Sony VAIO VPC-Y11M1E notebook

Sony's Y-series laptop is good-looking and light. The case is brushed aluminium all over apart from the plastic undercarriage and parts of the edges. Still, with its chrome VAIO label on the lid, there's enough metal to make it a snazzy machine.

While this absolutely isn't a netbook - the screen at 13.3-inches is way too big for a start - part of the 1.8kg lightness is down to the fact that there's no optical drive. So no Blu-ray, DVD or CD playback here.

And given that absence, you might have expected something super-slim as well as light. While it's certainly no fatty, the depth would have been enough to easily fit an optical drive if Sony had chosen to. So it seems that weight was a factor - leave out the optical drive and you can beef up the battery without weighing you down too much.

Certainly, Sony's claimed 9 hours of use, enough for a solid day's work without worrying about running out of juice, is attractive. The battery is well-designed, plumping up the underside of the laptop rather than poking out at the back. Even so, the keyboard is not noticeably angled.

It's a comfy keyboard to use, thanks to the large and generously-spaced keys. The effect of the spaciousness is enhanced by having black keys on a silver base, but it's genuine: the space at the sides of the keys is narrower than on a MacBook, for instance, which is the same overall width.

Sony's power button is in its trademark place: on the right-hand edge. Press it and the button glows green, as does a green strip light at the north of the keyboard. Just underneath this is a speaker grille with two buttons on the left-hand side. One is the VAIO key, which takes you to the computer's media gallery. At first launch this invites you to transfer stuff from another computer and then suggests getting cover art and info from Gracenote.

The other is the Assist key which when the computer's on helps to troubleshoot issues. Press and hold the key when the laptop's off and it launches Recovery Mode. There's no denying this is a useful feature, though a little bit of me feels it's a bit like admitting there are going to be problems, so get used to it. Since we've never felt any troubleshooting options have routinely solved problems, we're also slightly sceptical about how vital it's going to be.

Sony has included what's happily becoming increasingly common: a multi-touch trackpad. This includes not just two-fingered document scrolling and web-page back and forth, but the pinch-and-zoom magnification familiar from the iPhone.

The Y-series has good connectivity, including HDMI and VGA outputs so if you have HD content on your hard drive you can connect to a suitable display, and 3x USB2.0. Wi-Fi b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1 will take care of your wireless connections.

The laptop's screen is impressive enough, a decent resolution at 1,366 x 768, bright and colourful behind the glossy finish, but you'll have to consider reflections if using when mobile.

And the Y series laptop trots along happily enough thanks to a brisk enough Intel Pentium SU4100 processor running at 1.3GHz and 4GB of RAM. Storage, at 320GB, is good though not exceptional. In fact, that's a good description for the whole machine.

The feeling you get with the Y series is that it's a neat, quick laptop which does its job efficiently but in these days of snappily designed machines it doesn't quite stand out as it once would and though it's not bad value, it's not cheap either.

Verdict

Styled to turn heads, the Y series is a decent laptop with good battery life and great ergonomics. The combination of light weight, good-sized screen and especially a comfortable keyboard all work well. It's powerful enough to handle itself. There's nothing wrong with it exactly, apart from the lack of a DVD drive, say, but nothing to blow your socks off.

 



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