptop’s rear) most of the chassis is under an inch thick and, due to some significant rounding, feels even thinner than it is. The approximately 3.25 pound weight of the Y is towards the heavier end of this category, but it’s still light enough to pass what I call the “where’s my laptop?” test. It’s difficult to tell if this laptop is in my backpack simply by picking it up and judging the bag’s weight. 

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The AMD E-350 processor in the Sony Vaio Y is designed with power efficiency in mind, and AMD’s early hype said the Fusion line should be on par with Atom when it comes to squeezing out every last drop of battery life. It was a bit disappointing, then, to see the Y return just shy of two and half hours of battery life in the Battery Eater Standard benchmark and just over five hours in the Battery Eater Reader’s Test benchmark. The older AMD ultraportables based on the Nile platform, such as the Toshiba Satellite T235D and the Dell Inspiron M101z, lasted longer.

AMD’s Fusion processor may not be the problem, however. Sony ships the Y with a bewilderingly small 3500mAh/38Wh battery. This is the smallest battery I ever recall seeing in a laptop that we’ve reviewed. Given what the E-350 has to work with, the battery life results are actually quite reasonable. This is a major flaw, and while it might be excusable if the laptop were priced at $350, the Y is a supposedly premium laptop with a price tag to match. Sony has larger batteries available for sale as accessories, but even the entirely average 5000mAh model is an extra $200. That’s just absurd.

 

April 22, 2011 | 04:35 PM - Posted by codedivine

This (and all other) articles are not rendering properly on Firefox 4. I am using Ubuntu btw so not sure about FF4 on Windows.
Here is a screenshot: http://imgur.com/3ZBju
As you can see, everything is aligned WAY to the right.

April 22, 2011 | 09:27 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Not for me sir. FF4 displays correctly: I'll show my add-ons because I bet that's whats causing your issue.
http://img190.imageshack.us/img190/9476/unledto.jpg

April 22, 2011 | 11:17 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Do me a favor and try hitting Ctrl+0 and see what happens.

April 23, 2011 | 12:47 AM - Posted by codedivine

I tried hitting Ctrl+0 but nothing changed.
I can confirm that things are broken for me (as shown in screenshot above) on FF4 + Ubuntu but are working on FF4 + Windows. I also tried disabling all the extensions but that did not fix it.

For now, I am viewing articles using Chrome which shows everything correctly.

April 23, 2011 | 09:56 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Okay, I haven't tested under Linux, thanks.

April 22, 2011 | 11:39 PM - Posted by berserker29 (not verified)

Am I the only one who thinks that the pathetic HDD score might represent a non-cosmetic design issue of Sony's.

Not necessarily a design error or anything - I mean, it's not like the drive suddenly failed mid test - but (very) generally speaking, HDD performance normally increases with density.

Here however, the faster machine's 500GB HDD score much lower than even comparatively hobbled C655D's 320GB drive.

Bottleneck by design? Sub-par HDD? Was there just THAT much bloatware?

April 23, 2011 | 12:20 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Interesting question; I'll have Matt post a reply.

April 26, 2011 | 10:31 AM - Posted by Matt Smith

I'd love to have a definitive answer for this, but I don't. It isn't something I looking further into during my time with the machine, and that time is now over.

I do not believe it to be a bloatware problem. Bloatware still hurts boot times, but generally doesn't heard performance once booted. Although I suppose a bloatware antivirus could kick in at the wrong time and skew a benchmark.

April 23, 2011 | 09:29 PM - Posted by whiplash55 (not verified)

FF 4 seems to have issues in general.

April 25, 2011 | 10:50 PM - Posted by Rick (not verified)

I've got a Thinkpad X120e, I ordered it with an E-350, 2Gb RAM, a 320Gb 7200RPM drive, plus the extended battery, in one of those Gottadeal specials for $349. I added 2Gb, and a 128Gb SSD from one of the Newegg deals, and got out for $529 total.

Performance is actually quite good, most day to day things are really drive IO limited, at least for perception. 720p works fine, the little trackpoint nubbin actually is really nice on something this small, to the point I wish they'd just not have the trackpad. Battery life is a solid 5 hours when on power optimized mode. The keyboard is very good, not "for a notbook", just good, better than most island keyboards.

Quibbles, backlighted keyboard, it's not the only one, I just think it should be standard. The plastic isn't as solid as a Tseries, the Google CR48 coating is fantastic, it's trackpad is better too, but overall its a slow POS, terrible OS, but those two thinks would be nice to steal. HiCap batter sticks out the back, and it's a bit thick, really that's about it. I really like it.

I've got a 2008 MBP that I still use as a main laptop, the trackpad just works, that's the killer app for me, and the Thinkpad isn't noticeably slower than the 2.6ghz C2D, mostly because apple used a SATA I connector, so getting faster than a 7200 drive doesn't make that much difference, I still may throw an old 64Gb SSD in it for kicks. My wife has a 11" macbook air, and the thinkpad and it run neck and neck. Sexiness isn't a comparison, but for actually use and travel it's fundamentally just as portable and performs the same. For a full time ultraportable I'd probably go X220, or just bite the bullet on a 15" MBP. I new white macbook with a core i3 mobile, would be compelling too, only add a pound, bigger screen and stay at $999. But overall it kicks the crap out of any Atom system.

The Sony version is not bad either, neighbor has one, but loading a fresh copy of windows on an SSD is key, and the trackpad is awful, but only apple and oddly Google have gotten that right at this point. I'd like to see one with a non customer replaceable battery, a la macs, just go get it slim and sexy, while keeping the price under $700, that might be pretty killer. But then you get into the price of something like a Thinkpad E220, so pay more get more.

April 26, 2011 | 03:09 AM - Posted by Emmi (not verified)

I own sony vaio and i just love it......
I think it would be second most loved brand after apple....

Sony BDP-N460

May 1, 2011 | 05:16 AM - Posted by Adam (not verified)

Am I the only one who *prefers* a smaller trackpad? The bigger they are, the easier they are to bump when typing. Just increase the sensitivity option, and it's perfect (aside from the cheap noisy plastic buttons). The huge trackpad size (and lack of sensitivity) on my MacBook makes it unusable IMO.

One thing the Fusions have over the Atoms is the max. ram capacity - 8gb works fine in the Sony (aside from Windows being a 32-bit version).

AFAICT, the Vaio is the only readily-available E-350 processor-based netbook in Australia at this time. I couldn't find anything with more grunt than this in a smaller and lighter form-factor available off-the-shelf.

Also not don't see the problem you describe with the viewing angle. Must only be an issue under very bright natural light?

And 29fps on YouTube is "uncomfortable"? Aren't most videos there 24fps or less? This review seems too harsh...

Cons:
- No shortcut/switch to control wireless/bluetooth.
- Not Bluetooth 3
- legacy VGA port instead of something more useful (eg. firewire/esata)
- slow HDD
- bad mouse buttons.

Pros: closest thing to meeting my requirements I could easily find in a store.

February 16, 2012 | 03:46 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The hinge cover area at the back is very weak.  The hinge cover on one side broke off as I put the laptop into my bag. It has exposed the circuit board for the on/off switch.

Also once you have one or two apps open it is glacially slow. I have gotten rid of all the Sony Bloatware and even close down the virus checker in standalone mode.

It takes FOREVER to open a folder with lots of contents, open a new application.

Can't wait to get rid of it.

My old single core netbook outperformed this.

February 16, 2012 | 04:02 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

By the way ... you can see the weak point in the hinge in the photo of the back that shows the green power on light in the review above. See how it is not quite aligned with the back of the body? That can catch on things and break the two little plastic pins that hold the two halves together and then it will rip off when you put the 'puter in a bag.

Perhaps the flimsiness of these thin plastic pieces should have been discovered in the review. You can wobble them around with light finger pressure.

February 16, 2012 | 03:57 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The hinge cover area at the back is very weak.  The hinge cover on ones side broke off as I put the laptop into my bag. It has exposed the circuit board for the on/off switch. The plastic is thin, not well connected to the chassis and has two little plastic pins that work as a snap together.

Have a feel of the area around the hinges ... it is really thin and fragile

Also once you have one or two apps open it is glacially slow. I have gotten rid of all the Sony Bloatware and even close down the virus checker in standalone mode.

It takes FOREVER to open a folder with lots of contents.
Can't wait to get rid of it.

July 2, 2012 | 11:29 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

id like to know if this laptop is good for games.For example games like diablo and minecraft.

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