My ASUS 1005HA netbook crashed in December, 2011. Since this occurred while I was fixing three other laptops and netbooks for friends, I decided to order a new netbook with a faster graphics card and HDMI output. I settled on the Sony VAIO Y Series VPCVB33KX/B AMD E-450 Fusion 11.1” netbook. Purchasing a laptop, like this one, is a big decision because you will be using it on a daily basis for at least the next two years. In this review, we will examine all the options and capabilities that this Sony product has to offer and whether it was the right decision for me.
Recommend this product?
Hardware That You Will Not Get With The Sony VAIO Y-Series E-450 Notebook
A notebook computer is loosely defined as a device that can use DVD, Blu-Ray or CD-ROM discs. The Sony VPCYB33KX/B laptop does not come with this capability. As a result, I call this a netbook. I have found that the Targus (ADV01US) External DVD USB Drive does a fine job of delivering this capability but you will have to carry it with you anyplace you go if you ever should need it.You would be wise to weigh the pros and cons of not having this feature before buying.
Ergonomic Design And Daily Use Of The Sony VAIO VPC Netbook
The netbook itself measures 11.25” wide x 8.75” deep x 1.1” tall when fully closed and resting on a table top. While it is bigger than my old ASUS 1005HA netbook,the overall size is still quite manageable to carry while walking or to leave on the seat of my car. The case of this Sony VAIO Fusion E-450 is made of thick black plastic and rather strong in my opinion. In fact, due to the low power AMD processor and sturdy outside case, the whole netbook fits in a booksack quite well.
Bright Green Power Light
Cosmetic features of computers are often all that some people notice and can be a big detraction to the buyer. In this case, a large green power light can be found on the right side of this laptop at the screen hinge. The light is so bright that you can use it as a flashlight in a dark room! Many people at my office have commented on this and to be honest it annoys me that I cannot turn off the light through a BIOS setting.
Using The 11.6” TFT
The 1366x768 display on this laptop has a deep contrast and great color reproduction capabilities. Because the screen is so good at reproducing color and contrast, I use the Sony VAIO Y-Series to dock my Windows phone and view pictures taken with it.
My Data Entry Impressions
The keyboard is awkward to use. The location of the right SHIFT key causes use of the ! to actually make you press the up arrow if you are not extremely careful!
The touchpad does the job with rapid response to my pointing requests. Yet, the left and right buttons have a sound similar to a dog-training clicker when depressed. The sound is very annoying and unprofessional when used in business meetings. In fact, while I was creating some reports on this portable computer in the middle of a 40 person meeting, the clicking sound was so loud that people thought someone was knocking on the doors to the room!
Using Memory Stick And Secure Digital Cards
I keep two different memory cards plugged into the Sony VAIO laptop at all times. The advantage of picking Sony products is that they make an extra effort to include both memory card slots in their portable computers. Data transfers are very fast and I have had no problems so far.
Graphics Output Ports
Even though this is a small laptop, Sony managed to fit in both VGA and HDMI graphics output ports.
Software Included With The VAIO Fusion Laptop
Microsoft Windows 7 has converted me from XP with its ease of use and the great stability it offers.
In this age of rampant virus and spyware attacks, the ability to recover your laptop in an emergency is important. On the upper right corner of the Sony VAIO YB33KX/B laptop is a button with words ASSIST printed in red. I used the program to recover the netbook, shortly after I bought it, and it took about 30 minutes to bring Windows 7 back. However, most portable computers feature this capability today so it really is just expected that we have it now.
To test the battery life of the Sony VPC YB33KX-B Fusion netbook, I ran two distinct tests on its battery. The first test looked at maximum longevity with screen brightness set about 20 percent and no background applications running except two Open Office.org documents. Please note the screen was left on the entire time for all these tests to simulate using the laptop all day on batteries.
Total run-time of battery: 6 hours 36 minutes
The second test was run with screen brightness at maximum and BOINC running on the dual cpu cores and AMD Radeon graphics card.
Total run-time of battery: 2 hours 24 minutes
The 2 hour battery life is really just average among the laptop industry today. I was hoping to get 3 hours out of this Sony model due to its small size and low power cpu.
AMD E-Series CPU And Radeon Graphics Benchmark
Even though this Sony Y Series netbook is compatible with Windows 7 64bit operating system, it only came with 32bit. The 32 bit operating system begins to show its age when running processor and graphics card benchmarks. In fact, some video games will only function on 64bit operating systems so I was quite upset to discover Sony shoved another cost saving feature into this laptop.
Super Pi With The AMD E-Series 1.65 Ghz processor
Super Pi V1.1 is an application that extrapolates the specified digits of PI into a text file. Since the task is both processor and file system intensive it can give you an idea of how fast your cpu is. Processors with large on-die cache sizes and high bus speeds tend to do better in this benchmark. The problem is the calculation is single threaded in this version so you only see the performance of one cpu core.
In this test, I analyzed the performance using the 1,000,000 digits of Pi calculation.
AMD E-450 APU 1.65Ghz : 49 seconds, one instance
AMD E-450 APU 1.65Ghz : 51 seconds, two instances
Comparison results for other processors:
Intel Atom N270 processor 1.68 Ghz processor: 1 minute 28 seconds
Intel Xeon E5450 3.0Ghz 12Mb cache four core processor: 15 seconds
Intel 920 Socket 1366 processor 2.667Ghz: 14 seconds
Intel Core 2 Duo E8600 3.33Ghz processor: 13 seconds
Intel i5-2430M in Sony VPCSC31 laptop: 13 seconds
POV-Ray 3.7 RC3 32Bit
A new version of the freeware 3D animation utility has been released that offers SSE2 enhanced processing extensions. POV -Ray stresses the floating point unit and memory bandwidth of the processor to render stunning 2D images. The raytracing software package also makes use of all available logical cpu cores in your computer system to render images. For this reason, POV is my processor benchmarking package of choice!
For this test, I am using the benchmark.pov file with QuickRes.ini value of 512x384 NO AA since it is provided with all new installations of POV.
AMD E-450 APU 1.65Ghz : 10 minutes 1 seconds
For a quick comparison, take at look at what these AMD and Intel processors can do with the same benchmark.
AMD Sempron 140 Socket AM3 2.7Ghz Processor: 13 minutes 11 seconds
Intel E1400 Celeron Dual Core 2.0 Ghz, stock speed: 5 minutes 51 seconds
AMD 1090T 3.2GHz Phenom II X6 Six-Core Processor: 3 minutes 53 seconds
Intel i5-2430M in Sony VPCSC31 laptop: 2 minutes 31 seconds
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 Processor EU80569XJ080NL: 1 minute 41 seconds
AMD Opteron 6128 2.0 Ghz, 16 cores, two physical processors: 48 seconds
Before we jump to the conclusion that the AMD E-450 1.65Ghz processor is pathetic, we must first consider the size of this laptop. At 11.6” display, it is basically a netbook offering from Sony. Have this much firepower in a netbook is virtually unheard of right now in the realm of portable computing. The ASUS 1005HA netbook can only manage a SuperPi score of 1 minute 28 seconds and has horrible graphics performance. In fact, to get more performance out of such a small package requires that you move to the Intel i7 line up. Currently these netbooks are retailing for at least $1,200 online, so a $500 laptop with 3D graphics is a bargain by today’s standards.
ATI Graphics Card Performance
The Sony VAIO Y Series VPCYB33KX/B uses the AMD Radeon HD 6320 graphics card. The 6320 is an integrated graphics processor inside the main AMD Zacate processor of this laptop. The base core speed is 500Mhz but an automatic overclocking feature called Turbo Core can bump it up to 600Mhz if needed. Your biggest problem with this type of graphics card is that it actually shares memory with the CPU. The bottleneck then becomes whether you have all the memory banks of the Sony VAIO laptop populated. The graphics system supports Direct X 11, OpenGL 4.1, DirectCompute 11 and OpenCL.
To test the graphics card, I installed the Heaven DirectX 11 Benchmark version 2.5. The benchmark is my current favorite because it runs 26 different tests on your video subsystem to simulate the experience you would have while playing games like Dirt 3 or Deus Ex Human Revolution.
Heaven Benchmark v2.5 Basic on AMD Radeon HD 6320 series notebook graphics:
Min FPS: 2.4
Max FPS: 10.1
Render: Direct3d11, Mode: 1366x768 fullscreen, Shaders: high, Textures: high, Filter: trilinear, Anisotropy 4x,
Occlusion: enabled, Refraction: enabled, Volumetric: enabled, Tessellation: normal
As a comparison, the same benchmark settings on a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550Ti video card in a desktop computer:
Min FPS: 9.8
Max FPS: 19.9
The scores from the Heaven Benchmark show that this Sony VAIO netbook is not intended for anything close to basic 3D gaming use. Including the fact that the Sony VPC YB33KX-B Fusion netbook does not even have a DVD drive, you would be wise not to purchase this particular product for any portable gaming needs like World Of Warcraft Online or Call Of Duty 3. The good news is that this netbook does a good job playing back YouTube videos. My other netbook could barely render streaming video so I was happy to finally have this capability.
Upgrading The Memory Capacity Of The Sony VAI VPCVB33KX/B
In an attempt to increase the speed of the Sony VPCVB33KX/B, I added a second 2Gb memory stick to it. The upgrade only took me 2 minutes to perform using a stick of 2Gb Samsung MV-3T2G4 DDR3 1333Mhz memory because there is an empty memory slot underneath the back cover of this Sony VAIO. Please note that since the operating system is 32 bit, you cannot use more than 4Gb in Windows 7.
Upon rebooting the laptop, I was hoping to see my benchmark scores improve. No significiant improvement was seen in benchmarks, it just shaved a second off the Super Pi 1,000,000 test to yield 48 seconds. POVRay saw a 9 minute 57 second result with the new Dual DDR3 memory configuration. The Heaven Benchmark showed the same FPS of 4.4 and a lower score of 109 which was caused by a Max FPS that dropped to 9.9.
My rating of 2 stars comes from a multitude of features left out of this laptop. First, the annoying loud click of the buttons on the touchpad are going to hinder your operation in a classroom or meeting setting. In regards to performance of this Sony netbook, you must consider the computing power within the 11.1” platform. While the Sony VAIO Y Series VPC-VB33KX is faster than my older ASUS 1005HA netbook it still does not bring the improvement I expected from waiting 2 years to purchase another netbook. To add insult to injury, Sony used Windows 7 Home 32bit operating system instead of the 64bit option. Then we have the fact that this Sony laptop came with just one stick of 2Gb DDR3 Ram. Sony should have installed a second memory chip to improve the speed. The average laptop user does not realize this could have been done so it seems like a cost cutting measure at the sacrifice of America's wallet.
Finally, the Sony VAIO Y Series VPCYB33KX/B Laptop cost me over $500. After all the flaws that we have discussed in this review, why Sony decided to charge so much for this laptop makes no sense to me. All I know is that this should not be something you buy because many other laptops today offer these same features but with better components inside.
Here are some other laptop reviews that you might find helpful on your search:
Sony Vaio - VPCSC31 – Intel i5 - Laptop Computer
Dell Latitude D830 Intel Core 2 Duo PC Notebook
ASUS 1005HA netbook
Amount Paid (US$): 500
Operating System: Windows
Processor speed: over 1000
Screen Size: 11 inches
RAM: More than 256
Internal Storage: SuperDisk
Hard Drive (GB): Over 50