The Sony Vaio YB35 offers solid performance and good battery life, all in an 11-inch shell for first-rate portability. Last-gen Atom netbooks are all but gone from the shelves, but the slightly-larger ultrabook format has shown that it wasn’t their size that sealed netbooks’ fate, it was their low-spec components. However, low-voltage CPUs are here to stay, and those looking for a cheaper alternative to the ultrabooks, but still packing enough power for everyday use might be interested in the Sony Vaio YB35.
YB35 offers an AMD E-450 CPU with 4GB RAM and a 500GB 5400rpm hard drive for storage. Vaio YB35 sells for as little as $469. Of course, that low-voltage processor is a lot slower than the mainstream i5 CPUs appearing in entry-level ultrabooks or in the MacBook Air, and the chassis of the Vaio YB35 is significantly chunkier than any svelte ultrabook… actually the dark gray plastic case is quite pedestrian in appearance, though not without its trademark Sony touches; raised keyboard, convex palm rest, circular side hinges.
The keyboard itself is a mite cramped – the small keys do however offer good travel. The touchpad on the other hand isn’t slightly undersized or mildly cramped or even quite small – it’s an absolute pygmy. Normally we welcome discrete touchpad buttons on anything other than a click pad, but these help restrict the available space for any mousepad. At least it’s very accurate.
The 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 pixel resolution glossy display is sharp and bright, although viewing angles are only good enough for two at a squeeze. Audio on the Vaio YB35 is not so good – maximum volume is incredibly quiet, so headphones are a must. The 640 x 480 webcam is just about sufficient for Skyping, even if it can manage 1280 x 960 pixel stills of middling quality. A poor show for a company of Sony’s standing in the camera and lens fields.
Check out the details in these Sony Vaio YB35 pics:
One drawback is the lack of USB-3 functionality – the upgrade to faster transfer speeds hasn’t yet become a standard feature in the budget sector. WiFi and Bluetooth are both provided WiFi and Bluetooth are both provided. ## Instead there are three USB-2 ports, ## HDMI and an SD card slot. There is also a Memory Stick slot, as on all Sony Vaio machines. For storage Sony have installed a roomy 500GB hard drive, which for many people is preferable to the more limited but faster-accessed SSD space on the new wave of ultrabooks.
AMD’s Fusion processor means Flash video and streaming run smoothly, though high-speed sequences in Netflix movies were sometimes a bit choppy. A minor complaint in general, but one to bear in mind if you plan any serious media use with the YB35. The 1.6GHz AMD E-450 CPU features its own integrated graphics, AMD Radeon HD 6320 and allows basic gaming functionality. Lowered resolution or settings will allow most recent games to be playable.
One area where the low-voltage CPU does pay off is in battery life – the Vaio YB35 delivered almost five hours of video-looping, which should translate to a full day of sensible use at the office or on the road. That even beats the MacBook Air’s battery performance. It might not have all the bells and whistles of the latest ultrabooks, but the Sony Vaio YB35 is an excellent portable notebook which is easily capable of everyday tasks and it won’t cost you the earth.
Sony VAIO YB Series starts at $497 at Amazon.
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