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Sony Vaio Y21S1E/L review

Sony Vaio Y21S1E/L
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £700
inc VAT

Decent performance and battery life make the Y21 a great travelling companion, but you pay a huge premium for the brand. Ultimately, there are better-value alternatives.


13.3 in 1,366×768 display, 1.8kg, 1.2GHz Intel Pentium U5400, 4.00GB RAM, 320GB disk, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

With a magnesium alloy casing and a low-power processor, the Sony Vaio Y21 is built to last in both senses – durability and battery life. It has a new Intel Pentium U5400 processor, which isn’t as fast as a standard mobile chip but has power-saving features that helped the Y21 to a respectable six hours in our light-use battery test.

In our standard benchmarks, the Y21 managed an overall score of 41, which is twice as fast as a netbook, but about half the speed of a standard notebook computer. Its scores were pretty consistent across the tests, so while it will run at full speed when you only have one application open, it won’t slow down too much if you decide to open another.

It’s a dual-core processor but it doesn’t have Intel’s Hyper-Threading or Turbo Boost technologies, so it’s only really suitable for web browsing, working with documents and spreadsheets, and email. There isn’t a dedicated graphics card so it’s not suitable for gaming, and the integrated graphics chip, although it’s meant to handle HD, stutters when trying to display 1080p YouTube videos.

Sony Vaio Y21S1E/L

As the screen has a 1,366×768 resolution it can’t display 1080p content pixel-for-pixel anyway and 720p content plays smoothly. The screen has an LED backlight which is even, but not very bright. Colours weren’t quite as luscious as on other screens we’ve seen recently. Vertical viewing angles are very fussy too, so you have to adjust carefully to get the right angle. When you do find the sweet spot, colours are natural and contrast is excellent.

Sound from the Y21’s built-in speakers is tinny and brash, but has a decent volume level. There’s an HDMI port so you can output digital audio and video to an AV amplifier or your HD TV. The three USB ports are barely adequate for today’s peripheral needs, but there’s also a FireWire port for older camcorders and external drives. An ExpressCard/34 slot means you can add extra ports, or other peripherals such as a TV tuner.

The magnesium alloy case is tough, but the lid still flexes a bit too much for our liking. The keyboard panel is far more rigid, and this made using the keyboard far more comfortable. The keys have a crisp action that gives plenty of feedback for touch-typists, and the layout is standard apart from the right Shift key, which is cut to half size to accommodate the cursor keys.

Below the keyboard is a small but wide touchpad, which we found to be responsive and smooth. There are two separate buttons which have a light action, and we liked the fact that they are placed close to the edge of the case so your thumb rests naturally on them.

With good performance and battery life, the Y21 is an ideal travelling companion, but the £700 price is way too high. Asus’ cheaper U35JC lasts far longer and has better performance, while the Acer Aspire Timeline 4820T is even cheaper, yet has an optical drive and larger screen. If it cost £200 less, we’d like the Y21 a whole lot more.

Basic Specifications

Rating ***
Processor Intel Pentium U5400
Processor clock speed 1.2GHz
Memory 4.00GB
Memory slots 2
Memory slots free 0
Maximum memory 8GB
Size 32x326x227mm
Weight 1.8kg
Pointing device touchpad


Viewable size 13.3 in
Native resolution 1,366×768
Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics
Graphics/video ports VGA, HDMI
Graphics Memory 128MB


Total storage capacity 320GB
Optical drive model N/A
Optical drive type N/A

Ports and Expansion

USB ports 3
Total Firewire ports 1
Bluetooth yes
Wired network ports 1x 10/100/1000
Wireless networking support 802.11b/g/n
PC Card slots 1x ExpressCard/34
Modem No
Supported memory cards SD, Memory Stick Pro-HG Duo
Other ports minijack audio output, minijack microphone input


Carrying case No
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Operating system restore option backup and recovery software
Software included Microsoft Office 2010 Starter, Vaio Media Plus
Optional extras £154

Buying Information

Price £700