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Sony reaches the Windows 8 finish line first with two quirky tablets

Loyd Case | Oct. 15, 2012
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.

Although the 1600-by-900 pixel resolution seems a little low for a 20-inch all-in-one, Sony uses an IPS panel, so the color fidelity and video saturation look pretty good, and the viewing angles are generally decent. Sony also built in the same Bravia video-rendering engine it uses in its Bravia HDTVs, so video looks nicewhen you can get it to run. The problem with video in this case isn't the hardware but Windows 8 itself, which no longer plays back MPEG-2 content. Sony should consider bundling some type of MPEG-2 playback tool going forward. WMV high-definition video looks quite nice on the IPS screen, however, as do high-resolution photos.

The Tap 20 offers a robust set of connectivity options, including Bluetooth 4.0, gigabit ethernet, and 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity. Surprisingly, the system sports only two USB 3.0 ports, though one incorporates sleep-and-charge functionality. Also included is an SD/Memory Stick slot, as well as an audio input and output jack. The system lacks monitor inputs and outputs, howeveryou won't find HDMI ports, or any other video connectors.

To alleviate some USB port congestion, Sony supplies a wireless keyboard and mouse. They're competent, though the keyboard looks and feels more like a Chiclet-style laptop keyboard, right down to the shallow keystroke and lack of sculpting.

The stand is large and U-shaped, mounted to the unit via hinges. You can adjust the tilt, but not the height. However, the stand can rotate parallel to the system, allowing you to lay the machine completely flat on a tabletop or other surface.

That flexibility allows you to use this Sony system as a flat surface for interactive gaming, shared art, or presentations. Angling the stand for setting the system up in portrait mode is also possible, but the machine isn't very stable in that mode.

To facilitate extended use in the shared tabletop mode (practically a necessity for playing board games), Sony has built in a 5000 mAh battery, which can run the system for up to 3 hours without a power cord, depending on the brightness setting and use mode.

Performance

Since the Tap 20 carries an ultra-low-voltage mobile CPU, performance is somewhat lacking compared with that of other all-in-one PCs. PCWorld is in the process of building the new WorldBench 8 suite for Windows 8 testing, but it isn't quite ready yet. We were able to run PCMark 7, including storage tests, and also evaluate startup times. In comparison with previously tested AIO systems running Windows 7, the Tap 20 is seriously deficient in sheer CPU performance: Although you can use the system for video editing or gaming, those activities are most certainly not its strong suit.

 

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