User Interface, Display and Audio Quality
The Sony Vaio Y offers a 11.6” display, and the chassis isn’t much larger than it needs to be to accommodate it. This means space is a premium. The Sony Vaio Y deals with the limited real estate by offering an island style keyboard. The individual keys are extremely small, which means you’ll likely require a few minutes to become comfortable. However, the upside of the small keys is the larger amount of space between each individual key, which means keeping track of your finger position isn’t difficult.
The layout of the keyboard is good, as well. Although Ctrl, Fn, Windows and Alt keys are all small, they’re not hard to find. The shift, caps lock, enter and backspace keys are all large for a keyboard of this size, as are the F keys. While the design of the keyboard unfortunately doesn’t take full advantage of the available space – there is about half an inch of spare room on either side – my overall impression is positive. This is one of the better small laptop keyboards I’ve used recently.
I wish I could say the same about the touchpad. When I first laid eyes on it, I chuckled out loud. It is an absurdly small touchpad even for a laptop of this size. Like the keyboard, it fails to take advantage of the space available, as there is additional room above and below the touchpad that could have been used. The touchpad buttons are small and feel a bit cheap, and while the palmrest has a texture, the touchpad surface itself is flat and a bit too smooth. While the touchpad does accept multitouch gestures, they’re jerky and the size of the touchpad is too small for them to me of much use.
There’s no kind way to put this; the touchpad of the Sony Vaio Y ruins the user experience. I would not want to use the Sony Vaio Y regularly without a good portable mouse. That’s a problem a big problem for an 11.6” laptop built for frequent travel.
Display and Audio Quality
The 11.6” display on the Sony Vaio Y boasts a resolution of 1366×768. It’s no longer uncommon for laptops of this size of offer this particular display resolution, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a nice feature to have. The high resolution relative to the display size allows for a fine, crisp picture that is noticeably sharper than what you’ll find are larger laptops that make do with the same display resolution. This of course means that the Sony Vaio Y, despite its small size, is no less productive than much larger laptops.
Resolution is the only aspect of the Vaio Y’s display worthy of praise, however. The glossy finish provides predictable results – contrast is decent and colors pop, but at the expensive of usability. This situation isn’t helped by the dim backlight or the poor viewing angles, both of which conspire to make the Sony Vaio Y difficult to use in a brightly lit room.
The nastiest strike against the Sony Vaio Y’s display, however, is the black level performance. Although the display is quite capable of rendering deep shades of gray against a black background, it introduces a static effect while doing so. Staring at a near-black image on the Vaio Y’s display is like viewing the image on television that’s picking up an analog over-the-air signal. From afar, the effect is difficult to notice, but as you look closer you’ll begin to notice that parts of the image shimmer and move.
Audio quality is rarely strong from laptops of this size, but the Sony Vaio Y manages to do better than most. The speakers, which are located on the bottom of the laptop, are barely loud enough to fill a room with sound. Even listening to a podcast can be difficult if there is some other source of noise nearby, such as a neighbor vacuuming his apartment or road work outside. With that said, the speakers don’t try to stretch far beyond their capabilities, so distortion is relatively rare. Your music may be quiet and tinny, but it at least won’t sound like a cat being tormented by a two-year-old child.