With its trim dimensions, colorful lid, rounded display hinges, and isolated keyboard, the $799 Sony Vaio VPC-Y218FX certainly looks the part of a stylish laptop for home or campus use. It also features oodles of wireless connectivity, with 802.11n Wi-Fi, mobile broadband, and Bluetooth onboard. It’s not particularly well built, however, and it’s woefully underpowered. The culprit is an ultralow-voltage (ULV) CPU, the 1.2GHz Intel Pentium U5400, which can’t keep pace with similarly priced Core i3-based models. Even worse, it doesn’t offer much of an advantage in battery life. There are better thin-and-light options, such as the Acer Aspire TimelineX 4820TG-7805, the Asus U35Jc-A1, and the Toshiba Portege R705-P25.
|Processor||1.2GHz Intel Pentium U5400|
|Memory||4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz|
|Hard drive||500GB at 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA HD|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Dimensions (WDH)||12.8 x 8.9 x 0.9-1.2 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||13.3 inches|
|System weight / weight with AC adapter||3.1 / 3.6 pounds|
|Category||Thin and light|
The Vaio VPC-Y218FX follows Sony’s basic laptop recipe: a colorful lid (in this case, a vivid purple), rounded display hinges (the power button resides on the left end, and the connection for the power cord sits on the right), and a Chiclet-style keyboard. Those ingredients result in a snazzy look, but unfortunately the Vaio VPC-Y218FX doesn’t offer the same solid build quality that we’ve found on other Vaio models, such as the 15.5-inch Vaio VPC-EA24FM/W or the 16.4-inch Vaio VPCF12AFM/H. For one, the battery in our review model ended up sitting loosely in its housing. Similarly, two narrow hinges holding the display in place didn’t prevent a bit of screen wobble when the laptop was gently nudged.
The roomy keyboard, with widely spaced isolated keys, didn’t feel as solid as other Vaio keyboards and sounded clacky. Above the keyboard, two small buttons handled additional quick-launch functions. One, labeled Vaio, opens up Sony’s Media Gallery app, through which you can control your music, photos, and videos. The other, labeled Assist, calls up Vaio Care, where you’ll find troubleshooting, diagnostic, and recovery tools.
A responsive touch pad doesn’t support multitouch gestures, which are becoming increasingly common on today’s laptops. Instead of two-finger scrolling, you’ll need to use the vertical scroll region along the touch pad’s right edge. A horizontal scroll region runs along the bottom edge. The mouse buttons are narrow, positioned along the curved bottom edge of the laptop. They’re comfortably angled, and quiet when pressed.
The display measures 13.3 inches on the diagonal and features a 1,366×768-pixel resolution. It’s not the brightest display, but colors look vivid and videos played smoothly. The audio from the speaker bar that runs along the top of the keyboard is predictably tinny; it’s difficult for small laptops to produce big sound.
|Video||VGA, HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||three USB 2.0, FireWire, multiformat media card reader||three USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, mobile broadband, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
For a compact laptop, the Vaio VPC-Y218FX features a decent amount of connectivity, particularly of the wireless variety. You’ll find only three USB 2.0 ports and no eSATA, but there is an HDMI port along with the standard VGA video port. There’s also a 34mm ExpressCard slot and two media card slots (SD and MemoryStick). In addition to 802.11n Wi-Fi, the laptop offers mobile broadband (subscription to Verizon or Sprint is needed). Continuing the march of wireless connectivity is a Bluetooth antenna. A small Wi-Fi on/off switch resides on the front edge of the laptop.
In addition to the flimsy build quality, the other chief drawback of the Sony Vaio VPC-Y218FX is its slow performance. It features the Intel Pentium U5400, a dual-core ULV CPU with a clock speed of only 1.2GHz. Many advanced features of Intel’s Core i3/i5 chips, such as Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading, aren’t available here. For all of these reasons, not surprisingly, the Vaio VPC-Y218FX trailed similarly priced Core i3-based laptops in labs testing. The $849 Asus U35Jc-A1, for example, uses a Core i3 processor and completed all three of CNET Labs’ application benchmarks in less than half the time it took the Vaio VPC-Y218FX. In anecdotal testing, we encountered frequent lags, particularly when multitasking. There are Vaio Y-series models with faster ultralow-voltage CPUs: an upgrade to a 1.2GHz Core i3-330UM CPU only costs $20, whereas a 1.73GHz Intel Core i5-430UM CPU costs an extra $100.
The biggest benefit of an energy-efficient ULV chip is extended battery life, but the Vaio VPC-Y218FX failed to put any distance between it and more-powerful Core i3-based laptops, lasting 4 hours 9 minutes on our demanding video playback battery drain test. That’s not bad for battery life, but it’s underwhelming with a processor this low-impact.
Sony offers a standard one-year parts and labor warranty with the system. Help options include a 24-7 toll-free phone line, live Web chat, driver downloads, and FAQ pages.
Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)