The touch-screen controls of Windows 8 have given rise to a new breed of hybrid mobile device that tries to function as both a laptop and a tablet. However, Sony has gone to the opposite extreme with the new Sony VAIO Tap 20 – it’s a giant 20in tablet that can also be used as a desktop PC. See: more tablet reviews.
The Sony VAIO Tap 20 is, in effect, a 20in all-in-one PC, along the lines of the Apple iMac. It comes bundled with a rather lightweight plastic wireless keyboard and mouse, but giving it a touch-sensitive screen means that you can ditch those and simply treat it like a very big tablet.
It weighs a hefty 5.2kg so there’s no way you can pick it up with one hand and use it like a conventional tablet. But it is light enough to carry from room to room easily enough.
There’s an adjustable stand that allows you to tilt it at a comfortable viewing angle, or you can lay it flat and tap away at games or software, such as Sony’s pre-installed finger-painting program.
The touch controls are smooth and responsive when using the tiled Start screen of Windows 8, and the width of the screen means that its on-screen keyboard is the right size for quickly tapping in web addresses or the occasional short email.
Using your fingers on the traditional Windows desktop doesn’t work so well but, of course, you do have the option of using returning to the regular mouse and keyboard when working with more productive apps such as Word or Excel.
The screen is very bright and clear, with a good viewing angle for watching video, browsing photos or web pages. But the 1600 x 900 pixel count is very disappointing – a screen of this size and price really ought to have at least a full-HD, 1920 x 1080-pixels, for high-definition video.
The speakers are also fairly modest, although they’re adequate for listening to a spot of music in the kitchen while you knock up dinner. It’s also odd that there’s no HDMI interface that would allow you to connect it to a proper hi-def TV.
The Sony VAIO Tap 20 is currently only available in a single configuration here in the UK, priced at £999 with Windows 8, a dual-core Ivy Bridge Intel Core i5-3317U running at 1.7GHz (2.6GHz with Turboboost), 6GB memory and a healthy 1TB hard disk.
Sony VAIO Tap 20: Performance
Our usual PCMark 7 benchmark software wouldn’t run on the Tap 20 for unknown reasons, but running a few other tests indicated that it performs as well as a conventional laptop with a similar specification.
It’ll be more than adequate for routine tasks such as web browsing and even running Microsoft Office. Its Intel HD 4000 graphics might just about pass muster for some casual gaming action too.
Playing Batman: Arkham City at 1600 x 900 with High graphics settings produced a score of just 12fps; but dropping to 1280 x 720 with Low graphics settings did elicit a playable 30fps.
Battery life is very limited – only around 100 minutes of streaming video using the built-in Wi-Fi – but a machine of this size is never going to stray too far from a mains socket when it needs to be topped up.