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Sony Vaio YB review: Sony Vaio YB

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The netbook is dead, long live the netbook!

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8.5

Sony Vaio YB

The Good

Performance and price is excellent. High quality screen.

The Bad

Build quality is lower than usual for Sony. Please sir, may I have more RAM?.

The Bottom Line

If you've got modest needs (portability but still able to get things done), Sony's Vaio YB will fit your life perfectly.

Or at least something like that, as far as AMD is concerned. Sony's Vaio YB is the vanguard of the chip designer's attempt to wrest control of the cheap and cheerful market from Intel, keeping things affordable while giving us higher resolution, larger screens, and more comfortable keyboards and screens.

The 11.6-inch, 1366x768 screen of the Vaio YB certainly gives us this. While the chassis looks and feels much cheaper than we're used to with Sony, and the mouse buttons clack noisily, at AU$749 there's little room to complain.

It's generously featured for the price too, with VGA and HDMI out, three USB ports, gigabit Ethernet, 2.4GHz 802.11n, headphone and microphone jacks, and SD and Memory Stick readers.

Internally, it features the core of AMD's strike back plan — the AMD E-350 1.6GHz processor. This is what AMD has taken to calling an APU, or Accelerated Processing Unit. For us normal folk, this means a central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU) have been bunged on the one die, allowing a faster interconnect and lower power consumption. There's plenty of APUs already around, such as Intel's Core i3 and i5 products, but this is AMD's take.

The graphics part of the equation is identified as a Radeon HD6310, and in combination with AMD's CPU, it effectively lays to waste Intel's Atom in the performance stakes, even when paired with Nvidia's Ion chipset.

Sony's opted to include a 320GB hard drive, but only 2GB RAM — and as a consequence, has only included Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit. If it had opted for 4GB RAM and 64-bit Windows, we'd have been thoroughly impressed.

Pushing it through the requisite 3DMark06 and PCMark05 benchmarks, the Vaio YB netted 2057 and 2754 respectively, indicating that it is capable of some low-level gaming and should be decent at day-to-day office tasks and web browsing.

Where AMD's solution lags Intel's Atom, perhaps unsurprisingly, is battery life. Turning off all power-saving features, setting screen brightness and volume to maximum and playing back an XviD file, the YB lasted three hours and 28 minutes. While it doesn't match some of the crazier times some Intel graphics-based netbooks have posted, it does better than recent Ion netbooks while giving greater performance. Bravo, AMD.

With the likes of the MacBook Air 11 and the Vaio YB entering the market, and tablets coming in from the side, we believe 2011 will be the year when the netbook loses importance.

Sony's Vaio YB is an excellent portable laptop that allows you to do so much more than a netbook ever did, with a price premium we believe is entirely worth it. If you've got modest needs (portability but still able to get things done), the Vaio YB will fit your life perfectly.