One thing is certain when reviewing a Sony VAIO laptop: lots of people will come up to us and tell us how nice it looks. And we're not going to argue. The Sony VAIO YB Series (VPCYB16KG) ultraportable laptop (or sub-notebook) sure does look good with its sloping style, subtle curves, isolated keys and coloured lid (although we hate pink), and it feels very comfortable to use, too. It's an 11.6in notebook that's light (only 1.42kg), and best of all, it also has a very small and light power adapter.
VAIO YB Series: Specifications
The Sony VAIO YB Series (VPCYB16KG) is based on the AMD Fusion platform, which houses processing and graphics capabilities in a single little chip, which AMD claims is around the size of an Australian five cent piece. It also has 2GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Gigabit Ethernet. The Fusion platform in this VAIO is composed of the dual-core, 1.6GHz AMD E-350 CPU and AMD Radeon HD 6310 graphics, which give the notebook a decent dab of speed for office applications, Web and multimedia tasks.
The graphics processor, in particular, is very strong for such a small laptop. Not only does it drive a beautiful 11.6in LED-backlit LCD screen with a resolution of 1366x768 pixels, it can also drive a Full HD television through the notebook's HDMI port (there is also a VGA port for those of you who want to hook it up to monitor that doesn't have HDMI). Once connected to a TV, the graphics driver has options for adjusting the screen if the desktop ends up being too big or too small; this means you can fit the whole Windows 7 Home Premium desktop onto a TV. We couldn't do this with the 10.1in Toshiba NB550D, which runs a slightly slower Fusion platform comprising a 1GHz AMD C-50 CPU and AMD Radeon HD 6250 graphics. Movie playback on a 40in Full HD TV was clear and smooth, and if you buy yourself a remote control the VAIO YB Series can be used capably as a Media Centre.
VAIO YB Series: Performance
In our performance tests, the VAIO YB Series returned solid results. Our Blender 3D rendering test was completed in 2min 44sec, while our iTunes MP3 encoding test took 4min 4sec, and our hard drive transfer test recorded a rate of 15.82 megabytes per second. The hard drive result is a lot slower than we expected (we would have been happy with around 20-22MBps), while the Blender and MP3 results are much faster than a netbook with an Intel Atom CPU and a little slower than a laptop with an Intel ultra-low-voltage Core i3 CPU. The previous VAIO Y Series notebook we reviewed, the VPCYA15FGB, features an Intel Core i3-380UM CPU and recorded times of 1min 52sec in Blender and 3min 06sec in iTumes.
The overall feel of the YB Series isn't too sluggish when you use it for typical office tasks and Web browsing, but if you're used to a laptop with an Intel Core i5 CPU or similar, you will notice that it's a lot less responsive when launching applications and system windows. When it comes to processing graphics, though, the YB Series isn't a slouch, and large photos and videos will be displayed with ease. A result of 2229 in 3DMark06 reinforces just how much better than a typical laptop (let alone an entry-level netbook) the graphics processing of the Fusion platform is. For example, Intel HD graphics in a mainstream Core i5 notebook (such as the Toshiba Satellite C650) will record a score between 1000 and 1500 in this benchmark.
We love the overall style of the VAIO YB Series laptop and also think it's quite comfortable to use — especially on your lap. The notebook never really got warm at all during our tests, even after many hours of use. It will get warm, however, if you inadvertently block the air vent on the left side of the chassis, so you will need to keep this in mind. The notebook feels solidly built; its hinges are smooth and do a good job of holding the screen in place. The battery does rattle around a little though (we've also noticed in other VAIO laptops recently). It didn't cause any problems and the battery never fell out while we were using the laptop.
VAIO YB Series: Battery life
In our battery test, in which we disable power management, maximise screen brightness, enable Wi-Fi and loop an Xvid-encoded video file, the VAIO YB Series lasted 3hr 34min, which is 20min better than the VAIO Y Series notebook equipped with a Intel Core i3-380UM CPU and 21min better than the Toshiba NB550D. Its not as good as the time recorded by many netbooks, such as the HP Mini 5103 and Acer Aspire One Happy, but the VAIO YB Series has a lot more CPU and graphics processing power.
The one thing we don't like about the Sony VAIO YB Series laptop is its touchpad, which was sometimes unresponsive when we dragged our finger across its bottom half. Apart from that and the slow hard drive, we have few complaints. The screen's colour and clarity is among the best (if not the best) we've seen in a sub-$1000 laptop, the HDMI port allows you to plug in to a big-screen TV with ease, and the laptop's base barely gets warm even after prolonged periods of use. If you're after a small laptop for general use, watching videos and viewing photos, then you probably can't do any better than the VAIO YB Series (VPCYA15FGB). We recommend it.
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