Top ultraportable laptops

Ideal for the consumer that values portability while demanding more performance than you'd get from a netbook, these notebooks stand out for their low weight and small footprint

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Sony VAIO VPCY218FX
VAIO VPCY218FX Review, by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal October 12, 2010

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Rating

Pros:
Includes 3G connectivity
Pretty, light, thin, and stylish

Cons:
Keys are small and fingers slip off easily
Awful audio quality

Bottom Line: Though the Sony VAIO VPCY218FX has many of the ingredients to be a powerful-yet-slim ultraportable, it's not quite there.

REVIEW:
Sony VAIO is a name synonymous with style--as demonstrated by such recent noteworthy models as the VAIO VPCEA22FX all-purpose laptop and the VAIO L117FX/B all-in-one PC--and the VAIO VPCY218FX ultraportable laptop upholds the tradition. Part of the Sony VAIO Y series, this $750 model has a sleek, professional look, and makes a bold statement with its bright teal-blue lid (other color options are black, red, and silver). Unfortunately, the VPCY218FX doesn't quite deliver the performance we were hoping for: Multimedia playback was so-so, colors tended to look washed out, and the keyboard was nothing special.

Our review model came with a 1.2GHz Intel Pentium U5400 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive, and runs 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium. It also features a built-in Webcam, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, 3G connectivity (via Gobi), and Bluetooth connectivity. Our review model had Share My Connection technology as well, permitting it to act as a mobile hotspot for up to five other Wi-Fi enabled devices. Share My Connection also works with VPN networks.

Complementing he VPCY218FX's shiny teal cover is a gray and black chassis. Inside, the computer is pretty simple: The screen is surrounded by a medium-size teal bezel featuring a built-in Motion Eye Webcam. The speakers (located above the keyboard), the wristpad, and the area surrounding the keyboard are dark gray, and the keys are black.

On the right side of the laptop, the power button is situated in the hinge of the notebook. Near the power button (which glows bright green) are a gigabit ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, and an ExpressCard/34 slot. The left side of the computer features another USB 2.0 port, a VGA-out port, an HDMI-out port, a four-pin iLink connection, and headphone and microphone jacks. The front of the computer offers an SD card slot and a Memory Stick Pro slot (for owners of Sony cameras), and a physical Wi-Fi switch. There's no optical drive, however.

The VAIO VPCY218FX weighs just 3.9 pounds with a standard battery (4.2 pounds with a large battery). The 13-inch laptop measures 12.8 inches wide by 8.9 inches long, and ranges between 0.93 and 1.2 inches thick. Not only is it light and easy to tote around, but the power cord and brick are surprisingly light as well. Battery life was quite strong at almost 6.5 hours.

The laptop has a matte black keyboard with Chiclet-style keys that are easy to press and provide solid feedback but are a bit small. To compensate for their size, Sony made the keys nonslip (they have a grippy texture), but you're still liable to experience a lot of slipping when you type quickly.

The smooth, gray trackpad has a little plus pattern. Two separate, slightly indented buttons occupy the space below it. The trackpad offers multitouch capabilities and decent (but not fantastic) feedback, and it is generally responsive to gestures. The buttons are responsive, too, but they feel cheap, as though they'll break within a year. This is consistent with other Sony VAIOs I've owned--the mouse buttons break easily and an external mouse is usually necessary.

The VAIO VPCY218FX features a 13.3-inch-diagonal WXGA LCD screen with a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. The screen is bright and shows crisp details, but colors tend to look washed out. Actually, unless you tilt the screen backward, pictures look as though they were painted in pastels. Viewed from different angles, the screen doesn't look terrible, but that positive is undercut by the lackluster picture quality when you view the screen dead-on. Still, the display's brightness is a plus, and content is fairly easy to see on the screen in bright or direct sunlight.

Audio and video playback on the VAIO VPCY218FX isn't fantastic. You can equip laptops in the Sony VAIO Y series with an i5 processor, but the VPCY218FX packs only a rather pedestrian Intel Pentium U5400 processor, and consequently is lacking in the multimedia department. Streaming video from Hulu plays reasonably well, with little to no skipping; but image quality is poor, with a lot of artifacting and some minor stuttering.

Audio playback isn't much better. For its class, the VAIO VPCY218FX has quite loud speakers, but sound quality is sketchy at best. The audio sounds very flat, and the lack of depth is especially noticeable when you play a track containing multiple voices--the voices seem to play over each other and are very hard to understand.

The VAIO VPCY218FX runs 64-bit Window 7 Premium, and comes with quite a few handy built-in programs, such as VAIO Media Plus (Sony's multimedia software), which you can access via the Start Menu or by pressing the dedicated VAIO button above the keyboard. VAIO Care, Sony's system care program, is accessible via the Start Menu or by hitting the dedicated Assist button (which is located next to the VAIO button). The VPCY218FX also comes with Microsoft Office 2010 Starter Edition (or you can purchase the full edition), a 30-day trial of Norton Internet Security, and ArcSoft Webcam software.

The Sony VAIO VPCY218FX is light, compact, and very stylish--but it's a bit pricey for the performance it delivers. The good news is that the Y series can be configured with a discrete graphics card and an Intel i5 processor. The bad news is that our review model had integrated graphics and an Intel Pentium U5400 processor. So, while the Sony VAIO Y series certainly has the potential to be a powerful-yet-slim ultraportable, it's not quite there yet.

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