Sony VAIO VPC L218FX: An All-in-One Desktop That’s Made of Gold
By David Murphy
At a Glance
Impressive display and audio quality
Strong general performance
Blu-ray support and TV tuner
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’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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