- Review Date: 11/09/2011
- Bottom line:
Sony tosses in a slew of video-editing friendly features into its new Sony VAIO VPC-L231FX/W all-in-one desktop PC. It's the desktop to look at for your budding film student.
Bright screen. Extended touch-screen areas. USB 3.0. HDMI-in and HDMI-out. Composite video A/V-in. Wireless everything. Seamless glass on touchscreen. Web surfing mode. Bravia and PS3 connectivity. Comes with Sony Multimedia creation apps (Acid, Sound Forge, Vegas).
No Blu-ray. Short 30-day Norton Internet Security subscription. External power brick.
The Sony VAIO VPC-L231FX/W ($999.99 list, at Staples) is a great video and photo enthusiast machine. It has a brilliant 24-inch widescreen with seamless touch controls, a huge 1TB hard drive, and a pre-installed video-editing suite that rivals the one you get in the all-in-one PCs from Apple. If you're grooming the next Oscar-winning auteur in your family, this VPC-L231FX/W should be at the top of your holiday shopping list. As such, it earns an Editors' Choice in the midrange all-in-one desktop category.
Design and Features
The VPC-L231FX/W looks like Sony's other L Touch all-in-one PC, the Sony VAIO VPC-L222FX/B ($999.99 list, 3 stars), down to its seamless glass and two-pronged stand. Like previous Sony all-in-one systems, the VPC-L231FX/W's components are built into the screen, including the Intel Core i3 CPU and 1TB hard drive. The screen hangs on a single hinge connected to the stand; there's a space below the screen to stow the wireless Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. The system also has 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. There's some optional wired connectivity, which makes the system more useful than rivals, like the Editor's Choice HP TouchSmart 610-1150y ($1,199.99 list, 4.5 stars), which lacks USB 3.0 and HDMI in. USB 3.0 gives VPC-L231FX/W users a faster interface for transferring videos and other large files to fast USB 3.0 hard drives.
The system also comes with a FireWire 400/i.Link port (i.Link is Sony's trademark term for FireWire 400 on its PCs and camcorders) for connecting older camcorders, a composite video A/V port (RCA jacks) for connecting old school video devices, like VCRs, and HDMI in and HDMI out for devices like HD DVRs and HDTVs, respectively. Essentially, this desktop is one of the best-connected systems for a video prosumer or enthusiast.
The desktop's screen has a 1,920-by-1,080 resolution, perfect for viewing and editing 1080p HD videos. The 24-inch screen size is great for viewing content from two to four feet away, giving you an almost cinematic experience while using the touch screen. The system uses a seamless touch screen, as opposed to the indented IR-controlled touch system found on older systems, like the HP TouchSmart 610 series. This lets you use the whole screen easily, even out to the screen's edges where the older indented screens have trouble tracking a finger's touch point. If you touch the screen's bezel to the left and right of the Sony logo, the system will page forward and back on a Web browser or PowerPoint presentation. The screen doesn't tilt as far back as the HP TouchSmart 610—only about 30 degrees--but it's fine for quick touch-screen sessions. The HP 610 is a better system for extended touch sessions due to its more innovative ergonomics. When you're primarily using the wireless mouse and keyboard on the VPC-L231FX/W, the touch-screen ergonomics are less important.
You'll definitely be using the keyboard and mouse on if you're a video enthusiast, as the VPC-L231FX/W comes complete with Sony's Imagination Studio Multimedia Edition: pre-installed copies of Sony Acid, Sound Forge, and Vegas. These three programs lets you capture, edit, and output pro-quality videos for consumption on DVD or over the Internet. Like Apple's iLife suite on the Apple iMac 21.5-inch (Thunderbolt) ($1,199 list, 4.5 stars), you are all set from day one with the VPC-L231FX/W.
There are other pre-loaded programs on the VPC-L231FX/W, including prominently placed software like Evernote, Sony's Picture Motion Browser, Skype, Microsoft's Touch Pack, Office 2010 Starter, and VAIO Gate (a touch launcher interface). There are a couple of things I could have done without, like an ad for Box.net's online storage service, and a criminally short 30-day subscription to Norton Internet Security (it's criminal because it's forced upon you. A 30-day trial of NIS is available for free for download by any user on Norton's website. PC makers should include at least a free year of updates on new PCs.) The VPC-L231FX/W comes with Dolby Home Theater certification and software, Dolby makes the integrated speakers sound better playing back music and movies. There's a touch of distortion in the speakers at peak volume, but that can be mitigated with some tweaking to the sound settings.
The VPC-L231FX/W 's Web mode lets you boot the system into a pre-loaded SplashTop browser. SplashTop is useful for seldom-shared PCs, that way you can lend the PC to a family member for unsupervised surfing without any danger of spyware or malware corrupting the primary boot partition in Windows. The touch screen works in SplashTop too, which is really nice.
Customers who buy this system from Staples can avail themselves of several services the retailer offers. This includes setting the new system up, data transfer from your old PC to your new one, software installation, and tech support and protection plans that range in price from $14.99 to $169.99.
The VPC-L231FX/W isn't the fastest all-in-one desktop in the $1,000-$1,200 price range, but it's certainly fast enough. It encoded a video in Handbrake in 2 minutes 22 seconds and ran through our Photoshop CS5 script in 5:34. It was slower than the Asus ET2410-06 ($899.99 list, 2 stars) (1:38 in Handbrake, 3:37 CS5) and Toshiba DX735-D3201 ($899.99 list, 3.5 stars) (1:52 Handbrake, 4:05 CS5). The Sony VPC-L231FX/W's Core i3-2320M processor has a slower clock speed than its competitors. Likewise, the Sony VPC-L231FX/W returned unplayable frame rates (14 fps) on our Crysis DirectX 10 test, which means it's better at handling video than 3D video games. So it's not a barnburner, but it's fast enough.
Compared with the other Editors' Choice winners for all-in-one PCs, the HP TouchSmart 610-1150y ($1,199.99 at Best Buy, 4.5 stars) and Apple iMac 21.5-inch (Thunderbolt), the Sony VAIO VPC-L231FX/W can hold its own, particularly for the video enthusiast. Like the (more expensive) Apple iMac, the VPC-L231FX/W comes with a strong video editing suite and seamless glass, and it adds a larger screen. The VPC-L231FX/W far outweighs the HP 610-1150y as a connected video-oriented system with a strong selection of I/O ports. If you're looking for a midrange all-in-one PC that can do video and photo tasks, with the added boon of a touch screen, you should take a long look at the Sony VAIO VPC-L231FX/W, it's your midrange All in One Editors' Choice.
This review is in partnership with Ziff Davis Media.