So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Sony VAIO Tap 20 all-in-one PC
This touchscreen PC has a built-in battery -- you can use it on your couch
- Built-in battery
- Large screen (for a tablet)
- Versatile design
- Heavy, cumbersome
- Low screen resolution
- Bundled keyboard and mouse aren’t great
Sony’s VAIO Tap 20 wants to bridge the gap between your study desk and your couch. With its internal battery it’s good for around 90 minutes of Web browsing or video watching -- not a huge amount, but better than nothing. It’s got Ultrabook-class specs, so it’s more than capable of light-duty everyday tasks. It’s very big and heavy for a touchscreen, tablet-esque device though, and the bundled accessories aren’t very good.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
Sony has been one of few companies to throw itself whole-heartedly into the possibilities offered by Windows 8. It’s got a range of touchscreen Ultrabooks and the Microsoft Surface-challenging VAIO Duo 11 slider, all of which are designed to make the new operating system’s touch-driven Start Screen easy to use alongside the traditional Desktop.
The VAIO Tap 20 attacks the Windows 8 interface from the other direction. Instead of being a portable device that can work as a proper PC, it’s a proper PC that is portable — with a battery hidden away behind the 20-inch touchscreen, and a wireless keyboard/mouse combo bundled, you can unplug it and take it away from the desk to your kitchen, couch or a comfy chair.
Sony VAIO Tap 20: Design, features and setup
The VAIO Tap 20 is, as the name cleverly hints, an all-in-one PC built around a 20-inch LCD screen. And you can tap it — the touchscreen is a standard 10-point multi-touch capacitive one. It’s also splash-proof, which makes it a little more resilient to any unexpected spills around the house.
The Tap 20 looks not unlike an oversized Android or Windows 8 tablet. The entire front of the device is dominated by the 20-inch screen, which has a little Sony logo, top-mounted webcam, a few power and activity status lights arranged around the inch-thick bezel. The lower Windows logo is a physical button that brings up the Windows 8 Start Screen.
Hidden away behind the bezel on the Tap 20’s right-hand side you’ll find headphone and microphone jacks, two USB 3.0 ports and an SD/Memory Stick card reader. On the left-hand side, a power plug and Ethernet jack are for more permanent connections. Up top on the left-hand corner are four buttons: power, volume up/down, a screen rotate lock, and a hotkey for Sony’s pre-installed VAIO Assist user guide software.
Key to the VAIO Tap 20’s portability is a fold-out stand at the all-in-one’s rear at the base. It moves from a near-vertical angle — useful for when it’s sitting on a desk — to an entirely-horizontal angle that hides the stand away completely. The stand is easy to put away, but a little hard to find and fold out when you’re putting the Tap 20 back in its desktop orientation.
When you’re using the VAIO Tap 20 as a tablet, it’s easiest to keep the stand hidden — like the kickstand of the Microsoft Surface, the Tap 20’s stand isn’t comfortable to be used on a lap or a soft surface. In any case, it’s perfectly usable with the stand hidden.
One thing we have to note is the heavy weight of the VAIO Tap 20. It’s a 5.2kg tablet — that’s the weight of eight iPads. It’s fine for sitting on your lap while you’re mucking around on the Internet while watching TV, but you can’t really stand up and hold it in one hand while navigating the touch interface with another. At 504 x 315 x 45mm, it’s also quite bulky, and this makes it hard to pass quickly to a friend or family member to show off.
When you’ve got the VAIO Tap 20 sitting on a desk or benchtop, the touchscreen becomes a less important input than the all-in-one’s bundled wireless keyboard and mouse. To be honest, we don’t like either — the mouse is very long, and tapers to a relatively sharp point, and the keyboard is a little cramped and the keys don’t have much travel to them. They are usable, and the wireless is convenient, but they’re not as good as other brands’ bundles.
Sony VAIO Tap 20: Specifications and performanceThe Sony VAIO Tap 20 has some fairly standard Intel Ultrabook parts inside its body. The $1499 model available throughout Australia has an Intel Core i5-3317U CPU running at 1.7GHz (with Turbo Boost up to 2.8GHz when needed), 4GB of DDR3 RAM, Intel’s integrated HD 4000 graphics, and a 500GB hard drive running at 5400RPM.
Of course, it runs Windows 8, the new Microsoft operating system that’s equally at home being controlled with a touchscreen, or a keyboard and mouse. It boots into the standard Windows 8 touch-friendly Smart Screen, but the standard Windows desktop is also available.
Since it’s running a standard blueprint of Intel’s Ultrabook technology, the VAIO Tap 20 performs nearly identically to other Core i5 Ultrabooks we’ve tested like the VAIO Duo 11 — suffice to say that it’s more than powerful enough for any standard home computing task.
The Tap 20 achieved 48sec in the Blender 3D rendering test, and converted 53min of WAV files to MP3 in iTunes after 1min 11sec. These results are comparable with other Windows 8 all-in-one PCs, as well as tablets and Ultrabooks.
The VAIO Tap 20 tablet scored 4993 in PCMark 7 — it’s a reasonable result that shows it’s good enough for any everyday task. In 3DMark 11, the Tap 20 returned scores of E1063, P636 and X204 — it’s definitely not a game-playing powerhouse, but it’ll play basic and less-demanding games at medium or low settings.
The traditional spinning-disk hard drive is the weakest aspect of the VAIO Tap 20. A 500GB model, its 5400RPM platter speed returned write speeds of 84MBps and read speeds of 89MBps — significantly slower than a solid-state disk, which makes the Tap 20 occasionally sluggish when it comes to opening large video files or when booting up from a complete power-off.
The screen of the VAIO Tap 20 is one of our main complaints. It’s bright and vibrant, but the 1600x900pixel resolution is disappointing given its relatively large size (for a tablet, that is). We would have been more satisfied with a Full HD 1920x1080pixel panel.
The battery life that the VAIO Tap 20’s internal cell holds is enough for a couch-side flick through the Internet while you’re watching a movie or some prime time TV, but it won’t stand up to a serious evening of use. We got a result of 1hr 33min when we set screen brightness to maximum, disabled Wi-Fi and watched a full-screen DVD-quality movie. It’s definitely a device that you take around the house when you need it, but after you’re done you’ve got to remember to take it back and plug it in.
Sony VAIO Tap 20: Conclusion
The VAIO Tap 20 is an ambitious device. It does a good job of bringing the all-in-one PC form factor a measure of portability, although the battery life isn’t great and the large screen has a disappointingly low resolution.
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