Sony Vaio Tap 20 review
We first got a hands-on with Sony's distinctive Vaio Tap 20 all-in-one PC at IFA in August, but its official UK release means that we're finally able to really put it through its paces in our labs. Designed to work with Windows 8, this is among the most compact and stylish all-in-one PCs we've seen, with many features more reminiscent of a tablet than a desktop PC - including a touchscreen and a battery.
With its stand folded away, it looks like the world's biggest tablet, measuring 312x504mm and about 20mm thick around the edge. Pulling out the stand requires an extra 100mm of desk space. An accelerometer means that the Tap knows which way round you've positioned it and the stand support the Tap 20 in both landscape and portrait aspects.
Continuing the tablet/desktop hybrid theme is that built-in battery, so you can easily move the PC from room-to-room without having to shut it down. The sheer size of its 20in 16:9 screen makes it too unwieldy to easily take out and about with you, but it's great for moving around the house, to use as an office PC one moment, iPlayer in the kitchen the next, and then onto the coffee table for some family fun.
The battery is a typical 3,500mAh laptop battery, and lasted for two hours and 24 minutes in our tests. It's long enough for most movies, a couple of TV episodes or a lengthy bout of browsing or typing. You can access the battery by pulling off a plastic cover at the rear of the PC, handy if it wears out from heavy use. The hard disk bay and memory slots can also be accessed here, so upgrading or replacing both of these is relatively easy.
Both of the laptop memory slots are occupied, combining one 4GB and one 2GB module of 1,600MHz DDR3 RAM for a total 6GB of memory, which can be upgraded to a maximum of 16GB. The single hard disk bay beneath another screw-on cover at the back of the PC currently contains a 1TB 2 1/2in hard disk; swapping this for an SSD would allow for much-improved boot times and read/write speeds at the cost of capacity.
The PC has just two USB ports, but both are USB3. The wireless keyboard and mouse don't require a USB dongle as their receiver is built into the Tap. Both are very small, but we were particularly pleased by how easy we found it accurately touch-type on the keyboard's flat, widely-spaced keys. The computer also has 3.5mm mic and headphone ports, a multi-format memory card reader capable of handling SDXC and Memory Stick HD Duo media, a Gigabit Ethernet port and dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi. Shortcut buttons around the sides of the PC allow you to adjust the volume, lock the display orientation and trigger Sony's integrated help system. There's a Start Screen shortcut button on the front of the Tap, as well as a webcam for video chat.
Sony has taken the unusual step of building a set of 2.1 speakers into the PC, including the world's smallest sub-woofer. While the Tap sounds better than most laptops, doing a fine job in games and movies, you'll probably want to plug in external speakers if you're really into your music. Bass tones and high treble notes are well defined, but many mid-range sounds, including vocals and guitars, sound a little muffled.
The processor is an Intel Core i5-3317U, a low-power dual-core Ivy Bridge processor that we see in a lot of ultrabooks. It's not very powerful, producing a rather low score of 40 in our benchmark tests. It’s capable of running any standard desktop application but heavy-duty multi-tasking and tasks such as video transcoding may feel a little slow if you're used to a more powerful desktop PC. The processor's on-chip Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU put in a passable low-end performance in our 3D gaming tests, too. It only managed a frame rate of 18.7fps in Dirt Showdown at 1,280x720, 4x AA and high quality, but dropping that to low quality and 2x AA gave us a playable 36.2fps, making it suitable for basic 3D gaming.
There are no graphics inputs or outputs, so you can't connect the PC to a TV or projector and you can't use the screen for a games console or Blu-ray player. This limits the Tap’s multimedia potential somewhat but then simplicity and portability are key here. On the subject of things that have been cut out, there's no DVD or Blu-ray drive either, so if you want to watch movies, you'll have to rely on services such as Netflix.
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