capsule review

Sony VAIO VGC-LV180J All-in-One PC/HDTV

At a Glance
  • Sony VAIO VGC-LV180J

    PCWorld Rating

    This speedy 24-inch all-in-one PC/HDTV is ready to handle any external device you want to connect to it.

Review updated 7/21/09: Though the VGC-LV180J is somewhat sleek and very much a Sony VAIO, surprisingly it's still an ugly duckling compared with some of the latest competing all-in-one PCs. But what the system lacks in beauty, it makes up for in brawn. The VGC-LV180J offers compelling performance and connectivity, and is the third-fastest all-in-one we've reviewed. It also doubles as a television, with a 24-inch (nontouch) screen capable of producing high-definition images at a native 1920 by 1200 resolution.

The LV series starts at around $1600. Our $1999 model boasts Intel's 3.0GHz Core 2 Duo E8400 CPU--bettered only by the processor in Apple's 24-inch iMac. You can use all of the VGC-LV180J's 4GB of DDR2-800 memory due to the included 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium operating system. We were pretty disappointed with the storage capacity, however: A single 600GB hard drive isn't very compelling in comparison with the rest of the field.

The VGC-LV180J's WorldBench 6 score of 96 is the fastest all-in-one result we've seen outside of Apple's iMacs. But unlike the HP TouchSmart IQ816 and TouchSmart IQ500t (which could handle some of the more graphically punishing games on our benchmark rotation at low resolutions), the VGC-LV180J died on modern titles. Its score of 29 frames per second on Enemy Territory: Quake Wars dipped into the realm of unplayable--and that's after we scaled the game back to medium quality, at 1024 by 768 resolution. On those same settings, the VGC-LV180J delivered a paltry 12 frames per second in Unreal Tournament 3. That's a fail, folks. Antiquated titles such as Far Cry and Doom 3 ran just fine, depending on the settings.

The display fared better on high-definition content, but its viewing angles weren't generous, nor did I find the saturation strong enough to do movies justice. In darker scenes I definitely noticed the bleeding of the LCD backlight on the edges of the screen.

Upgrading the VGC-LV180J is certainly possible, but the method is a little different from the standard procedure you'd use with a common desktop PC. You can only replace the memory and add an extra hard drive, though the system's ExpressCard reader allows for laptop-style upgrades such as a solid-state drive, network card, TV tuner, sound card, or FireWire 800. We love that the system has a spare internal bay for a second hard disk (the HP TouchSmart IQ816, for example, merely lets you replace the single drive that's already in the system). However, we'd still like to see all-in-one PC makers be more sensitive to how complex a task it is to take apart a chunk of the machine just to install a new drive--in the case of the VGC-LV180J, such disassembly will require some glances at the manual for even the most experienced PC enthusiast.

Once set up, the VGC-LV180J sits on a single huge base, looking as if it were a standard monitor. It doesn't have any flashy features like ambient lighting, but it does include helpful elements such as a 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi toggle on the side, directly underneath its slot-loading Sony Optiarc BC-5600S Blu-ray reader and DVD burner. Three USB ports, a Memory Stick reader, and an SD Card reader also sit on the sides.

Two more USB ports and a single mini-FireWire 400 port are on the rear of the case, joined by an optical-out connection for your audio, a gigabit ethernet port, and inputs for S-Video, HDMI, digital cable, and analog cable. The VGC-LV280J isn't just an all-in-one PC; it's a television set, too.

The VAIO's included keyboard is perfectly suited to multimedia-heavy, all-in-one PC use. The thin, wireless keyboard packs in volume controls, a mute button, a sleep button, and a jump-to-media-center button, among others. Beyond that, a touchpad and two-button-mouse combination is built into the lower-right side of the keyboard. It's a great addition that helps you minimize the clutter on your desk (or coffee table) if a mouse isn't to your liking. A boxy, four-button mouse is also included.

Although it lacks the storage capacity and touchscreen capability of some of its peers, the VGC-LV280J is a powerful all-in-one PC due to its additional connectivity and upgrade-friendly options. If you can stomach the loss of the touchscreen--and the ability to play current games--the VGC-LV280J is a solid choice if you aspire to own an all-in-one.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This speedy 24-inch all-in-one PC/HDTV is ready to handle any external device you want to connect to it.

    Pros

    • Top general performance
    • Better upgradability than most AIO PCs

    Cons

    • Can't play graphically punishing games
    • No touchscreen
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