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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.

For example, on the office productivity test, the Tap 20 garnered a score of just 730, less than half the mark of Lenovo's ThinkCentre M92z. And the Sony's image-editing test took 596 seconds, versus 157 seconds for the Lenovo. Some of the performance issues are attributable to the slow, 5400-rpm laptop-style hard drive.

On the plus side, however, power usage is low. The idle power of the Sony Tap 20 is just 23 watts, about half the 41W idle power of the Lenovo all-in-one.

Tap 20 real-world use

I set up the Tap 20 in my home office, installing some additional software and getting used to the touch-enabled display. After a time, I discovered that I was using the mouse less, even in the Windows desktop, though some operations in desktop mode are still easier with a real input device. The user interface was responsive and smooth. When I surfed the Web, both Firefox and Internet Explorer seemed well behaved, even with multiple tabs open. Web-based video playback was mostly clean and stutter-free.

However, if you plan on writing or editing longer documents, you may want a different keyboard. The Sony keyboard's keys are slightly textured, but still slippery, and I found myself making many more errors while typing than I usually do. Non-touch-typists may not encounter the same issues.

Using the Tap 20 untethered is an interesting experience. At well over 11 pounds and with a 20-inch width, it's not something you comfortably sit on your lap. It does make for a very cool Xbox SmartGlass device. I set it up on my coffee table in front of my entertainment center, within easy reach. Even though SmartGlass is still in its infancy, the technology has the potential to turn a device such as the Tap 20 into a powerful adjunct to your home entertainment setupassuming, of course, that Microsoft keeps enhancing SmartGlass.

I also laid the Tap 20 flat and played around with some of the games, like Xbox Taptile and Pinball FX2. These titles show off just a glimmer of the potential of the system as a shared gaming device. Let's hope that more board-game ports come to the Microsoft Store, as we've seen with iOS games; I'd love to see Ticket to Ride, Elder Sign, or Alien Frontiers on this system.

While video quality (what video we could play) looked good, audio was something of a mixed bag. I discovered that the sound quality varies depending on the surface the system sits on. If it's on a hard desktop, the sound quality is better than if you plop it down on a tabletop covered by a tablecloth. Even in a best-case scenario, the sound quality is limited by the speaker size. The unit produces little audible bass content, though Dolby Home Theater v4 spreads out the sound stage a bit without adversely affecting audio quality. If you plan on using the Tap 20 to watch a lot of movies, or as a music playback device, external speakers would be a good idea.

 

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