Looking for a laptop to use on the move, but want one that's available in more than just business black? Sony may have the answer with its thin and light Vaio VPCY21S1E, which comes in a range of colours including blue, pink and silver. It won't break the bank, either, at just £650.
Sony can usually be counted on to add a touch of style to its laptops, and that's certainly the case here. This is a beautiful machine that's not only small and light, but also manages to feel impressively sturdy for an ultra-portable. We had the blue version, which actually looked more teal-coloured to our eyes, but it certainly makes a refreshing change from the glossy black or grey finish you get on most of today's laptops. There are some neat design touches, too, including the slightly cut-away corners at the front and the chunky circular screen hinges.
All the recent Sony laptops we've seen feature keyboards with an isolated design, and this model continues the trend. The layout is excellent and the slightly smaller function keys are the only compromise that has been made in terms of size. The keys have a good amount of travel, too. This, combined with the generous space between each key, makes it very easy to touch-type at speed without accidentally hammering adjacent keys.
We also like the roomy touchpad -- its matte finish allows your finger to easily glide across the surface. The two elongated trackpad buttons are also pleasingly responsive. As with many of today's laptops, the trackpad supports multi-touch, so you can use gestures like pinch-to-zoom in applications such as Windows Photo Viewer.
The 13.3-inch glossy display actually managed to keep reflections to a minimum and, as we've come to expect from screens on Sony laptops, the colours look refreshingly rich and natural. Viewing angles are good rather than spectacular, but text looks pin-sharp despite the pretty average 1,366x768-pixel resolution.
This Vaio comes with 4GB of RAM and Sony has sensibly used the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium, so all of this memory is addressable by the OS. In saying that, the laptop relies on a basic dual-core Intel Pentium U5400 processor with a rather lowly clock speed of 1.20GHz. Of course, clock speed isn't everything then it comes to processors these days, but the U4500 is certainly no speed demon. In the PCMark05 benchmark test it pushed the laptop to a score of 2,760. This means that while it's fine for day-to-day multitasking, it's likely to struggle if you try to use it for more demanding applications like HD video-editing.
The laptop also used integrated graphics for 3D rather than a discrete graphics solution. As a result, it only managed to score a lacklustre 1,258 in the 3DMark06 benchmark test. So while you'll be able to play older games on it, it's going to spit the dummy if you try running the latest first-person shooters.
Nevertheless, the slightly more lightweight processor and graphics do have a positive impact on battery life. This Vaio managed to keep running for an impressive three and a half hours in our Battery Eater test. This test simulates a worst-case scenario for the battery, so you're likely to get much more life from it under normal conditions.
At around 32mm thick, the laptop is quite slim, so there's no space for an optical drive. The 320GB hard drive does provide a decent amount of space for storing work documents and media files, though. Wireless connectivity is taken care of by both 801.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1. The range of ports on offer is also good by ultra-portable standards. There's both VGA and HDMI ports for connecting it up to an external monitor or flat-screen TV and you also get three USB ports as well as a mini FireWire socket. There's an ExpressCard slot and you'll find both Memory Stick and SD card readers on the laptop's front lip.
The Sony Vaio VPCY21S1E is a great-looking laptop and its impressive screen and keyboard make it a pleasure to use. Its processor certainly isn't the fastest on the block, so speed junkies should probably look elsewhere, but we think most mainstream users will find its performance more than acceptable. Add in the impressive range of ports on offer and the relatively low price tag, and the end result is a hugely likeable utlra-portable that's easy to recommend.
Edited by Emma Bayly