Sony VAIO VGC-JS1E/S review

21 Nov 2008

Gorgeous styling, a compact design and plenty of power make the VAIO a real bargain of an all-in-one.

Price when reviewed: 
685(£699 inc VAT)
5

While the Asus Eee Top takes aim at the most casual and basic of web surfers, Sony's latest all-in-one PC shows precisely how to build a system to appeal to everyone. The silver styling is gorgeous, the display is as good as any external monitor, and the internals are more than capable of handling a rigorous daily routine.

It owes a lot to Apple's design expertise, with a brushed metal finish and a body that's remarkably thin considering the power it packs; only the iMac matches it for aesthetics. The main body has a handle-like ridge at the base to act as the main foot, while the rear stand - little more than a single metal arm - slides back and forwards with ease to adjust the screen angle.

And that screen is up to Sony's usual standards. It boasts a 20.1in diagonal with a 1,680 x 1,050 resolution, it's bright, glossy, incredibly sharp, and produces vivid colours and superb contrast. The old issues of the glossy finish apply - it's a little bluish at times and reflections can be visible under office lights - but we saw no bleed on a dark screen despite the powerful backlight, while colour gradients were perfectly smooth throughout our tests.

This is just as well, because you can't tweak the settings as you can with a standard TFT. What you can do, though, is zoom the screen and alter the volume of the speakers directly from quick buttons on the bundled keyboard. It's a thin silver design with the same Scrabble-tile key layout as the current VAIO laptops, and the cords on it and the mouse are the perfect length to reach around to the rear USB ports.

And the volume you get from those speakers is immense. We'd have no qualms about using this system as a home entertainment system, such is the punch of its audio. There's not much bass and it distorts if you turn it up too much, but for watching a DVD in a bedroom or even a decent-sized living room this VAIO's audio is miles ahead of any monitor speakers we've heard recently.

You will be limited to watching standard DVDs as there's no Blu-ray drive, but that suits the overall theme of the VGC-JS1E. Keeping things simple means it only costs £596 exc VAT and as it comes with Intel's integrated X4500HD graphics, it would struggle with Blu-ray decoding anyway.

That's not to say it lacks power, though. A 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 and 3GB of onboard RAM mean our benchmarks posed it few problems. Its score of 1.28 is streets ahead of the Atom-based Asus, and it will happily multitask and run the most intensive of applications smoothly. A 500GB hard disk will hold plenty of music and video, while the choice of SD card and Memory Stick slots on the left side further add to the storage options.

Beneath them you'll find two USB ports to add to the three on the rear, along with three mini-jack audio ports and a tiny wireless switch, although this is probably a feature of more use on a laptop than a mains-powered desktop. The wireless adapter supports draft-n for fast networking. A 1.3-mp webcam with a dual-microphone array sits above the screen, while completing the back panel is a Gigabit Ethernet port, next to optical S/PDIF and Sony's version of mini-FireWire.

It's a great package, particularly for the price. When you consider that the cheapest model in Dell's XPS One family costs nearly £100 more than this but comes with a slower processor, less RAM and a smaller hard disk, not to mention a slightly bulkier design, it's clear that Sony is on to a winner. We'd prefer more than the single year's warranty, but the build quality is high enough to make that a minor complaint.

Details

Price ex VAT £596
Price inc VAT £685
Overall rating 5
Performance 4
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 6

Warranty

Warranty ERROR: Script can't be evaluated

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity 500
RAM capacity 3.00GB
Screen size 20.1in

Processor

CPU family Intel Core 2 Duo
CPU nominal frequency 2.53GHz
CPU overclocked frequency N/A
Processor socket LGA 775

Motherboard

Conventional PCI slots free N/A
Conventional PCI slots total N/A
PCI-E x16 slots free N/A
PCI-E x16 slots total N/A
PCI-E x8 slots free N/A
PCI-E x8 slots total N/A
PCI-E x4 slots free N/A
PCI-E x4 slots total N/A
PCI-E x1 slots free N/A
PCI-E x1 slots total N/A
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec

Memory

Memory type DDR2

Graphics card

3D performance setting N/A
Graphics chipset Intel GMA X4500HD
DVI-I outputs N/A
HDMI outputs N/A
VGA (D-SUB) outputs N/A
DisplayPort outputs N/A
Number of graphics cards N/A

Hard disk

Capacity 500GB
Hard disk 2 make and model N/A
Hard disk 2 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 formatted capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 spindle speed N/A
Hard disk 2 cache size N/A
Hard disk 3 make and model N/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 4 make and model N/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacity N/A

Drives

Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical disk 2 make and model N/A
Optical disk 3 make and model N/A

Monitor

Resolution screen horizontal 1,680
Resolution screen vertical 1,050
Resolution 1680 x 1050
DVI inputs N/A
HDMI inputs N/A
VGA inputs N/A
DisplayPort inputs N/A

Additional Peripherals

Speaker type Stereo

Case

Case format All-in-one
Dimensions 487 x 157 x 408mm (WDH)

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays N/A

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream) 5
FireWire ports 1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports N/A
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
3.5mm audio jacks 3

Front ports

Front panel USB ports 2
Front panel memory card reader yes

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboard Sony Wireless

Operating system and software

OS family Windows Vista

Noise and power

Idle power consumption 53W
Peak power consumption 75W

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score 1.28
Office application benchmark score 1.32
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.41
Encoding application benchmark score 1.10
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.26
3D performance (crysis) low settings N/A
3D performance setting N/A