Sony VAIO Y Series (VPCYA15FGB) notebook

Sony VAIO Y Series (VPCYA15FGB) review: An awesome little Sony laptop with a reasonable price

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Sony VAIO Y Series (VPCYA15FGB)
  • Sony VAIO Y Series (VPCYA15FGB)
  • Sony VAIO Y Series (VPCYA15FGB)
  • Sony VAIO Y Series (VPCYA15FGB)
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Light, well built, decent battery life, Core i3 CPU, tiny power adapter

Cons

  • Power LED is too bright, wireless toggle is too loose, touchpad a little too sensitive, some undersized keys, only 2GB RAM

Bottom Line

The Sony VAIO Y Series ultraportable notebook represents good value in our opinion. It's very small and light, it's nicely designed and it feels comfortable to use for the most part. Under the hood it features a Core i3 CPU, which gives it ample power to tackle office tasks and Web browsing. We like it a lot.

Would you buy this?

The small and light Sony VAIO Y Series (VPCYA15FGB) is a desirable ultraportable notebook for anyone who travels a lot — it's only about an inch and a half bigger than a typical netbook. Unlike netbooks, which use Intel Atom CPUs, the Y Series uses a low-voltage version of the Intel Core i3 CPU, which gives a lot more grunt when it comes to running office applications and multitasking. There are a couple of little quirks in the VAIO's design that are annoying, but overall it's a solid little unit that's perfect for everyday use, and it's not too expensive either.

Sony VAIO Y Series: Design

The Sony VAIO Y Series (VPCYA15FGB) is an 11.6in ultraportable notebook that weighs 1.4kg. It feels solidly constructed for the most part, although its screen does puddle quite easily when you move the lid back and forth, and the battery does feel a little loose. It doesn't have as much flair as other Sony notebooks we've seen, such as the VAIO E Series; it instead sports an elegant, sloping design in which the power button and power connector are both located on the spine. The notebook's palm rest is textured, it has a chiclet keyboard that's easy to type on once you get used to it (although there are some annoying undersized keys) and it has a useful array of connections along its sides. One thing we'd change about the design is the indicator light, which glows bright green when the notebook is powered on, and orange when it's on standby. In a dark room, this light really shines too brightly. We'd like it to be a little more subdued.

The Y Series gets warm on its underside, but not so much as to make you feel uncomfortable. However, you have to be careful that you don't block the left-hand air vent while you use it, otherwise the bottom panel will heat up more than it's supposed to. The fan inside the chassis pushes out a lot of air and it can get loud when the CPU is working hard, but when the VAIO is only being used for writing a document, for example, it only emits a soft whirring sound.

Sony VAIO Y Series: Specifications and performance

The VAIO Y Series that we tested uses an Intel Core i3-380UM CPU, which has two cores and Hyper-Threading, and which runs at a somewhat sluggish 1.3GHz. It won't win any sprints (its results in the Blender 3D rendering and iTunes MP3 encoding tests of 1min 52sec and 3min 06sec, respectively, show this) but it's not the type of notebook you would want to use for high-end pursuits that require plenty of CPU power anyway. It's the type of notebook you buy when all you want is something small and capable of running office suites and Web applications, something for viewing photos and videos, or just something nice and small to Skype with.

For giggles, we ran our video transcoding test, in which we use AutoGordianKnot to convert a DVD file into a 1.5GB Xvid video; it took the VAIO 2hr 13min. This result shows that it can definitely undertake a complex task or two, but it won't be quick about it — it's about an hour slower than a regular-voltage Core i3 notebook such as Toshiba's Satellite C650, which runs at 2.26GHz.

Graphics processing is undertaken by the on-board Intel GMA HD chip, and this gives the VAIO Y Series adequate speed for processing large images on the screen. You won't be able to run any games on it that feature complex graphics — its score of 1113 in 3DMark06 underlines this. The hard drive in the VAIO Y Series is 320GB, which is a standard size for low-cost notebooks these days, and it spins at 5400rpm. It produced a transfer rate of 24.94 megabytes per second (MBps) in our tests, which is an average result.

Sony VAIO Y Series: Features and usability

The Y Series has a high quality 11.6in screen. Even though it's glossy, it's not as prone to reflections as other glossy notebook screens we've seen recently. It also has a relatively high resolution for an ultraportable notebook (1366x768) and its colours and viewing angles are good, making it a decent screen on which to view photos you've just taken with your digital camera.

We're not huge fans of the notebook's touchpad: it's a tad small, it feels a little too smooth and too sensitive, and it only supports one-finger scrolling rather than two-finger scrolling. When picking up the notebook, you have to be careful that you don't accidentally switch off the wireless module. Its physical toggle is located on the right side and we lost count of the times we inadvertently flicked it to the off position.

Around the edges of the Y Series you'll find three USB2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, VGA, HDMI, SD and Memory Stick Duo slots, and headphone and microphone jacks. You also get 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a built-in webcam.

Sony VAIO Y Series: Battery life

One thing we absolutely love about this VAIO is that it has a very small power brick. It's one of the smallest we've seen for any laptop to date and it means that you can travel light when you take this notebook with you on the road. The notebook's 38 Watt-hour battery lasted 3hr 14min in our rundown test, in which we disable power management, maximise the screen brightness, enable Wi-Fi and loop an Xvid-encoded video file. This is a decent time, and you can get more out of it if you tone down the screen brightness and implement some power-saving measures in the Control Panel. There is an option for a bigger battery, too, if you need a lot more time to play with while away from an outlet.

Conclusion

It's small, it's light, it looks good and it performs reasonably well. Overall, the Sony VAIO Y Series is a great ultraportable notebook, and even though it has a few design quirks there is plenty to like about it. It has a competitive price tag of $1099, which we think is great for a notebook of this size and quality.

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