Sony VAIO Y Series Notebook Review

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If you've never had the pleasure of handling a Sony VAIO notebok, it's worth trying. Sony has set the bar for PC laptop design on occasion, and while the ThinkPad Edge is stylish in its own right, there's just something special about a VAIO that we have yet to see replicated.  Apple has iconic designs for their machines, and while it's obviously an Apples to Oranges discussion (pun intended), we would have to say that Sony is the closest PC counterpart from a style perspective. We still prefer the aluminum shell compared to Sony's reliance on plastics, but you can tell that some serious engineering went into designing this new Y Series.


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It's actually a touch thicker than the ThinkPad Edge, but the whole machine just feels more spacious despite the fact this it's just another 13.3" ultraportable. We do wish that Sony would have added a slot-loading optical drive (or any optical drive) in order to make this machine stand out above the competition, but if you need to insert a CD or DVD you'll have to spring for an external unit. The design is simple and subtle, yet well implemented. The charcoal color covers the machine inside and out, and the slight textures on the palm rest not only jazz things up a bit, but they actually feel great when you're typing on the machine.

    
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As for build quality, this Y series machine is one of the more sturdy ultraportables that we've used, but we wouldn't trust it to survive a fall from your hip. Keyboard flex was nonexistent, and the LCD hinge felt extremely sturdy. The trackpad was also fantastic to use, and its 3.9lbs. was almost difficult to notice when stuffed into a backpack. You'll still find loads of plastics, so we wouldn't place it at ThinkPad-levels of rigidity, but it's certainly a leap above most of the other rivals in the space.


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An interesting design choice seen on this machine is the inset keyboard. This is the first ultraportable we have seen where the keyboard is set a bit lower than the palm rest and the speaker bar above they keys. The point is to make the tops of the keys, and not the base of the keys, flush with the palm rest. It's a subtle change, but wow, does it make a difference in comfort. We had no issues typing for hours on the well-spaced chicklet style keyboard, and right away we noticed how much more enjoyable this spacing was to use. We're guessing that more PC makers will pick up on this; it's hard to notice at a glance, but you'll immediately appreciate the added comfort once you take to the keys.


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Around the edges, you'll find a 34mm ExpressCard slot, a total of 3 USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, a power button, AC socket, VGA and HDMI outputs, mini FireWire and audio in/out ports. No IO sockets are placed on the rear, but two card slots and a Wi-Fi on/off switch are on the front. The trackpad is one of the larger ones we have seen for a notebook of this size, and there are dedicated left/right click buttons. The LCD won't recline 100%, but it sets back far enough for the vast majority of circumstances. The machine also has a glossy-style LCD panel with a 1366x768 native resolution.


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