Sony markets its Vaio Tap 20 as a mobile desktop, but you could say that about any portable computer. We think “laptablet” is closer to the mark. With its 20-inch display, the Tap 20 is both a big laptop and a gargantuan tablet. And it wouldn’t make any sense at all without Windows 8.
Sony gives you a wireless mouse and keyboard, but who needs them?
Yes, Windows 8 is the operating system PC enthusiasts love to hate, but this machine is proof that Microsoft’s strategy of melding the desktop and mobile experiences can work. The Tap 20 isn’t perfect by a long shot, but it’s pretty darn cool. We challenge you to spend a few minutes with it and not find yourself grinning like a fool in love. And if you pass that test, fire up one of the free pinball games Sony throws in, orient the device in portrait mode, and stroke the screen to pull back the plunger.
The model we tested was outfitted with a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U mobile processor, but only 4GB of DDR3/1600 memory. Considering the price of memory, and this machine’s occasionally sluggish performance, we think Sony should have doubled it. If you decide to buy one, we’d recommend spending the extra $200 to buy the next model up, which does just that. That model also has a 1.9GHz Intel Core i7 proc and a larger hard drive (1TB versus the 750GB in the model sent for this review; both drives are 5,400rpm spinners).
The Tap 20 features a 20-inch LED-backlit IPS display—with 10 touch points, natch—which is essential when you consider all the angles at which you might end up using it. The 1600x900 touchscreen is very responsive, as we discovered when playing the aforementioned pinball games. And while the integrated graphics aren’t strong enough for playing A-level games, they did a fine job with the more casual variety. We were particularly impressed with the speed at which we were able to operate the flippers. We were thinking it would be even more fun if the games’ physics responded to tilting, but that might have resulted in a little too much reality: It would require holding the device stock still and perfectly level.
You can use the folding stand on the back of the display to position it at an infinite number of angles for reading, or you can fold it completely flat and use the tablet horizontally. The stand does double-duty as a handle when you want to take the device into another room (did we mention it can run on battery power? It lasted three hours in our test). But we wish the handle was a wee bit thicker, had more-rounded edges, or was padded, because we could feel every ounce of the Tap 20’s 11.46-pounds digging into the backs of our fingers as we lugged it around. It’s also a little awkward to set up, because natural movement would have you lay it down flat on its screen—and if you have kids, you know they’re going to do just that. It takes two hands to flip it around and stand it up on its easel.
The speakers mounted on the back of the display are borderline terrible, but that’s typical of even all-in-one desktop PCs. Do yourself a favor and plug in headphones. Speaking of all-in-ones, the Tap 20 could fill that role, too. Its biggest shortcoming is the lack of an HDMI input—although that’s really more of a missed opportunity than a deal-breaker.
There’s nothing else remotely like the Vaio Tap 20, and we applaud Sony’s audacity for bringing it to market. Priced at a cool grand, this machine is hardly an impulse buy; but it reminds us why we love computers so much.