|Name||All-in-one PC: Sony VAIO L (VPCL218FGB)|
|At a glance:||24-inch, LED-backlit 1080p screen with limited tilt,Fast Intel quad-core CPU and 8GB RAM,Built-in Blu-ray player and HDMI, but no TV tuner,Touchscreen supports multi-touch and gestures|
|Summary:||The VAIO L is stylish and powerful, but also noisy, expensive and lacks features found in lower-priced competitors.|
Despite its dull name, the Sony VAIO L (VPCL218FGB) inspires the “Ooh, I want one” sentiment at first sight. This machine simply oozes that sleek charm graced by most Sony products, that has long made the VAIO brand a favourite among style-conscious execs.
Personally I tend to care more for function than form, and looking at the specifications this machine promises to pack a fair punch. It has a latest-generation Intel Sandy Bridge quad-core CPU running at 2.2GHz (which can turbo-boost up to 3.3GHz), 8GB of DDR3 memory, a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive and an Nvidia GeForce GT 540M graphics card.
The VAIO L has a large 24-inch, LED-backlit 1920 x 1080 pixel LCD touchscreen – running around the edge of which is a flat black bezel which acts as a secondary touch-sensitive input device. Depending where on the bezel you place your finger, you can activate the Media Gallery, switch between windows, and bring up the onscreen keyboard along with other basic navigation controls. During testing however, I never found any of this useful.
My favourite thing about all-in-ones is their ability to be used as media centres, so my first test is always to sit down and watch a movie on them. Unfortunately in the VAIO L’s case, this introduced me to a raft of disappointments.
My first complaint is the fan noise. Maybe it’s just the pre-release unit we received for testing, but the constantly audible whir gets quite annoying. On top of that, the fan speed ramps up intermittently (presumably when the CPU hits a certain temperature) which makes it even noisier.
Add to this the noisy optical drive. Whilst loading a Blu-ray movie to watch, the drive starting vibrating profusely until I tilted the screen to some arbitrary angle that it decided it was happy with.
Lastly, the LED activity lights at the top of the screen were immensely distracting. The drive activity light blinked constantly whilst reading the Blu-ray disc, so I ended up putting Blu-Tack over the lights to block them out.
On the plus side, the image and sound quality were superb, apart from the screen’s viewing angles being slightly narrow. It also would have been nice to have a digital TV tuner built in, but at least there’s an HDMI input to connect up a Freeview or MySky HDi decoder.
In all other aspects, the VAIO L is a good machine. The touchscreen is responsive; the included touch-related software is somewhat useful; and this PC is a powerhouse under the hood.
If you want an all-in-one to be a true desktop replacement, then the VAIO L could comfortably fill that role. The exception of course being gaming – I’ve yet to see an all-in-one PC with a graphics card capable of playing modern games smoothly at high quality settings.
If you’re looking at an all-in-one as a way to blur the lines between your home entertainment and computing experiences, however, the VAIO L’s media shortcomings mean it may well miss the mark.