capsule review

Sony VAIO VPC L218FX: An All-in-One Desktop That’s Made of Gold

At a Glance
  • Sony VAIO VPC L218FX/W

    PCWorld Rating

    You pay a pretty penny for near-perfection. Little about Sony’s VAIO VPC L218FX all-in-one is disappointing, save for its price.

Sony VAIO VPC L218FX big-screen all-in-one desktop PC
Sony's latest 24-inch all-in-one desktop is a beauty--of course, one would expect nothing less from a system that's practically plated in gold. We jest. The Sony VAIO VPC L218FX comes with a strong loadout for a big-screen all-in-one desktop; however, at a steep $2049 (as of May 5, 2011) this PC feels as if Sony purchased its parts and pieces from the SkyMall catalog. Although we're huge fans of this all-in-one, we have to note that competitors offer a pretty similar set of features, speeds, and capacities for a lower price.

Tucked within this elegantly designed all-in-one computer is one of Intel's latest Sandy Bridge chips, the 2GHz Core i7-2630QM processor, which features four physical cores that can jump to a virtual eight thanks to Intel's Hyper-Threading technology. Automatic overclocking, otherwise known as Turbo Boost, can bulk the CPU up to a mighty 2.9GHz of power should an application or game require that much juice. Those assets, combined with the 8GB of DDR3-677 memory that Sony stuffed into the L218FX, produced favorable results on our general performance benchmarks.

We were pleased to see the L218FX deliver a score of 116 on our WorldBench 6 suite of tests. Still, that result is about 12 to 13 percent behind the category-leading performance of rivals such as the HP TouchSmart 610 Quad. On top of that, the HP 610 Quad that we tested is $200 less than Sony's system, and has features that roughly match.

Following the tradition of most all-in-one PCs we test, the L218FX isn't great at playing current-generation games at its default 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution. We had to dial back our Unreal Tournament 3 test to a resolution of 1680 by 1050 (high quality) to achieve a playable frame rate. But if it's any consolation, on that gaming benchmark the L218FX delivered one of the best results of any all-in-one we've tried, generating 67 frames per second. The picture quality might suffer a bit due to the downsampling, but you'll enjoy great gaming otherwise.

Of course, an all-in-one desktop isn't just about raw numbers--it's also about the user experience. And in that regard, Sony has planted some unusual capabilities within the L218FX. Our favorite? A thick black bezel measuring about 1.5 inches in width surrounds the 24-inch display. No, that doesn't sound cool, until you realize that the border itself is a navigational element: Depending on where you touch the black strip, you can launch applications and perform various system functions.

Our primary critique of this novel use of space is that you need a sharp memory to make the best use of the feature. The L218FX offers nothing to tell you what might happen when you touch any part of the bezel--you just kind of have to know.

The quality of the display is strong: We enjoyed the saturation and contrast that the L218FX delivers, which makes for detailed movie-watching in conjunction with the computer's built-in Blu-ray combo drive. The multitouch panel is a little prone to glare as a result of its glossy surface, something to keep in mind when you're positioning this PC in a home office or living room. Our only gripe is that the display's white level could stand to be brighter; the look wasn't enough to affect our perception of detail in scenes, but it is a minor quibble based on our general use of the system.

As for the all-in-one's built-in sound, two words come to mind: Loved it. We appreciated the overall consistency of the sound between its high and low ends--the top sounds just as good as the bottom, and the latter even has a bit of a bass kick that's usually lacking in all-in-one desktop speaker setups. Even better, the L218FX's beautiful acoustics envelop you, as if you were right in the middle of an acoustic shell. It's often difficult for an all-in-one to provide pleasing sound quality overall, but the L218FX does not disappoint in the slightest.

The L218FX comes packed with connections for an all-in-one desktop. A multiformat card reader joins two USB 3.0 ports on the side, along with a mini-FireWire 400 port and headphone and microphone jacks. The rear of the L218FX supplies three USB ports, a coaxial-cable input for the integrated TV tuner, gigabit ethernet (in addition to integrated Wireless-N support), separate HDMI input and output ports, and composite-video input. The swath of rear connections allows the L218FX to transform into a full-fledged television, to become a simple display for a connected device (such as a set-top box or a gaming console), or to serve as anything in between. It ships with a wireless mouse and keyboard.

The Sony VAIO VPC L218FX offers a great combination of features, provided that you have use for them all (and the PC's 2TB of storage capacity, for that matter). If you can stomach a drop to 1TB of space, the HP TouchSmart 610 Quad (at $200 cheaper) is a lot more compelling given that it also delivers strong picture quality, Blu-ray support, and a host of connections on the side. The L218FX is a great system, don't get us wrong--we just wish it were economical, too.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    You pay a pretty penny for near-perfection. Little about Sony’s VAIO VPC L218FX all-in-one is disappointing, save for its price.

    Pros

    • Impressive display and audio quality
    • Strong general performance
    • Blu-ray support and TV tuner

    Cons

    • Pricey
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