Sony Vaio YB review – affordable AMD powered Vaio, with ups&downs

Andrei Girbea November 8, 2013 Reviews 11 Comments

I’ve always been a fan of Sony’s Vaios, a line of notebooks that can be considered a dream for every geek. However, Vaios used to be peppery priced, so only available to a bunch of lucky ones. I said used to because things changed in the last years, with Sony launching netbooks like the Vaio M and the Vaio W series.

And now there’s another one, the Sony Vaio YB, a device meant to combine the mobility of a 11.6 inch mini laptop with the power you would need for all your daily apps, multimedia and even some games.

The Vaio YB is in fact the first Sony laptop to come with AMD Fusion hardware. The new AMD mobile platform impressed so much that even Vaios now house it and the results are quite impressive.

In the rows below you’re going to find a couple of things about the Vaio YB, a laptop that has in pros and cons, like the title of this post says. You’re also going to find a pretty thorough video review and pictures, so scroll along for the details.

But first, let’s take a look at the specs on this mini notebook:

  • AMD APU with E-350 dual-core Zacate processor clocked at 1.6 GHz + AMD 6150 graphics
  • 2 GB of memory (upgradeable to 4 GB)
  • 320 GB hard-drive
  • Bluetooth 2.1, Wireless N
  • 11.6 inch 1366 x 768 px glossy display
  • chiclet keyboard, cramped trackpad
  • small 39Wh 3500 mAh battery
  • measures 202.8 x 25 x 290 mm (11.4 x 8 x 1.25 inches) and weighs 1.46 Kg (3.2 pounds)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium OS

And now that we know what to expect from the Vaio YB, let’s jump into details.

Sony Vaio YB - 11.6 inch laptop with AMD Fusion hardware

Sony Vaio YB – 11.6 inch laptop with AMD Fusion hardware

The video review

Those of you not really interested in all the buggers, please check out the video review. More details however will be available in the written post you’ll find below.

Exterior, design, build quality

Being a Vaio, you would expect the best from the YB in terms of exterior and construction. And it’s not bad, but not that good as I personally hoped. This mini laptop is covered in a matte plastic casing which is actually quite prone to scratching (managed to scratch the lid badly in the few days I was playing with it). Of course, the fact that this plastic is matte is a plus, but feels overall quite cheap for a Vaio and it even squeaks when grabbing it firmly.

Still, don’t get me wrong, the quality is high, just not as high as on previous Vaios I’ve got my hands on. And of course, we do have to keep in mind that this is a budget laptop and that’s probably why Sony had to go with this kind of plastic for the exterior.

matte plastic used for the casing, but prone to scratches

Matte plastic used for the casing, but prone to scratches

Design and overall line of the YB is similar to most other Vaios on the market right now, with the rounded hinge and Vaio branded hood, as you can see in the pics here in the post. So not much to add there, the YB is as stylish as a Vaio can be.

And we also have to point out that this notebook is lighter than other AMD powered 11.6 inchers on the market right now, weighing only 3.2 pounds (but that’s mainly because of the smaller battery included, as you’ll see further down).

Ports and connectivity

There’s pretty much all you’d need on this one in terms of ports, including video output (VGA, HDMI), 3 USB slots (only 2.0), SD and Memory Duo card readers, LAN, Wireless N and Bluetooth 2.1 . There’s even a Kensignton lock and overall ports placement is good, although those 2 USBs on the right side are kind of close together and may be difficult to use at the same time.

The pictures below should tell you more about ports layout on the YB.

Front: Card readers, Wireless switch and Status LEDS

Front: Card readers, Wireless switch and Status LEDS

Right:

Right: headphone, mic, 2x USBs, Kensington Lock, LAN adapter and Power button

Left:

Left: PSU, VGA, HDMI, cooling vents and one USB slot

Back: battery and hinges

Back: battery and hinges

Bottom: easy access to battery, memory and hard-drive

Bottom: easy access to battery, memory and hard-drive

With the back cover opened: access to HDD and the two memory slots

With the back cover opened: access to HDD and the two memory slots

Keyboard and trackpad

There’s an island type keyboard on the YB, similar to what we saw on previous 13.3 and 15.6 inch Vaios. However, keys are just too small (and some of them are greatly undersized, like the right Shift and the arrows keys) and flat, so typing feels somewhat uncomfortable, although they are properly spaced. Plus, they are a tad noisy, especially that hefty big Space key. So not bad, but definitely there’s room for improvements, especially if you consider that most 11.6 inch laptops have bigger keyboards and the one on this machine seems like borrowed from 10 inch netbooks.

Cramped keyboard and trackpad

Cramped keyboard and trackpad

Trackpad is unfortunately even worse. Sony’s design leaves a lot of room on top of the keyboard and almost none below, so the trackpad is cramped. It does come with individual right/left click buttons and supports multi-touch gestures,  which is something we appreciate, but there’s simply not enough space to actually make this touchpad comfortable to use daily.

Display

Not much to say about the display, there’s a standard 11.6 inch LED backlit screen on this one, with 1366 x 768 px resolution and a glossy finish. Color quality is great and images are nice and crisp, but viewing angles are not that good, although well within the limits of this class and comparable to what competition actually offers.

Performances

This is probably the aspect most of you were looking for in this review: how does the Vaio YB with an AMD Zacate APU inside actually perform? For me, this is the first laptop on the new AMD config I get to test and was expecting to be somewhat similar to the Asus 1215N with dual-core ATOM and ION in terms of performances. But it’s actually even better.

Windows runs smooth even with Aero ON all the time and the little thing can multitask. Just don’t throw too much at it, this is still a low power configuration.

In terms of graphics, it impresses even more. 1080P multimedia content runs very well, both self stored or streamed (Flash clips from Youtube). Streaming services like Hulu or Netflix run great as well.

As for gaming, I do have to say I’ve tried Fifa 11 and COW Modern Warfare 2 on this one and managed to play them smoothly, on native resolution (1366 x 768 px), although with details set towards minimum. Still, this is better than I could get on the 1215N and don’t forget these are recent games, older titles like WOW, Counter Strike or Starcraft should run even better.

So the YB with AMD inside is for sure a compact multimedia companion, as it can run all kind of video content (and outut it via HDMI as well) and modern games as well, with details dimmed down.

I’ve also ran a couple of benchmarks and you can find the results below.

Cinebench 11.5

Cinebench 11.5

3DMark Vantage Entry

3DMark Vantage Entry

PC Mark Vantage

PC Mark Vantage

All in all, don’t think this is a power horse, not at all. But AMD’s platform really managed to bring the amount of CPU and graphic power most of us would need on a standard compact laptop in this class, all these while keeping power consumption and prices down. So Kudos for them for that, this is something we’ve been expecting in a while.

Battery Life

One of the main reasons people buy a mini laptop is portability and you really can’t get that one without proper battery life. And here’s where the YB really fails badly.

Because Sony only installed a 3 Cell 39 Wh 3500 mAh battery on this notebook, you will get only up to 4-5 hours of life tops. And actually less during everyday use. I managed to score:

  • nearly 5 hours while typing with Wi-Fi OFF and screen dimmed to wards 40%, with no music playing in the background
  • around 4 hours on everyday use basics, typing, chatting, listening to some music, watching some clips, with Wi-Fi ON and Screen at around 50%
  • around 3 hours while playing a 720p HD clip with Wi-Fi OFF and screen at 80%, using the speakers

And that’s not bad, but other 11.6 inch laptops can do a lot better. Even my 1825PT Acer tablet is at least 25% superior and other AMD Fusion powered notebooks outbeat it even  more.

So the problem is actually the size of the battery like I said, just too small for what this one would need. Not to mention that it takes forever to load, like on all Vaios launched in the last years.

Audio, noise, heat and others

Can’t say audio quality is impressive on this one, but can’t say the speakers are too bad also.

The EyeSight webcam placed on top of the screen is decent as well, even in low light conditions, but once gain, nothing impressive.

During everyday use, the Vaio runs fairly silent and cool, although the fan does kick from time to time and HDD’s cranks are easily noticeable when using it in a silent room, during the night. The good part is that not much changes when playing a game or running an HD clip, except for the fan running most of the time, but you won’t notice it at all cause there’s the sound from the game/movie covering it anyway.

Price and availability

As I said from starters, the Sony Vaio YB is one of the most affordable Vaios on the market. This config we have here goes for $550 in the States and around 500 euros across the pond, so that’s for sure a competitive price.

It is already available in most online and offline shops and can be found in a couple of different color options or can be upgraded with extras (like more memory, matching accessories or even SSD storage). You can find it discounted on Amazon and you also get the upgraded version with 500 GB HDD and 4 GB of memory for only a couple of bucks extra.

One of the best priced Vaios on the market

One of the best priced Vaios on the market

Bottoms up

If you want a Sony Vaio for your everyday tasks and some multimedia use, this is the one for you, especially if you are on a budget and crave for a light and compact laptop.

However, if you’re looking for the best 11.6 inch device around 500-600 bucks, I’m afraid this is not the one, as other notebooks manage to outperform it in terms of finishing quality, ergonomics (keyboard and trackpad) and especially battery life. And I’m talking about both devices with AMD Fusion under the hood, like the HP Pavilion DM1z and the Lenovo ThinkPad X120e, but also devices powered by Intel ULV hardware (see the list of best 11.6 inch mini laptops for details).

Vaio YB is overall a fair option, just not the best

Vaio YB is overall a fair option, just not the best

All in all though, the Sony Vaio YB ain’t bad for sure. But it just lacks the details to be the perfect choice, unless of course you really want that to-die-for Vaio Logo on the hood of you compact notebook…

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About The Author

Andrei Girbea, aka "Mike", Editor-in-Chief at TLBHD.com. I absolutely hate carrying around heavy stuff, that's why I'm fond of mini-laptops and portable computers. I'm primarily using such devices and have been testing them for many years now. Get in touch in the comments section below.

11 Comments

  1. John March 4, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    I just bought one of these. Your review is very much in parallel with my impressions.
    For some reason my fan runs almost all the time on medium low. Even though the notebook seems very cool. Maybe a Bios update will arrive to fix it. I said Notebook but in reality this is a Netbook. A very nice one, but the quality is Netbook quality and even though the AMD Fusion APU is steps above a Atom with Intel Graphics. It still has tendencies of Netbook slowness when pushed.
    My biggest disappointment is the battery life.
    Sony advertising suggest 5.5 hrs and I get much less then that. The multi gesture touchpad might be nice if the pad was bigger.
    All in all its a OK Netbook but I think next time I will invest in a real ultralight notebook then another higher priced netbook.

    • Mike March 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm

      John, you can’t raelly expect wonders in terms of speed from such a machine. They are faster than netbooks, but they are still limited. What do you get in terms of battery life? And BTW, never trust what producers claim, you’ll always get at least 25% less during everyday use.

      I feel you on that last statement, but you couldn’t got way better than this (and by this i meant this hardware platform, not this Sony vaio) for the same amount of money.

  2. harry5577 March 16, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Too bad there’s no USB 3.0 — I wonder why manufacturers are still producing gadgets without USB 3.0 in 2011.

  3. Mohamed Hassan April 20, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    an awesome review…had every thing I was looking for :D

  4. Mohamed Hassan May 5, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    great review..by the way I was hoping to know if there is a place for an extra mini pci for WWAN card. So I can install one if I bought the device :)

  5. Meta May 21, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Great review, Mike. I also have this kind of Vaio and I think the lid’s furnishing is not the perfect one. Only a day after I bought it, the lid had the small scratch on it :) But, overall, the performance is better than Atom’s netbooks. 

  6. Mad Mike July 8, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Can you post windows experience index?

    Here are mine form Asus 1215N

    Processor:  3,5
    Memory(RAM): 4,9(Hynix memory)
    Graphics: 4,8
    Gaming graphics:  5,5
    Primary hard disk: 5,7

    Thanks

  7. Guest October 13, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    few days and half of the screen lid is scratched horribly, as if its 3 years. to anyone buying it BE CAREFUL .

  8. JO March 27, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    stupid laptop…..look only nice but very bad performance…if you wish to do editing or video with basic software it can’t cope…wait the time to this laptop get hang…..beware!!!

    • Mike March 27, 2012 at 1:57 pm

      Seems to me you had over-expectations from the little fellow. Oh well…

    • Sanjaya April 16, 2012 at 1:56 pm

       If it can run CoD MW2,so the video editing it can do,STUPID!!!

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