Review: Vizio's CA24T is a welcome upgrade to an already stylish AIO
At a Glance
Vizio's latest version of the CA24T, a stylish and cleverly designed all-in-one, amends the deal-killing flaw of its previous iteration: a poor, TV-grade LCD. The CA24T's display now matches up nicely with the competition, and performance has improved. It remains expensive, however, and it has a slightly oddball keyboard and a touchpad instead of a mouse.
Better display to match the design
Styled in pewter, chrome, and black, the CA24T is a very nice looking all-in-one. Where its prior version suffered from a subpar, blurry display, the new CA24T's 1920-by-1080-pixel, 24-inch touchscreen is a vast improvement. The new display delivers crisp text, renders movies well, and is nicely responsive to touch and gestures. And, unlike many AIOs whose displays reach down to the desktop, it doesn't block the space behind it. The display portion sits well clear of the desktop on a long, narrow arm, and the base is low-profile and flat, so you can easily set things on it.
In opting for such a svelte design, Vizio was forced to use an external power supply, or APU. However, the company styled it to match the main unit and cleverly combined it with a subwoofer. Indeed, you can actually get some bass thump out of this unit. The overall sound is clear and spacious, as well as amazingly loud. Loud is good, especially if you plan to take advantage of the CA24T's remote control and twin HDMI inputs to utilize it as a home or dorm-room entertainment center. You'll definitely be able to hear it across the room.
Vizio is still putting style over substance with the wireless keyboard and touchpad, though. They look nice sidled up against each other, but the keyboard layout is cramped, the home or end keys are missing, and the nonsculpted, short-travel keys make achieving a typing rhythm a tad difficult. The touchpad could be a tad more responsive as well. Tastes vary, but Vizio could definitely do better.
Decent performance plus discrete GPU
We tested the $1280 (as of this review date), low-end CA24T-B0 model. It comes with an AMD A10-4600M APU, 8GB of DDR-1333 memory, and a 5400-rpm, 1TB hard drive. The unit scored 75 on PCWorld's revamped WorldBench 8.1 test suite. That's adequate power for most chores, and subjectively the CA24T-B0 felt sprightly enough.
That said, for only $160 more you can have the CA24T-B1, which uses a 3rd-generation Intel Core i7-3630QM and a 32GB solid-state drive for caching to augment the 1TB hard drive. Adding a larger display to the same components, the CA24T-B1's bigger cousin, the CA27T-B1—with a 27-inch display—scored 179 on WorldBench 8.1, more than twice as fast as the CA24T-B0.
If the B1 systems sound better than the B0 reviewed here, note this difference: The discrete AMD HD 8750A GPU in the CA24T-B0 proved significantly better with games than the Intel HD 4000 you'll find in the B1 systems, which, oddly, have no discrete GPU option. Neither the B0 nor the B1 systems were much good at resolutions above 1024 by 768 with modern games, but they still put you in the somewhat awkward position of choosing between better everyday performance and better gaming.
One area where the CA24T doesn't skimp is in connectivity. The ports on the CA24T are all situated on the base of the system, hidden from casual view by an upper lip. Along the right edge 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 three more USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA port, the gigabit ethernet port, and the aforementioned HDMI ports. It even has 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi. The only issue I spotted is that the right-side USB port is too close to the lip to accommodate thicker USB thumb drives.
Price is the biggest bugaboo with the CA24T. As with most all-in-ones, you pay a lot extra for the style and the space-saving design. But unlike much of the competition, the CA24T actually delivers on both counts. An AIO should have more than looks, though. For this price, Vizio could provide a better keyboard, plus mouse and SSD options. (It should also have a discrete GPU option for its Intel-based model.)