Sony VAIO Tap 20 review
With Windows 8 finally embracing touchscreen technology, hardware manufacturers have been falling over themselves to come up with new and exciting ways to use touchscreens in their products. Sony thinks it’s done just that with the VAIO Tap 20, a family PC squeezed into a tablet form factor.
Even though it looks like a tablet and has an internal battery, the 20in screen should give you a clue that the Tap 20 isn’t meant for taking on the move. It’s a transportable multi-touch PC designed to adapt to your family’s needs, thanks to its Windows 8 operating system and a clever hinged stand.
That integrated hinge lets you adjust the viewing angle with a push, without toppling the system over. You can go from desktop PC to tilted easel, or to a flat play surface almost instantly. While in transit, it also doubles as a carrying handle. It’s a great little feature that’s well implemented, although getting it back up again isn’t quite as elegant. We had to scrabble around the back to hold the hinge down while we raised the screen back into place.
For the most part though, you won’t need to worry about viewing angles, as the display has very good ones. They certainly aren’t perfect, and we’ll be taking a closer look when we get one into our lab, but we had no trouble seeing what was on-screen on the show floor. The 1,600x900 display resolution looked reasonably sharp stretched across 20 inches, but Sony will have to get the price right to prevent us from wishing it was 1080p.
The system itself looks fantastic from the front, with an all-glass front and black bezel, but equally attractive from behind. A white plastic finish, rounded corners and trademark VAIO minimalist styling make it look much sleeker than something of this size ought to.
Around the edges, you get Gigabit Ethernet, two USB3 ports and a multi-format card reader. It’s not exactly comprehensive, but with Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n Wi-Fi, you may not need to physically connect any peripherals. If you own an Xperia phone, you’ll even be able to share music and photos with the system using NFC. There’s also an obligatory 1.3-megapixel webcam at the front for video calls.
There’s also room inside for a 2.1 speaker system, which produced surprisingly capable audio – even over the sound of countless other journalists craning to get a look at it. We couldn’t run our normal audio tests, but the bass-heavy dubstep track chosen by a Sony rep certainly had presence in all the right places.
Its internals are fairly standard – processor power comes from an Intel Core i5-3317U paired with 4Gb of RAM and a 1TB hard disk. That’s firmly Ultrabook territory, and probably isn’t going to set any benchmark records, but it’s more than fast enough for everyday applications. Windows 8 felt responsive in our hands, particularly when loading full-screen apps from the Start screen. No word yet on what battery life to expect from the Tap 20, but we imagine it won’t be significant enough to power that 20in screen for more than a few hours between charges.
Sony struggles to leave Microsoft’s operating system in a vanilla state, so it should come as no surprise that it has added a few extra value apps here. Some might actually be useful, such as Family Paint which is ideal for small children, or the touch-enabled Music manager that’s much more intuitive than other interfaces we’ve used. It uses the full version of Windows 8, so you still have access to the desktop – it’s nowhere near as touch optimised as the Start Screen, but still usable if you don’t have a mouse to hand.
As something of a middle ground between a desktop PC and tablet computer, the VAIO Tap 20 is an interesting prospect. Whether it’s one that pays off for Sony will depend on whether families feel the need for a machine they can move from room to room, and whether it costs less than a whole PC. Sony has yet to announce pricing, but we should know soon enough – you’ll be able to pick one up at the end of October.