Sony VAIO YB Series Review
Sony’s 11-inch notebook provides 1080p video playback and superior style, but battery life and audio could be better.
Lowest Price: $543.65
Thanks to AMD’s new Fusion platform, which combines a low-voltage processor with powerful Radeon graphics, a new generation of budget-oriented 11-inch ultraportables has invaded the market. The Sony VAIO YB ($599) isn’t the cheapest of this bunch, but it packs strong performance, solid battery life, and sleek software into its sexy metallic chassis. Is this laptop good enough to be your constant companion?
For a budget-minded ultraportable, the VAIO YB doesn’t skimp on style, incorporating the best design elements in Sony’s arsenal. Its metallic fuchsia lid (also available in silver) really stands out in a crowd, while its chrome-colored deck and trim ooze elegance. The sexy rounded metal hinges light up orange (for sleep) or green (for powered on) and give the VAIO YB a futuristic look and feel. A metallic textured palm rest completes the space-age aesthetic.
At 11.4 x 8 x 1.25 inches and 3.2 pounds, the Sony VAIO YB isn’t MacBook Air-light (2.9 pounds). However, this notebook is lighter than other 11-inch Fusion ultraportables, such as the HP Pavilion dm1z (11.4 x 8.4 x 1.2 inches, 3.4 pounds) and the Lenovo ThinkPad X120e (11.1 x 8.2 x 1.2-inches, 3.4 pounds).
Keyboard and Touchpad
The VAIO YB’s island-style keyboard is attractive and offers a reasonable amount of tactile feedback. However, the keyboard is noticeably smaller than those on 11-inch competitors such as the ThinkPad X120e and the 11-inch MacBook Air. Considering that 11-inch notebooks have smaller-than-normal keyboards in the first place, this means the VAIO YB has some undersized keys, including a tiny right Shift key. The keys are also completely flat, making it more difficult to detect their boundaries by feel alone.
On the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, we found ourselves typing as quickly as usual, but making a lot more errors, particularly involving the Shift and punctuation keys. Rather than our usual 80 words per minute and 1- to 2-percent error rate, we managed 82 words per minute with a 5-percent error rate.
On the bright side, the VAIO YB’s palm rest has a pleasant texture, stays cool, and slopes downward. So, even though our hands hung over the edge of the chassis a bit, the notebook was a lot more comfortable for resting our wrists than other 11-inchers with short palm rests, such as the ThinkPad X120e.
The 2.5 x 1.4-inch touchpad is a little on the small side, but its smooth matter surface provides accurate navigation around the desktop; it also supported multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom. The two discrete buttons offer just the right amount of feedback.
Unlike the Lenovo ThinkPad X120e, which had a few warm spots in the high 90s and over 100 degrees, the VAIO YB stayed so cool that we could barely tell it was on. After streaming a video at full screen for 15 minutes, we measured the touchpad at only 86 degrees Fahrenheit, the keyboard at a chilly 89 degrees, and the bottom at a maximum of 92 degrees.