Sony’s VAIO L-series computers boast plenty of sex appeal, and this particular model boasts a 24-inch screen that’s one inch larger than the rest of the field (albeit with the same wide-screen resolution of 1920x1080). It’s not just a pretty face, either; its benchmark performance puts it a close second to the edgy-looking Lenovo. The VAIO’s $2,000 MSRP, however, renders it $600 more expensive than that machine, $320 pricier than HP’s TouchSmart 600 Quad, and more than twice as costly as MSI’s budget-friendly offering.
Sony tapped the same midrange desktop CPU that Lenovo did, Intel’s 2.66GHz Core 2 Quad 8400S, and paired it with an Intel P43 chipset and 6GB of DDR2/800 memory on a proprietary motherboard. Nvidia’s discrete mobile GeForce GT 240M GPU, with 1GB of dedicated memory, handles graphics duties. Sony’s VAIO Media Gallery makes good use of the touch-screen display, enabling you to produce slide shows and movies by dragging thumbnail images around with your fingertips. But Sony’s touch-screen software is much less comprehensive than HP’s offering.
Sony's VAIO computers are always beautiful and almost always overpriced.
Sony offers several of the other features we saw on HP’s TouchSmart, including an HDMI input (for connecting a console gaming system), vacant space beneath the unit where you can stash the keyboard when it’s not needed, and an integrated face-tracking webcam (Sony calls it Motion Eye). The webcam’s image quality, however, falls far short of the HP’s and is slightly inferior to the Lenovo’s (but it’s leagues better than the MSI’s).
Apart from that, the VAIO L-series is pretty similar to the TouchSmart and the Lenovo: All three machines support Bluetooth networks (and have Bluetooth mice and keyboards), and they all provide integrated TV tuners and feature Blu-ray/DVD-burner combo drives for watching movies. If you’re looking for a PC to connect to an A/V receiver or stand-alone powered speakers, Sony does use a better audio codec than any of the other three manufacturers: Realtek’s ALC889 is an eight-channel part with a digital-to-analog converter that delivers a signal-to-noise ratio of 108dB. HP and MSI use Realtek’s more pedestrian ALC888, which has a DAC offering signal-to-noise ratio of 97dB. Lenovo uses Realtek’s six-channel ALC662, with a DAC that delivers a signal-to-noise ratio of 98dB.
This being a Sony product, the VAIO integrates a MemoryStick Pro slot (with support for Sony’s MagicGate DRM technology) in addition to a separate SD card slot. The HP, Lenovo, and MSI machines all include more typical memory-card readers. Sony is also the only manufacturer to include an i.LINK connector (aka a four-pin IEEE-1394 port). The VAIO is outfitted with an IEEE 802.11b/g/n client adapter, just like the rest of the bunch, and gigabit Ethernet (the Lenovo is the only one with a 100Mb/s NIC).
The VAIO VPCL117FX/B’s benchmark performance crushes MSI’s product and it includes a much bigger display, but it costs more than twice as much. It’s more than a little faster than HP’s TouchSmart, but has inferior touch-screen software and is a lot more expensive. And it’s slightly slower than Lenovo’s offering, which doesn’t have a touch screen, but is significantly cheaper. That leaves fashion sense, MagicGate, and IEEE 1394 as the only reasons—tenuous as they might be—to recommend this all-in-one over the competition.
Large display; elegant design; strong performance.
Every Time We Touch
Overpriced; slow memory; doesn't make best use of its touch-screen.
Intel 2.66GHz Core 2 Quad Q8400S
Intel P43 Express w/Intel 82801JR I/O
Nvidia GeForce GT 240M with 1GB memory
24-inch multitouch LCD, 1920x1080
Gigabit Ethernet; 802.11 b/g/n; Bluetooth
1TB Seagate ST31000528AS
Blu-ray player/DVD burner combo drive
Sony VAIO VPCL11FX/B
Premiere Pro CS3
Our test bed consists of a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700, 2GB of Corsair DDR2/800 RAM on an EVGA 680 SLI motherboard, two EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX cards in SLI mode, a Western Digital 150GB Raptor and 500GB Caviar hard drive, an LG GGC-H20L optical drive, a Sound Blaster X-Fi, and a PC Power and Cooling Silencer 750 Quad. OS is Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.