The Sony VAIO L All-in-One Touchscreen, our TopTenREVIEWS Silver Award winner, is without question one of the most versatile computer systems we’ve encountered. It’s ideal to be used as a media center computer because of its big screen, Blu-ray player and much more. It’s also equipped with loads of computing power so its productivity features shouldn’t be overlooked. If there’s a problem with the L Series it’s that in trying to be so versatile it probably isn’t the absolute best at any one aspect of computing. The L Series includes essentially three configurations of the same computer. Naturally pricing varies with included features and which one is the right combination will be an individual judgment. It ranks among our favorite all-in-ones and is worthy of serious consideration.
Without question, the big, high definition display screen is the focal point of the VAIO L series computers. The full High Definition screen measures 24 inches diagonally and boasts 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, frequently referred to as 1080p. That is the standard for HiDef televisions in today’s market. The display is created by active matrix Liquid Crystal Digital, or LCD, technology which underlies most HDTVs. The screen is in the familiar 16:9 widescreen ratio so it’s ideal for watching movies presented in that format.
Complimenting the great display is a built-in Blu-ray disc drive. Since the screen is full HD 1080p and the computer supports Dolby Digital Live surround sound audio, it can make the most of such HD content. The computer includes integrated stereo speakers but they’re not likely very satisfactory for HD audio so better speakers can be fed by either wired connections or by using the included Bluetooth wireless A2DP stereo output. Like other Blu-ray players, it also plays standard DVDs and CDs. It will also burn CDs and DVD±R/RW.
Extending the entertainment range of this computer is an integrated TV tuner. Using the independent HDMI input allows for the connection of a satellite or cable box to the computer to watch programming without even booting the computer. Gaming consoles or other such HDMI enabled devices can also be connected this way. With the computer booted, the picture in picture feature allows for some pretty interesting multitasking opportunities such as working with any sort of productivity program on the bulk of the screen while keeping a favorite TV show playing in a small box within the other.
This remarkable display also offers the convenience of being a touchscreen. Most media features can be controlled on the screen as well as some computer operations. There are some limited touchscreen specific programs available at this writing but they’re expected to become more widely available as the screen type becomes more prominent. The multi-touch technology of the screen makes many tasks easier with techniques that have become familiar on some cell phones. Opening files can be accomplished by simply double tapping them. Content can be dragged across the screen by touching it and sliding. Photos can be rotated by touching them in two spots and twisting them as you desire. Web pages can be turned by a simple left or right flick. There are, of course, numerous other gestures available to make using the device simple and enjoyable.
Despite its dominance, the screen is far from the only important component of this system. It is, after all, a full featured computer in addition to its obvious role as a media hub. Like most computers featured in our reviews, there is a base model available with defined specifications that can be individually upgraded at the consumer’s option. Rather than offer individual component upgrades, however, Sony has opted to assign a model number to the basic computer and then two separate model numbers to computers that contain a package of upgrades. While we believe that extremely tech savvy consumers may prefer the ability to upgrade individual components, the more typical buyer of this type of computer may well benefit from Sony’s packaging approach. The model number of the base package is VPC-L111FX/B while the two upgrades are VPC-L116FX/B and VPC-L117FX/B. To try to clarify the differences among the three, we’ll simply refer to them as L111, L116 and L117.
The processor for the base model L111 is an Intel Pentium E5400 running at a clock speed of 2.70GHz. It features 4GB of RAM memory and has a 320GB hard drive. It also has an NVIDIA GeForce G210M graphics card which includes 512MB of dedicated video RAM. Though this configuration is pretty respectable, we believe that most consumers who are drawn to the Sony VAIO L series computers would ultimately be happier with an upgrade to at least the L116 model.
The biggest difference in the L116 and the base model is the processor, or CPU. The L116 is powered by an Intel Core 2 Quad processor operating at a clock speed of 2.66GHz. The quad core processor is the equivalent of four Pentium processors built on one chip. Further, each of those cores consists of four threads. That can be likened to 16 lanes of traffic for data to travel along rather than a single lane for the base Pentium processor. The amount and speed of data processing is improved dramatically.
Other key performance indicators are also notably improved with the upgrade. It features an increase to 6GB of RAM memory for faster processing and a larger 500GB hard drive. Video rendering is also enhanced by an NVIDIA graphics card that doubles the dedicated video RAM to 1GB.
The upgrades to the ultimate version of the VAIO L have less to do with performance but offer some desirable features. Specifically, the size of the hard drive is double with the model L117 to a whopping 1TB and it has the added capability of burning Blu-ray discs.
The VAIO L series computers come complete with a wireless mouse and keyboard. If place on a desk, the stand for the screen offers a handy slot at its base for placing the keyboard out of the way when not in use. The computer can also be mounted on a wall or articulating arm with the addition of a VESA mounting kit.
Connection interfaces include five USB ports as well as a FireWire 400 connection. Internet and networking connectivity are facilitated by a Gigabit Ethernet port but with integrated high speed 802.11n Wi-Fi, wireless connectivity is also provided. There’s a slot on the side of the unit to accommodate an SD card and, lest we forget that this is a Sony product, there’s also a Memory Stick slot.
The 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium is the installed operating system on all versions of this computer. They are covered by a 1-year limited parts and labor warranty which includes telephone tech support.
The Sony VAIO All-in-One Touchscreen computers offer a broad set of features and high performance in the convenient form factor of an all in one unit. While the base unit is a powerful computer, we believe that the ability to multitask and take full advantage of the units many demanding features make an upgrade to at least the L116 model a good investment for most consumers. For objective reviews and side-by-side comparisons of other devices in this category, check out our Media Center Computer Review site.