Windows 8 marked a major overhaul of Microsoft’s operating system, but it wasn’t just the software that got a makeover. Manufacturers also built new hardware to work with Windows 8’s touch-focused interface, including a diverse range of tablets, laptops and hybrid designs. One of the most interesting products to emerge from the group was an all-in-one PC from Sony.
The Sony Vaio Tap 20 has an elegant, simple design: Rather than the traditional support stand seen in most all-in-ones, this Sony is just a screen with a kickstand. This kickstand folds out to support the screen, then folds in so that the computer can lie flat, like a tablet.
The Vaio Tap 20 also has a built-in battery on the back, so you’re not restricted to using the computer only where there’s an outlet. You can unplug for a little while and transport it to use in another room.
Over the past week, I’ve used it for game night with friends and writing this column, among other things. Sony also bundles the all-in-one with some useful apps for keeping families organized and entertained.
But this isn’t a computer for creative professionals or hard-core gamers. It doesn’t have the highest resolution display, and lacks some features like an optical drive for DVDs. Battery life could also be better. That said, the Sony Vaio Tap 20 makes for a great family computer. It’s fun, versatile and can handle everyday tasks with no problem. It starts at $880, which is over $400 less than the least expensive new iMac all-in-one from Apple.
When propped up, the Vaio Tap 20 looks like a traditional all-in-one PC. It measures about 20 inches wide, 12 inches tall and two inches thick. At a little over 11.5 pounds, it’s slightly heavy, so I wouldn’t trust a child to carry it alone. But it’s light enough that an adult could move it from one room to another without any assistance.
Its 20-inch multi-touchscreen was responsive and made it easy to interact with Windows 8’s user interface. But for typing and clicking on links, I preferred using the included wireless keyboard and mouse.
With a resolution of 1,600 by 900 pixels, it’s not the sharpest display on the market. By comparison, the similarly priced and featured Dell Inspiron One 23 has a screen with a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, as does the 21.5-inch iMac. The Vaio’s screen is still clear and bright enough to view text and images, but I could notice the pixels with larger text and graphics.
You can adjust the angle of the display using the built-in kickstand on the back, but it requires a bit of force. The stand can also be folded flush with the back of the computer, so you can place it flat on a table or even in your lap.
This, along with the built-in battery, allowed me to use the all-in-one PC in new ways and in new places. I set it up on my kitchen counter, so I could reference some new recipes while cooking dinner. I placed it on my bedroom dresser, so I could watch some Netflix videos before going to bed.
But the most fun I had was using it to play games. The Vaio Tap 20 comes preloaded with a kid-friendly app called Family Paint that lets you draw on a blank canvas, so my friends and I used it as our drawing board for Pictionary (nice way to save trees!). The app also offers a pair mode, so two people can draw at once, which could come in handy if you have more than one child.
We also laid the computer on my coffee table and launched the PuzzleTouch app to solve some jigsaw puzzles. At one point, there were three adults working on the puzzle at once. The display offers wide viewing angles, so it was easy for all of us to see but it got a bit crowded, so I’d say two adults is the max if you want to work comfortably.
Sony estimates the Vaio Tap 20’s battery life at two hours and 45 minutes. For my battery drain test, I played back-to-back video with the screen brightness set to 75 percent and Wi-Fi on, and the Vaio Tap 20 lasted for two hours and 30 minutes. It’s enough to get through most feature-length movies, but I’d love if it had another hour or two of battery life.
The computer’s performance was generally smooth. There was a bit of lag when launching applications, but I didn’t notice any major delays when I played the adventure video game, Adera. I tested the mid-range model with a third-generation Intel Core i5 processor with a 750-gigabyte hard drive and 4GB of memory.
The Vaio Tap 20 offers two USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet jack, an SD card slot and microphone and headphone jack. But as I mentioned earlier, there is no optical drive for playing CDs, DVDs or Blu-rays.
The computer is equipped with NFC technology, which allows you to wirelessly exchange data between two NFC-enabled devices. I tried sending a link and photo from the HTC 8X Windows Phone to the Vaio Tap 20. There’s an icon on back of the PC to indicate where you should tap the phone and when I did, the Vaio made a noise but that was it. The data didn’t transfer even after trying several times.
One final app worth mentioning is Fingertapps Organizer. This lets you share calendars, leave written and recorded messages and create lists that can be shared with other family members. All the notes are displayed in a cutesy way on a virtual clothesline for all to see. Even though I live by myself, it was still useful to see my calendar appointments and to-do lists at glance.
Despite some of the drawbacks, Sony has done a nice job of creating a fun but functional computer for families to enjoy.