Netbooks may have lost some of their sheen given the rise of tablets, but that hasn't stopped Sony throwing a new mini laptop into the ring, the Vaio VPCYB2M1E. This 11.6-inch cutie is certainly portable and it packs decent specs by netbook standards. At £430, it's not cheap, though.
Small but perfectly formed
The Y series is Sony's elite netbook, spitting on the lower-end Vaio M series VPCM13M1E. We're not too keen on the M series refresh this year, but the Y series promises to be a much stronger performer, pushing the boundaries of what can be described as a netbook.
The 11.6-inch screen makes it a very small little chap, measuring only 290mm wide. This means it's small enough to fit into even the most modest backpack, while still leaving room for sandwiches, a Frisbee and an air horn (is it just us?).
The lid proudly displays the Vaio branding, but little else -- the minimalist Vaio aesthetic has been retained, making this an attractive piece of kit. The chassis is made from sturdy plastic, which is good news for a machine that's designed for intense mobile use.
The 11.6-inch display has a maximum resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, so it's able to display Web pages without any problems. It's pretty bright too and handles colours well. Reflections didn't seem like much of an issue during our brief hands-on session, but, if you regularly use the machine outside in bright sunshine, you might find yourself staring back at your own face more than you'd normally like.
The isolated keys on the keyboard are pleasant to use and it's good to see Sony using all the space at the sides of the chassis to make the keyboard as large as possible. It's not a backlit keyboard, so sitting in bed at night browsing your friend's Facebook pages is going to be tricky without the lights on. Alas, the trackpad is on the small side -- you may find you have finger ache after a long scrolling session.
Port options are pretty standard. There are three USB 2.0 ports; Memory Stick Duo and SD card slots; Ethernet, VGA and HDMI sockets; and headphone and mic jacks. There are internal speakers too, but we don't expect they'll be very powerful. We'll see how they sound when the Y series lands in our office.
Typically, netbooks have just about enough computing power to load Windows calculator. The Y series has somewhat more junk in the trunk, though, which is why Sony is keen to tell everyone that it isn't really a netbook. It is, though, Sony -- it's just a powerful one.
At the heart of this little machine is a dual-core, 1.6GHz AMD E-350 processor, coupled with 4GB RAM. That's a considerable increase over the M series' components -- a single-core, 1.83GHz Intel Atom N470 processor and only 1GB of RAM. We therefore expect the Y series to post considerably better scores in our series of benchmark tests.
With those specs, you can easily expect the Y series to handle all manner of office tasks and maybe turn its hand to some light photo editing and video streaming. Although you wouldn't need to stream at 1080p on such a small screen, the HDMI output will allow you to stream video to a TV, so we'd like the machine to be powerful enough to play video at this quality.
Don't expect the VPCYB2M1E to be much of a gaming machine -- it doesn't have a dedicated graphics chip. Most netbooks are typically designed purely for Web browsing and document editing on the go anyway, so we can't be too disappointed.
Sony claims the Y series netbook can achieve up to 6.5 hours of battery life, which is a reasonable figure. We'll see how Sony's claim holds up when a review sample lands in the office and we can punish the battery to breaking point.
The Sony Vaio VPCYB2M1E matches decent components with fair battery life, and wraps it up in a slim, attractive shell. If you're after a lightweight netbook to keep close to you at all times, but don't want to sacrifice on performance, the Y series may well be a good option. Stay tuned for our full review soon.
Edited by Charles Kloet