Windows 8 launches in exactly two weeks on October 26. The big day is imminent. The anticipation is palpable. Yet until two quirky devices from Sony arrived a few days ago, we hadn't yet put our hands on final, reviewable Windows 8 hardware.
Is the PC industry ready for this OS launch? For Sony, the question is moot: It wins the trophy for the earliest Windows 8 hardware delivery (well, not including a preproduction tablet we received from Acer). Now the onus falls on usjust what do we think of Sony's interpretations of what a Windows 8 device can be?
The PCWorld Labs techs have been busy building a new version of WorldBench designed to run on Windows 8 systems. Our WorldBench 8 benchmarking suite isn't fully complete with new Windows 8-oriented tests, precisely because we haven't had enough Windows 8 hardware to work with. Nonetheless, for these reviews, our available lab results still provide a good idea of how Windows 8 systems perform.
The two Sony systems presented here are cool examples of the endless possibilities that Windows 8 enables. One is an unusual all-in-one PC, while the other is a convertible laptop that's heavily imbued with tablet DNA. Neither is a cookie-cutter system, and both push the envelope of what we define as PCs.
With that in mind, let's dive into our first official Windows 8 hardware reviews.
Sony Tap 20: An all-in-one or a humongous tablet?
As you might guess, this new Windows 8-based Sony all-in-one isn't your average AIO. Inside the modest exterior beats the heart of an Ultrabook, along with a ten-point multitouch screen and a built-in battery. So you can either think of the Tap 20 (also known by the sexy name SVJ20215CXW) as a smallish AIO or a really big tablet. In reality, it's a little of both.
In putting the Tap 20 through its paces, I started with a little photo editing on its decidedly smallish (at least for an AIO) 20-inch, 1600-by-900-pixel display. It was a constraining experience, compared with the more expansive displays I'm used to working with. Then I unplugged it, took it upstairs, laid it flat on my dining-room table, and played Pinball FX 2.
Notice the smudges on the Sony system in the photo above. Fingerprints on the screens of Windows 8 PCs will become a way of lifean indignity we already experience with normal tablets. As more touch-enabled PCs arrive, you can expect cleaning cloths to become ubiquitous accessories.
Under the hood
Sony has built its new AIO on mobile PC technology, including the same 1.7GHz Ivy Bridge ultra-low-voltage Core i5-3317U CPU used in many mainstream Ultrabooks, with a Turbo Boost up to 2.6GHz when needed. The system also includes 4GB of system memory and uses Intel's own HD 4000 integrated graphics to take care of display chores. Storage tasks fall to a 750GB mobile hard drive, and since the system doesn't employ an SSD cache, the storage performance can be a little poky. No optical drive is built in; either you get your video or audio content via the network, or you attach an external optical drive.
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