The Sony VAIO Y Series laptop was one of the first laptops on the market to sport the AMD Fusion chipset. Unlike netbooks which are affordable, but also underpowered, the AMD Fusion series is designed to power ultraportable laptops and make them affordable, without sacrificing performance. The VAIO Y Series configuration that we tested runs on an AMD Dual-Core E-350 1.60GHz processor with 3GB of ram and AMD Radeon HD 6310 graphics, and it packs in an 11.6″ LED backlit display along with a 320GB hard drive, 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth, a webcam with Motion Eye, and HDMI out.
Available in with a silver body with a pink or silver cover, the VAIO Y series looks great. Like most of Sony’s laptops, it’s well made too. The system has no flex and it seems hardy too, yet it manages to weigh just 3.23lbs. This is a laptop that not only looks good, but you can also carry it around in your bag the whole day without feeling it much at all. The pink option is not an overly girl pink either, it’s more of a fuchsia color and being that its complimented by the silver and black accents, it isn’t overkill like so any other pink laptops can be. The circular power button that is located on the right side of the device also pimps out the device by glowing, which is a nice touch in a budget laptop. We also like that the included AC adapter is quite petite and that it comes with a long extension chord. Otherwise the laptop comes with a standard set of ports including ethernet, and two USB ports on the right side, and a front-mounted card reader.
The VAIO Y series sports a full size keyboard. Th black chicklet style keys are super comfortable to type on and provide great tactile feedback without being squishy. The keys are also well-spaced. We’re really enjoying the keyboard on this laptop. The black keys also serve as a attractive Macbook Pro-like contrast to the silver colored chassis. The mouse trackpad could really be bigger though in order to take advantage of Windows 7 gestures, but that isn’t a deal breaker.
Unfortunately, the display might just be the poorest component on this system. The display is sharp and packs in a great 1366×768 resolution, and it does get adequaetly bright. And while it is superior too many other netbook displays, the colors are a washed out and they definitely don’t pop. The display’s viewing angles aren’t that great either.
The VAIO Y Series is running on an AMD Fusion APU with AMD Radeon HD 6310 Graphics. An APU combines the CPU and GPU (graphics processing unit) onto a single low power chip. That means that the system is powerful enough for some moderately serious gaming and it is even powerful enough to play DirectX 11 games. The APU enables the CPU and GPU to work hand-in hand, so that the CPU can off load multimedia intensive tasks to the GPU as needed. As a result, the APU ends up being powerful enough for gaming, serious multimedia tasks, and even HD video playback and video editing. In particular AMD fusion offers some other “bonuses” like the ability to accelerate apps lie Powerpoint, it can serve to auto-enhance Flash 10.1 video so that the video looks and plays better, it can dynamically help improve contrast and anti-aliasing on video, and it can also speed up photo and video tagging.
Compared to the netbooks we have reviewed and used in the past, the VAIO Y series is leaps and bounds ahead of them all in terms of performance. Where we often found ourselves tapping our fingers and getting frustrated when trying to multitask or watch an HD video on some other netbooks, the VAIO Y series handles these chores without issue. Overall, the VAIO Y system handles multitasking very well too. I was able to run Internet explorer, Microsoft Word, Skype and Watch a 1080P video simultaneously without any hangups.
In 3DMark11, the system earned a score of p277 3DMark. 3DMark11 is designed to benchmark DirectX 11 hardware. In PCMark05, the system earned a score of 2684, and in 3DMark06 the system earned a score of 2218 3DMarks. The system also earned a Windows Experience score of 3.7, but a score of 5.7 for 3D business and graphics performance. The system also takes about a minute and a half to boot up. Overall, these benchmarks basically help prove that the processor in the VAIO Y series isn’t quite the fastest out there for an ultraportable, but it still manages to offer the multimedia, gaming and multitasking performance chops that you would expect from a more expensive laptop. And no matter what, the system trounces most netbooks in terms of performance.
The system also comes with HDMI out. That means that you can connect the notebook to an external HD display and the notebook is powerful enough to playback even 1080P on an external display. That is quite the feat at this price point. We cant help but imagine the possibilities here. You could transform the VAIO Y series into a portable media center PC or Boxee Box.
With WiFi turned on, moderate use under a balanced power setting, we got about 4 hours of power before the battery drained.
The system comes with a healthy suite of software including Microsoft Office Starter, a Norton Internet Security trial, Adobe Reader 9, Skype, VAIO Messenger, Evernote, the ArcSoft Webcam suite with WebCam Companion 4 Monitor Mode, VAIO media plus, AMD’s Catalyst control center for optimizing your system’s performance, and Remote Play which lets you operate your PS3 from Your VAIO via your home network.
There is a reason why netbooks are dying. Partly because tablets are taking over, but also because netbooks are generally underpowered when it comes to multimedia intensive tasks. It used to be that ultraportables would cost an arm and a leg, But AMD Fusion laptops have changed all of that. If you’re looking to buy a netbook, for just a $100 or so more you can pick up an AMD Fusion based laptop which will offer you tons more value and performance. Really, it’s kind of a no brainer and the benchmarks tell all. A year ago, it would have been a pipe dream to pick up a sub $500 ultraportable laptop that could offer some moderately serious gaming performance including support for resource-heavy DirectX 11 games, but AMD Fusion changes all of that.
The VAIO Y series that we tested feels so much faster than the netbooks we’ve tested and used in the past. It actually feels like a “regular” laptop in day to day tasks. Granted, the VAIO Y series is definitely not running on the the fastest laptop processors out there by far, but it offers tons of multimedia and graphics performance for the price. The VAIO Y series might also not pack in some bells and whistles like SSD or USB 3.0 like the more expensive ultraportables do, but it manages to still be a well designed, and well rounded, and capable ultraportable. This laptop is great for students on a budget or anyone who has lusted after an ultraportable but hasn’t been able to afford those price one until now. The Sony VAIO Y series is available in silver or pink, and it is currently on sale for $499 through May 7th – that is a $100 savings. This $499 configuration includes 4GB of ram and a 500GB hard drive. That said, there are other direct competitors to the VAIO Y series, like the HP Pavilion Dm1Z, which are also running on the AMD Fusion chipset, but are even more affordably priced at $449.
The Good: As portable as a netbook but significantly more powerful, very affordable, lightweight and sleek and pretty-in-pink design is feminine but not overly so, AMD Fusion chipset provides great multimedia and gaming performance despite low price tag
The Bad: Washed out colors on display are a bummer, touchpad area is small, battery life could be better