The Bottom Line
Jul 8 2013 - Sony's attempt at the mobile desktop with the VAIO Tap 20 is a mixed bag of offerings. It is certainly the most affordable of the options on the market right now but it isn't quite as portable as it could be and it sacrificed a bit too much on the display. The portability of the system is also hampered by the limited battery life. Still, the system is a tad bit faster than the other hybrid all-in-ones currently available even if the storage system is on the slow side.
- Relatively Affordable Hybrid All-In-One
- Faster Mobile Core i7 Processor Than Competition
- Gigabit Ethernet Port
- Thick Design And Heavy Weight Make It Less Mobile
- Performance Trails Behind Traditional All-In-Ones or Desktop Replacement Laptops
- Limited Battery Life
- Intel Core i7-3517U Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 8GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 1TB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- 20" WSXGA+ (1600x900) Multitouch Display With Intel HD Graphioc 4000
- Intel HD Audio with Stereo Speakers
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 3.0, 1.3 Megapixel Webcam, 3-in-1 Card Reader
- 19.9" x 12" x 1.8"
- Windows 8
Review - Sony VAIO Tap 20
Jul 8 2013 - Sony markets that VAIO Tap 20 as a mobile desktop computer system. This essentially means that it is one of a new class of hybrid desktop systems that can be used away from a power outlet for a short period of time. To make it mobile, they focused on making the system more compact and lighter than a traditional all-in-one. The system does offers some fairly small dimensions including being just 1.8-inches thick but at nearly eleven and a half pound weight makes it significantly heavier than even some of the largest desktop replacement computer systems. The system can be used for multiple people to share in the experience, the metal stand on the back can fold up for it to be placed flat on a table.
Since the Sony VAIO Tap 20 is designed to be a mobile desktop system that can be moved around with a power cord attached, Sony has used a mobile processor in order to conserve power. In this case, it is a relatively fast Core i7-3517U dual core processor that is typical of many of the higher end ultrabooks on the market. This combined with 8GB of DDR3 memory allow for a smooth overall experience in Windows and is faster than its direct competitors that use Core i5 processors but it still lags behind most non-portable all-in-one systems that use standard desktop class parts.
For the storage, Sony elected to use a large one terabyte hard drive in the VAIO Tap 20. The only downside is that this is a notebook class drive that spins at the more sedate 5400rpm spin rate compared to standard desktop class systems. Unlike many newer systems, Sony does not pair up any solid state drive as a caching mechanism to improve performance. The result is a very sluggish overall boot time of nearly three quarters of a minute which is twice as long as the SSD cached Dell XPS 18 but on par with Lenovo's IdeaCentre Horizon. If you do need some additional storage space, there are two USB 3.0 ports that can be used with high speed external hard drives. It should be noted that these are the only two peripheral ports beyond a memory card reader slot. There is no optical drive which is becoming more common on laptops and some desktop systems.
With a 20-inch display, Sony was likely looking to compromise between size and portability. This puts it in a similar class as many other small all-in-one desktop systems. The big disappointment here is that the display uses just a 1600x900 native resolution. This is below the 1080p high definition video level and less than most all desktop screens at this point. It does offer some good color and viewing angles although the brightness could be better. It is a multitouch display screen which was responsive enough and helps with the Windows 8 modern interface. The graphics are handled by the Intel HD Graphics 4000 that is built into the Core i7 processor. This gives it a decent level of performance but it isn't really suited for 3D PC gaming except at the most casual and lowest resolution and detail levels. It is much better suited for those that might also want to use the system for encoding digital video using a Quick Sync compatible application.
As this is a mobile desktop computer, Sony has designed the system with an internal 5000mAh capacity battery to allow it to function away from a wall power outlet. They rate the battery life as up to two and three quarter hours. In digital video playback testing, the system was able to run for just under two hours before it went into standby mode. This limits the ability of using the system as a mobile movie watching platform as many films can go over this running time. This puts it at roughly the same running time as the much larger Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon but well behind the smaller Dell XPS 18.
Priced at $1000 currently, the Sony VAIO Tap 20 is relatively affordable when it comes to the hybrid all-in-one market. The Dell XPS 18 carries a $1350 price tag while the huge Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon is roughly $1600. Now, the Dell offers a much better experience for those that want to frequently move their system around while the Lenovo is just plain huge making it excellent for four people to use at once. Both of them have the advantage of higher resolution displays over the Sony. The real issue comes to the portability. While the system is inexpensive compared to the other two, it isn't all that portable beyond moving every once in a while. If this portability is not an issue with consumers, there are more powerful touchscreen based all-in-ones on the market that also have larger, higher resolution displays for roughly the same cost.