Vizio’s latest all-in-one looks good and performs well, but Vizio needs to up its peripherals game.
While Vizio didn’t wander far from the pretty design of its first-generation 27-inch all-in-one PC, it did make a few improvements under the hood. Unfortunately, this model ships with the same thoroughly crappy peripherals.
The CA27T-B1 is based on Intel’s mobile 2.4GHz Core i7-3630QM quad-core processor, supported by 8GB of DDR/1600 memory, and a 1TB 5400-rpm hard drive supplemented by a 32GB solid-state drive acting as cache (that is, you can’t use the SSD for additional storage). A Vizio spokesperson told us that this machine was built for power, and that’s pretty much what it delivered, producing a Desktop Worldbench 8.1 score of 179. That’s a 79-percent edge over our reference desktop—Acer’s Aspire U-A5600U-UB13 all-in-one—and a staggering 178 percent increase in performance compared with Vizio’s less-expensive AMD-powered 24-inch AIO.
The CA27T-B1’s glossy 27-inch touchscreen is an edge-to-edge glass model delivering a native resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. The bezel is actually under the glass, not raised, and the panel’s touch sensitivity extends just beyond the screen, so that you can swipe in from the edge to open Windows 8’s Charms bar. Touch input is smooth and accurate, and it’s definitely the preferred input method when compared with Vizio’s peripherals (more on those later).
The screen is a little disappointing—especially coming from an HDTV maker. Colors look a little washed out and faded, and skin tones seem to be way, way off. In my test clips, subjects looked overly tan or washed out, and HD streaming video featured lots of choppy artifacting. Still, the screen is fairly bright, and you’re unlikely to notice all the choppiness if you’re far enough away (which you won’t be if you’re actively using the touch input).
For all the minor improvements Vizio seems to have made in its second-gen product, some major issues haven’t been addressed, such as the peripherals and the difficult-to-reach ports. The CA27T-B1 comes with several Bluetooth peripherals, including a keyboard, a trackpad, and a remote. The keyboard and touchpad are pretty awful in terms of usability, though they are stylishly designed (and clad in the same light silver gray as the rest of the system), and they look attractive next to the all-in-one.
The keyboard is small and lightweight, with flat, regular-style keys. It offers shallow tactile feedback, and its keys are a little slippery, which means that typing quickly and accurately is difficult. In my tests, the most I could manage was around 85 words per minute–and I typically type 115 wpm on average. The touchpad’s multitouch capabilities are choppy, and seem redundant with a touchscreen. If you’d prefer to use a mouse, you’ll need to provide your own.
Any port in a storm
The Vizio has a great selection of ports, which is what you’d expect from an entertainment-oriented all-in-one. It has four USB 3.0 ports, two HDMI inputs, eSATA, a memory card reader, and gigabit ethernet. The CA27T-B1 also has an integrated dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter for wireless network connections—a great feature in any computer (most support only 802.11n). The ports, however, are awkwardly placed along the rear edge of the computer’s thin base, where they’re so well hidden it takes a moment to discover them. This complements the computer’s sleek, sexy style, and it’s great if you don’t plan to use them. On the other hand, when you do plug in a device or insert a memory card, you’ll curse their location.
The absence of a discrete GPU torpedoes the CA27T-B1’s chances of being a solid gaming PC (although it’s fine with casual games). Discrete graphics aren’t even offered as an upgrade option. You also don’t get any type of optical drive, so the only practical way to watch movies or listen to music on this machine is to stream them. Speaking of music and movies, Vizio carried over the subwoofer/power supply combo from its first-gen AIO line, and it sounds surprisingly good.
The CA27T-B1 is a solid all-in-one computer, but it would be a lot more exciting if it boasted a discrete GPU, a mouse, and an optical drive.
Editor’s note: This story was corrected on 6/3/2012 to report that the Vizio CA27T-B1 includes an 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter.