Experiencing the Donkey - Sony Vaio VPCEL15EN/B with AMD E-350 review


Broken In
Experiencing the Donkey
- Sony Vaio VPCEL15EN/B -

Manufacturer’s URL
VPCEL15EN : E Series : VAIO™ Laptop & Computer : Sony India

Brief Specs
AMD Zacate APU (AMD E-350 1.6 GHz Dual-Core Processor + AMD Radeon HD 6310 Graphics)
2 GB 1066 MHz DDR3 SDRAM (upgradeable to 8 GB 1333 MHz DDR3 SDRAM)
320 GB 5400 rpm SATA HDD
15.5” WXGA LED display (1366 x 768)
Keypad with island number pad
Win 7 Home Basic 64-bit

Front-view (closed lid)

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Front-view (open lid)

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Screen (power off)

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Screen (power on)

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Keypad and Touchpad

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Left-side view
(From left to right: Power, Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, Heat vent, USB 2.0, Mic in, Headphone in)

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Card slots and LEDs

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Right-side view
(From right to left: DVD drive, 3 x USB 2.0)

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Maximum screen angle

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All pics clicked using a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 Digital Camera.

Let’s rewind a couple of months. The Telengana agitation was at a high, and there were floods in Orissa. All this meant a sudden drop in coal supplies to all power plants in the country; where earlier, I was suffering from 4 hours of planned power cuts, it now became a 12 hour nightmare with ungodly and unpredictable timings. My 3-year-old computer, which was on its last legs, was acting even funnier. So, I decided to get a laptop, mainly because it would help me tide over the power uncertainties.

Further, since I was using my primary computer as my download rig, using a laptop instead would make for reduced power bills. My work mainly involves freelance writing, and is almost entirely on MS Word. So, I wasn’t really looking for a powerhouse to replace my desktop, but a complement that would take care of my work and downloading. I was earlier trending toward Intel Atom nettops but my family was dead against a sub-10-inch screen. I, too, was uncomfortable with the keyboard layout: I needed an island number pad. I also needed a discrete GPU for the odd round of CnC Generals and basic gaming. This essentially ruled out Intel Atom and Intel IGPs. I wanted a discrete GPU (even if a very basic one).

I had to buy a gaming rig, so my budget for the laptop was very limited. The lower the price of the laptop, the better.

I tried finding 14” (or lower) laptops that met my criteria, but was not getting anything. In the meanwhile, I came across a review of the HP Pavilion dm1z, and this was the first time, I heard about AMD’s Fusion concept. I was quite impressed with the AMD Zacate platform; here’s what I particularly liked: (1) the CPU (E-350) was on the lower side but was more than adequate for most home-user tasks and consumed less power, and (2) the GPU (HD 6310) was decent, heck it was brilliant as far as IGPs go. But, at that time, I was unaware of other offerings built on AMD’s Fusion.

Then one morning, I came across a Vijay Sales advert in Mumbai Mirror, and my eye caught the terms “15.5” screen,” “AMD E-350,” and “AMD Discrete Graphics.” Intrigued, I read further. And I realized that this (the Sony Vaio VPCEL15EN/B) is precisely what I want. Large screen; check. Island number pad; check. Good MS Office performance and good browsing; check. Good graphics card performance; check.

I made the purchase the next day (from Vijay Sales @ INR 25,000), and have been happy since.

It’s been two months since I bought the Donkey, and in what follows, I share my experience with it. I have never reviewed laptops and have no basis for comparison. My views may thus be limited or misinformed. Do not take them as a voice of authority. Whether or not the write-up is good enough to be called a “proper review,” I leave to you.

Though looks are subjective, I feel I speak for the majority when I say the following: This is a Sony Vaio. It looks good. End of Story.

The large screen makes the Donkey difficult to carry around; the weight is a rather manageable 2.7 kg (with battery). In short, this isn’t “portable” but can be moved around, if you have to.

The Donkey feels well-made, and “sturdy.” Of course, no drop tests have been conducted, but I feel confident that it will withstand a couple of light bumps (no, actual testing is off-limits). In addition, the laptop does have a good feel to it. The patterned surface is good to touch and is not a finger print magnet, which is a relief.

Keyboard and Touchpad
The good/bad in the keypad and touchpad go a long way in determining how a laptop “feels.” First, the good news, the keys are “shallow” and have a grainy surface. They are soft to touch and not hard, when pressed. The touchpad, like all touchpads, is slightly better than useless. I use the mouse as much as possible.

Ports and slots
4 USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI port and a VGA port, a headphone jack and a microphone in, an Ethernet port, and two card reading slots. In short, all basics are covered and more.

The screen definitely isn’t one of the strong points. The screen could have been brighter. Contrast is okay, and colours are reproduced realistically. Viewing angles are average.

I bought the Donkey to do donkey’s work: MS Office, browsing, and downloading. (The nomenclature, too, follows from this.) And on all three, the Donkey has equipped itself well. Boot times are good enough, and general computing performance is at least average. I really have no complaints in this regard. The tasks the Donkey was supposed to do, it does them well enough. Sure, the Core i3 is much faster, but I really do not see how it would have increased my work speed.

I haven’t run any benches because I see no point in it, at least in this case. The closest I come to stressing my processor is gaming. As have mentioned earlier in a recommendation I made, I’m able to play many of the popular games at native resolution at low-to-medium settings, which is a pleasant bonus for me. Full HD videos run absolutely fine.

The powerful IGP also has two other advantages. One is that temperatures remain fine. The maximum I have reached is 56 on the CPU and 59 on the GPU. The other plus is that battery life is much better than decent. I get around 3 hours on full charge. Given the big screen, I feel this is above average.

Just one statistic: Windows Experience Index is 3.8 (CPU is 3.8 and GPU is 4.2; Everything else is at least 5.5)

The Donkey brays, and that’s it.

Am I satisfied with my purchase? Absolutely. In fact, I’m happy enough that I recommend this to anyone who is looking for a casual (browsing + MS Office) laptop and would use it as a semi-desktop. I feel for these tasks, it is more than enough. Sure, an Intel laptop with a low-end discrete GPU is faster, but I would really like to know if it shaves off 10 seconds on Mozilla. But, if it’s performance that you want and can use that extra horsepower, the Donkey may be underwhelming.

The one thing that I must add is this: If Sony were to price this a couple of thousands less and actually advertise it (15.5” screen + discrete GPU = woot woot), they have a major winner on their hand. At least, that’s how I feel. Most users I know buy laptops because they occupy less space, and not because they can be carried around. The heaviest task many such users are going to subject their computers to is running a Full HD video. For these, the Donkey is just fine. It’s frugally perfect.
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Super Moderator
Staff member
Nice review there.

You shouldn't really be comparing it with a Core i3 notebook/ULV, performance wise, this needs to be compared with Intel Atom netbooks and that's where it kicks major butt of Intel Atom.

Compared to Intel Atom, CPU performance is much better. E-350 is fast enough for daily tasks. GPU performance? 1080p videos run smoothly and many Indie games will also run. Lastly, battery life. E-350 wins here too.

AMD has the better netbook platform compared to Intel. Hands down. (yup, I know you got the 15.5" model :p)


Retired Forum Mod
@OP, nice review but why is the battery backup of only 3.*hrs? are you using a 3cell battery?

only complain about this lappy: they should have used 3Gb ram or a lowend dual core APU. though the battery backup may get reduced by ~30min, it'll see a major bump in performance. but then again, with such a config Sony can advertise it as an entrylevel gaming with a 30-35k pricetag.


Broken In
Sorry for the late reply; been a lazy bum and/or busy-bee. Above all, thanks for the kind remarks.

I agree with you, but I was making the comparison in terms of price. For around 30k, one can get a core i3 14-incher; hence.

But yeah, AMD Fusion rocks.

The Donkey runs on 6-cell batteries. The 3-hour backup may be due to the large screen and the fact that my Wi-Fi is constantly on and I'm regularly streaming videos or have multiple tabs open on Firefox.

Agree with you on the RAM bit. I will also remark that a higher speed RAM would boost performance even further. And I guess both Sony and AMD do realize this. The new Sony Vaio E-series 15-incher model runs on the E-450 APU, which not only gets a minor speed bump and a rather beefier GPU but also support for 1333 MHz RAM. The E-350 (which powers the Donkey) is restricted to 1066 MHz.

And I'm certain Sony would have sold it for 30-35k if the processor was Intel. :-(

You have no clue how hard it was to convince my folks that there is a company other than Intel that makes processors.

On the plus side, after seeing the Donkey, building my AMD rig wasn't that difficult.
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Cyborg Agent
A very nice informative review about the Lappy. Wish Sony produce 14-inch or lower version of this ( I mean E series not Y ), though it may miss the optical drive.

Anyway thanks a lot to post this review here.
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