Vizio CA24T-A4: A looker with a few miscues
At a Glance
If it were all about looks, I'd say Vizio hit the nail square on the head with its $1249 CA24T-A4 All-In-One touchscreen PC. It's nearly as classy-looking as an iMac (which it mimics to a great extent), with all the components cohesively-styled in a nice, minimalist, pewter-hued design. Sadly, looks aren't everything and Vizio, a renowned TV manufacturer, lets the CA24T-A4 down by using a display that belongs in a TV, not a computer. The keyboard and performance are nothing to write home about either.
Display and Input Ergonomics
While the C24T-A4's 1920 by 1080, 24-inch display worked well enough with movies and general graphics, it didn't render text clearly. It's been a while since I've knocked a display, but text that's blurry and out of focus is a major impediment to serious computing. You can notice it on desktop icons and Metro tiles, but the defects really stand out when you're word processing, using spreadsheets, etc.
Human input-wise, Vizio takes a slightly different path with the CA24T-A4. The display is touchscreen to allow interaction with the Windows 8 operating system via its preferred method, but Vizio opts for a Bluetooth touchpad in lieu of a mouse. It's a nice, one-piece, rocker unit, but it would be nice to have the option for a little critter. Five minutes trying to compute using a vertically-oriented touchscreen at arm's length, or a touchpad will convince you of that.
Vizio also includes a Bluetooth keyboard, but it's on the small size, the layout is a bit cramped, and the feel is extremely light. It’s less useful than the keyboard in Vizio laptops, like the CA14-A2. On the plus side, there's a wireless remote that allows you to adjust the picture and view content incoming on one of the unit's two HDMI inputs--even without turning on the PC portion of the C24T. That's a nicer piece of legacy from Vizio's TV expertise. I'm a bit surprised there's no TV tuner.
Connectivity, Performance, and Features
Unlike the iMac, whose ports are all in the display housing, the ports on the Vizio C24T-A4 are found in the base of the monitor. Feel along the right edge and you'll find the power button, a single USB 3.0 port, the headset jack, and an SD memory card slot. The back is home to a whopping three USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA port, the gigabit Ethernet port, and the aforementioned HDMI ports. There's even 802.11n Wi-Fi. The C24T offers a very nice connectivity set indeed.
Performance-wise, the Vizio CA24T-A4 is about what you'd expect out of an Intel Core i5 3210M, 6GB of DD3 memory, but only a 5400 rpm hard drive (a 1TB Western Digital Blue). Put an SSD in this computer and it's bound to soar beyond the mediocre 50 it scored on WorldBench 8. Unfortunately, there's no SSD option at this time. With only the integrated Intel HD 4000 GPU, gaming frame rates are playable at lower resolutions, but not at anywhere near the display's native resolution.
There are also a 24-inch CA24T-A3 model available with a Core i3-3110M, 4GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive, as well as 27-inch model with a Core i7-3630QM and Nvidia GeForceGT 640M LE graphics (CA27T-A5) for $1539. There are also non-touch Core i5 24-inch and 27-inch models. I haven't seen the 27-inch display, so I can't say if it suffers the same dot-pitch problem as the CA24T-A4's 24-inch unit.
One thing Vizio most decidedly scores with is the AIO's sound. Not only does the CA24T-A4 have a very nice SRS Premium surround sound emanating from the internal speakers, there's a nicely tuned external subwoofer to provide bass. It's about as sweet as any audio I've heard from a stock PC. Said subwoofer is styled to match the rest of the system.
The Bottom Line
In the end, the Vizio CA24T-A4 All-In-One PC is a good-looking and rather pricey disappointment. The design, sound, ports, and extras are top notch; the display, keyboard and performance are not. It's almost as if the CA24T-A4 were designed to be used from a distance on a couch, as you would use a TV, not sitting up close where you need to be for any serious sort of computing.
Here's hoping Vizio corrects its mistakes next go-round. If it does, there are a lot of PC vendors that should be worried.