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Sony Vaio Y Series Review: Proving Fusion's Potential

Author: Matt Smith
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Sony

User Interface, Display and Audio Quality

 User Interface

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The Sony Vaio Y offers a 11.6” display, and the chassis isn’t much larger than it needs to be to accommodate it. This means space is a premium. The Sony Vaio Y deals with the limited real estate by offering an island style keyboard. The individual keys are extremely small, which means you’ll likely require a few minutes to become comfortable. However, the upside of the small keys is the larger amount of space between each individual key, which means keeping track of your finger position isn’t difficult. 

The layout of the keyboard is good, as well. Although Ctrl, Fn, Windows and Alt keys are all small, they’re not hard to find. The shift, caps lock, enter and backspace keys are all large for a keyboard of this size, as are the F keys. While the design of the keyboard unfortunately doesn’t take full advantage of the available space – there is about half an inch of spare room on either side – my overall impression is positive. This is one of the better small laptop keyboards I’ve used recently. 

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I wish I could say the same about the touchpad. When I first laid eyes on it, I chuckled out loud. It is an absurdly small touchpad even for a laptop of this size. Like the keyboard, it fails to take advantage of the space available, as there is additional room above and below the touchpad that could have been used. The touchpad buttons are small and feel a bit cheap, and while the palmrest has a texture, the touchpad surface itself is flat and a bit too smooth. While the touchpad does accept multitouch gestures, they’re jerky and the size of the touchpad is too small for them to me of much use. 

There’s no kind way to put this; the touchpad of the Sony Vaio Y ruins the user experience. I would not want to use the Sony Vaio Y regularly without a good portable mouse. That’s a problem a big problem for an 11.6” laptop built for frequent travel. 

Display and Audio Quality

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The 11.6” display on the Sony Vaio Y boasts a resolution of 1366x768. It’s no longer uncommon for laptops of this size of offer this particular display resolution, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a nice feature to have. The high resolution relative to the display size allows for a fine, crisp picture that is noticeably sharper than what you’ll find are larger laptops that make do with the same display resolution. This of course means that the Sony Vaio Y, despite its small size, is no less productive than much larger laptops.

Resolution is the only aspect of the Vaio Y’s display worthy of praise, however. The glossy finish provides predictable results – contrast is decent and colors pop, but at the expensive of usability. This situation isn’t helped by the dim backlight or the poor viewing angles, both of which conspire to make the Sony Vaio Y difficult to use in a brightly lit room. 

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The nastiest strike against the Sony Vaio Y’s display, however, is the black level performance. Although the display is quite capable of rendering deep shades of gray against a black background, it introduces a static effect while doing so. Staring at a near-black image on the Vaio Y’s display is like viewing the image on television that’s picking up an analog over-the-air signal. From afar, the effect is difficult to notice, but as you look closer you’ll begin to notice that parts of the image shimmer and move. 

Audio quality is rarely strong from laptops of this size, but the Sony Vaio Y manages to do better than most. The speakers, which are located on the bottom of the laptop, are barely loud enough to fill a room with sound. Even listening to a podcast can be difficult if there is some other source of noise nearby, such as a neighbor vacuuming his apartment or road work outside. With that said, the speakers don’t try to stretch far beyond their capabilities, so distortion is relatively rare. Your music may be quiet and tinny, but it at least won’t sound like a cat being tormented by a two-year-old child. 

 

April 22, 2011 | 07:35 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 23, 2011 | 12:27 AM - 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 23, 2011 | 02:17 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

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

April 23, 2011 | 03:47 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 | 12:56 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

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

April 23, 2011 | 02:39 AM - 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 | 03:20 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

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

April 26, 2011 | 01:31 PM - 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 24, 2011 | 12:29 AM - Posted by whiplash55 (not verified)

FF 4 seems to have issues in general.

April 26, 2011 | 01:50 AM - 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 | 06:09 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 | 08:16 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 | 06:46 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 | 07:02 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 | 06:57 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 | 02:29 PM - 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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