Invasion of the tabletop tablets: Are these fiendishly clever hybrids the ultimate family PCs?

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The other drawback to the Horizon’s massive screen is its considerable bulk: This monster tips the scales at 18.95 pounds. On the positive side of the ledger, it has a discrete graphics processor, an Nvidia GeForce GT 620M with a 2GB frame buffer. The balance of the Horizon’s spec sheet is equally tasty. You'll find a low-power 2GHz Core i7-3537U, 8GB of DDR3/1600 memory, and a 1TB hard drive (unfortunately, it’s a 5400-rpm model).

ROBERT CARDIN
Lenovo was the only manufacturer that thought to include an HDMI input on its tablet.

The slow hard drive significantly depressed the Horizon’s WorldBench 8.1 Desktop score, lowering it to 111. But the fast CPU and the discrete GPU gave this machine first-place finishes on the image-editing, audio- and video-encoding, and file-compression tests that also make up our benchmarking suite. Battery life was surprisingly good: The IdeaCentre Horizon was able to play an HD video for 3 hours, 28 minutes.

The IdeaCentre Horizon is the only portable all-in-one in this roundup to include an HDMI input. It’s puzzling that no other manufacturer thought to include this feature. The all-in-one PC in my kitchen is connected to a satellite set-top box, and it serves as a TV almost as much as it acts as a computer, so I don’t know if I’d buy one that lacked that simple feature. The rest of the Horizon’s features include a 720p webcam, a media card reader, an 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter, and a wireless mouse and keyboard.

The Horizon’s humongous screen, fast CPU, discrete graphics processor, and fun accessories drive its price tag up to $1849. That’s higher than the rest of the machines in this roundup, and it’s several hundred dollars more than Lenovo’s conventional 27-inch all-in-one (the IdeaCentre A720 goes for $1559). Dell’s XPS 18 Touch makes a better giant tablet, but Lenovo’s IdeaCentre Horizon is the superior family-gaming platform.

Pros: 

27-inch display

Fast CPU and a discrete GPU

HDMI input

Fun gaming accessories

Cons: 

1920-by-1080 resolution (on a 27-inch display)

Very heavy

Expensive

Bottom line: 

The Horizons's size makes games and everything else more enjoyable, even though it also makes it more difficult to move around the house.

Rating: 4 stars

Sony VAIO Tap 20

Sony deserves credit for establishing the portable all-in-one market, having introduced the VAIO Tap 20 last winter. This model boasts a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of memory, and a 20-inch ten-point touchscreen for just $1100. On the downside, its display resolution is disappointingly limited to 1600 by 900 pixels.

Sony
Sony's Tap 20 is the oldest model we looked at in this group, but it's a good buy at $1100.

The Tap 20 also relies on the GPU integrated into its mobile 2GHz Intel Core i7-3517U processor to drive that display, and its 750GB hard drive spins its platters at only 5400 rpm. The Tap 20’s fast CPU helped it deliver good performances on the content-creation elements of our benchmarking suite (image editing and audio- and video-encoding tasks), but the absence of a discrete GPU generated a goose egg in our GPU-accelerated image-editing test. In the end, the Tap 20 earned a WorldBench 8.1 Desktop score of 95 (our reference all-in-one, Acer’s Aspire U A5600U-UB13, scored 100).

I found the Tap 20 only slightly less difficult to carry from room to room than the 27-inch Lenovo Horizon. Sony suggests using the kickstand as a handle, but to do so you must tilt the computer forward, grab the bottom of the kickstand, and rotate the entire machine upside down. The computer is then difficult to set up at a new location because your most natural movement is to first set it face down on the desk or tabletop—not a good idea.

ROBERT CARDIN
The Tap 20 is thick and much too heavy for its size.

Moving the Tap 20 from room to room is an even more awkward task due to its 11-plus-pound bulk—this computer is almost twice as thick as Dell’s XPS 18 Touch. I was also surprised by the Tap 20’s relatively poor battery life: It played our HD video for just 2 hours, 21 minutes before it pooped out.

When Loyd Case reviewed the VAIO Tap 20 back in October 2012, nothing comparable was on the market. So even though the model he tested had a Core i5-3317U processor and only 4GB of memory, he awarded four stars to the new and innovative (for its time) concept. The competition has responded aggressively since then, and the Tap 20 has lost some of its luster. Fortunately, Sony has adjusted its pricing accordingly, and the current street price of $1100 renders this machine a good value.

Pros: 

Intel Core i7 CPU

1TB hard drive

Sony's Bravia video technology

Cons:

Thick and heavy for its size

Short battery life

5400 rpm hard drive

Bottom line:

Sony essentially created this market, which means the Tap 20 has been around for a while. This computer is thicker and heavier than it should be, but Sony has priced it aggressively.

Rating: 3 stars

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