Sony clearly sees touchscreens as the future of computing.
At a media event in Toronto, Sony demonstrated many of its current high-end Windows 8 products from all-in-one desktops to laptops and convertibles, all taking advantage of the OS’s touchscreen capabilities.
24-inch Sony Vaio L Series PC
Starting with the creme de la creme, there’s the L Series PC – an all-in-one desktop that comes with impressive specs.
It runs on a quad-core Intel Core i7-3630QM processor with a clockspeed of 2.4 GHz (up to 3.4 GHz with Intel’s Turbo Boost Technology), 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB 7,200 rpm SATA hard drive. The NVIDIA GeForce GT 620M GPU graphics card comes with 2 GB of dedicated memory and the 24-inch Bravia touch display provides a 1,920×1,080 resolution.
This computer is ideal for heavy gaming and video editing. Sony offers its own free software for the latter - Vaio Movie Creator, an editor a la Windows Movie Maker where you can make simple slideshows and videos. But for the more hardcore editor, the machine also ships with the more professional Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum which allows for numerous video and audio tracks, ACID Music Studio so you can record your own music and Sound Forge Audio Studio for high-end audio editing. The L Touch is available with either a DVD or Blu-ray burner.
The device also comes with a 1,280×1,024 HD webcam, a TV tuner and remote, an HDMI in as well as out (in case you wish to use it as a monitor for another device), a wireless QWERTY keyboard and a laser mouse. It weighs 11.5 kg, which is a little heavy to transport but as it’s supposed to be a desktop computer, you’re not really supposed to be lugging it around.
And if you’re willing to shell out a bit more dough, you can get one with a glassless 3D screen, which is to say you don’t need glasses to see the 3D. At first glance, this seems promising. As I mentioned above, the L series PC comes with an HDMI in so you can hook up a 3D device to it, such as the PlayStation 3 which has had the capability since a 2010 firmware update. Then you would be able to watch movies and game in third dimension.
But, ultimately, it’s a waste of money. Even the Sony reps admitted that the technology isn’t quite there yet. For the effect to work properly, you need to be facing the screen at a perfect 90-degree angle. This is fine if the screen is small like on a Nintendo 3DS so you always hold it at the right angle, but when it gets to a 24-inch diagonal screen, it’s a little more difficult. If the angle is slightly off, it just looks 2D, and it’s a fair deal off, the image becomes slightly blurry as well. The glassless 3D screen also raises the weight of the overall machine to 11.9 kg.
20-inch Sony Vaio J Series All-in-One (Vaio Tap 20)
It has a 20-inch IPS screen with a built-in stand, no optical drive and runs on a battery with a 3-hour charge. Weighing in at 5.2 kg, it’s somewhat of a cross between an all-in-one and a tablet. A little too large to walk around the city with, but reasonably easy to transport from room to room.
It uses a 10-point multitouch screen, meaning you access multiple areas of the screen at the same time, whether it’s drawing a picture with both hands or manoeuvring more than one item on the screen at a time. Multiple people can use the device at the same time too, and there are many games that take advantage of this functionality, such as an air hockey game where each player controls his paddle via touch. The movements are surprisingly smooth even when using all ten digits on the screen.
But the Tap 20 is not quite as powerful as the L-Series. The base model runs on a dual-core Intel Core i5-3317U processor with a clockspeed of 1.7 GHz (2.6 GHz with Turbo Boost) but you can upgrade it to a Core i7 processor. It comes 6 GB of RAM (expandable to 8 GB) and 750 GB 5,400 rpm SATA drive (expandable to 1TB). Its graphics are also slightly less impressive. It uses an Intel HD Graphics 4000 card and the screen has a maximum resolution of 1,600×900.
It also comes with a HD webcam, wireless keyboard and laser mouse.
So it’s perhaps not the best device for hardcore gaming, but the crisp 20-inch screen makes it good option for watching videos. The Vaio Tap 20 starts at $1,199.99.
Sony Vaio Duo 11 Ultrabook
The other standout from a design perspective is the Vaio Duo 11, which I’ve written about before.
This Ultrabook device falls into the category of convertible – a cross between notebook computer and a tablet. As it is a relatively new form factor, manufacturers have yet to decide on a definitive look. And personally, I’m not that enthused with the Duo 11′s appearance, as it basically looks like a tablet on a keyboard dock, when in laptop form.
But it’s hard to deny, it’s an impressive little machine. It runs on the same Core i5 processor and the Intel graphics card as the Tap 20. But the Duo 11′s 11.6-inch IPS screen can provide the full HD 1,920×1,080 resolution. And overall it will load programs faster as it uses a solid state drive with 128 GB of storage. As an added bonus, it can support the use of a stylus.
It doesn’t come with an optical drive, but it only weighs 1.3 kg, has front-and-back full HD webcams, 8 GB or RAM and a battery life of 5 hours. And like the Tap 20, the processor can be upgraded to Core i7.
The Vaio Duo 11 starts at 1,299.99.
13.3-inch Sony Vaio T Series Ultrabook Laptop (T13)
This Ultrabook comes with a 13.3-inch screen and a maximum screen resolution of 1,366×768.
It offers more storage than the Duo 11 – a hybrid drive that combines a 500 GB 5,400 rpm SATA drive and a 32 GB SSD. (This can be upgraded to 512 GB SSD.)
The T13 is slightly heavier at 1.7 kg, has a slightly better battery life at 5.5 hours and only one webcam with a 1,280×1,024 resolution. But the rest of the specs are basically the same as on the Duo 11.
They both use the same dual-core processor (which can be upgraded), graphics card and RAM.
The T13 Touch starts at $999.99
14-inch Premium Sony Vaio E Series Laptop (E14P Touch Series)
But neither the Duo 11 or the T13 Touchcomes with an optical drive. So if you consider one a necessity, you should look to the E14P Touch.
It looks somewhat similar to the T13, but partially due to the fact it comes with a DVD SuperMulti Drive (or Blu-ray player if you want it), the E14P Touch a bit bigger. It has a 34.1 cm x 3.5 cm x 24.5 cm chassis compared to the T13′s 32.3 cm x 1.9 cm x22.6 cm body.
And the E14p Touch has a slightly larger screen at 14 inches but has the same screen resolution and graphics card as the T13.
But unlike the T13, the dual-core E14P Touch is a more powerful machine. It is available out of the box with either an Intel Core i3-3110M processor or an Intel Core i5-3210M processor. The Core i3 model has a clockspeed of 2.4 GHz and the Core i5 model runs at 2.5 GHz (3.1 GHz with Turbo Boost). But like with the other computers, you can choose to upgrade it to the high-end Core i7 processor if you choose.
The Core i3 model starts with 6 GB of RAM and a 500 GB 5,400 rpm SATA drive and the Core i5 model starts at 8 GB and a 750 GB SATA drive. But both are upgradeable to 16 GB of RAM and a 1 TB hard drive.
And the E14P Touch comes with the same editing software as the L-Series PC as it is a workhorse machine (at least once the specs are maxed out) and so can be a powerful video editor.