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Sony VAIO VGC-JS1E/S review

Verdict

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

Review Date: 21 Nov 2008

Reviewed By: David Bayon

Price when reviewed: £596 (£685 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

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.

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