The 13.3-inch Sony Vaio Y-series VPCY11M1E/S is the thinner, lighter brother of the Vaio S-series laptops. It doesn't purport to be very fast, but it does claim to offer a good combination of usability, performance and portability. It's available to buy now for around £670.
Although it has a 13.3-inch screen -- generally seen on fairly compact machines -- this laptop's 326mm-wide chassis gives it a broader footprint than others in its class, meaning it looks fairly hefty in the flesh. But the machine is just 32mm thick. This helps keep the weight down to 1.8kg, but means there isn't room for a disc drive, a conspicuous omission in such a physically imposing laptop.
The upshot of this machine's extra width is that there's plenty of room to accommodate a very comfortable keyboard. It has large, isolated keys, each of which has a good amount of space between itself and its neighbours. This facilitates high-speed typing, lowers the likelihood of making typographical errors and ultimately improves productivity.
The laptop's relative slenderness doesn't limit its connectivity. The right side has a pair of USB ports, an Ethernet jack and an ExpressCard/34 slot. The left side is home to both analogue D-Sub and digital HDMI video outputs, a third USB socket, a 4-pin FireWire port, and mic and headphone jacks.
The VPCY11M1E/S isn't going to win any performance accolades with its middle-of-the-road specification. The system ships with an ample 4GB of DDR3, 800MHz memory, but its 1.3GHz Intel Pentium SU4100 CPU is designed for balanced, rather than blistering, performance.
Likewise, its Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD graphics card is more suited to running basic 2D applications and standard-definition video than high-definition flicks and 3D games.
The VPCY11M1E/S uses a 64-bit copy of Windows 7 Home Premium. Sony's also thrown in a variety of its own software to make life easier -- or more complex, depending on your point of view. The most prominent is Vaio Gate, a Mac OS X-style application dock that lives at the top of the screen, providing access to commonly used applications. It's certainly an interesting and usable addition, but we don't think it's quite as elegant as the Windows 7 taskbar, as it doesn't provide live preview thumbnails of applications that are already open.
Sony also bundles its Media Plus software, which allows users to view movies and photos stored on the laptop on a big-screen TV, as well as watch pre-recorded shows stored on a recorder (a PlayStation 3 or Blu-ray player, for example) on the laptop. You can also broadcast music from the VPCY11M1E/S to different rooms in your home -- all via the PS3-style XrossMediaBar visual interface. The system works extremely well, as long as other devices on the same network as the VPCY11M1E/S are DLNA-compliant.
The laptop's SU4100 CPU lived up to its reputation for delivering mediocre performance. It achieved a PCMark05 benchmark score of 3,310, which is higher than the 1,500 or so you'd get from a netbook, but lower than the 6,012 achieved by the 13.3-inch Toshiba Satellite U500.
The laptop's battery life was slightly more impressive. Its six-cell, 5,000mAh battery pack lasted 3 hours and 14 minutes in Battery Eater's Classic test, which runs the CPU as quickly as possible until the battery is exhausted, indicating the laptop's minimum battery life.
It's hard to know what to make of the Sony Vaio VPCY11M1E/S. It's light, but not particularly portable, and it's large, yet not particularly powerful. It isn't a bad machine but, given the choice, we'd opt for something like the Toshiba Satellite T130, which is cheaper, better-looking and offers similar performance.
Edited by Charles Kloet