Sony complements Windows 7 with its own TouchPortal software, which appears as a dropdown shortcut bar at the top of the screen whenever the desktop is touched. This software works to the Vaio’s benefit, and includes media viewers, more touch-friendly desktop interfaces, and touchscreen test applications from Microsoft.
The TouchPortal desktop interface makes the Windows touchscreen experience just that much more interactive, in fact, that we wish it loaded automatically alongside Windows.
Some of the test applications from Microsoft show off the touchscreen functionality quite well: Microsoft’s Surface Collage, for example, lets you zoom and rotate photos, and make layered-image artworks easily.
Unlike other touchscreen devices though, the multi-touch isn’t strong here, with just two points of touch on offer and only a few apps supporting more than single-finger operations.
The frame around the screen has some level of touch interaction too: the “Sony” logo can switch from lit to unlit and 3D mode can be turned on and off. Pressing the left or right of the Sony logo will also allow you to move backward and forward while surfing the web.
Beyond the touchscreen is a solid experience. Most games and multimedia needs will appreciate the high-end specs on offer, with 8GB of memory and the Core i7 good partners here.
If you opt for a regular 2D experience, in games, the combination of Intel’s Core i7 and the GeForce 540 works well enough, providing solid graphics and speedy performance in current titles.
The mid-range mobile graphics processor doesn’t stack up when trying to play games in 3D using the native 1080p resolution, however. Our test title of “Portal 2” – the same game we used when benching Apple’s latest iMac – performed sluggishly when 3D was used, forcing us to drop the resolution down to 720p. Not such a good result from a computer advertising 3D credentials.
Watching Blu-ray movies on the 24 inch screen is made possible with the inclusion of Corel’s WinDVD software, but it can be quite buggy. We experienced numerous crashes during playback of test titles, and each occurrence required us to restart the program.
Movies in 3D work fine when the software isn’t crashing, but the best 3D effects are realised only when seated at least two metres away.
The “web” button on the top of the Vaio allows you to run a web browser and surf the web without booting into Windows. On a big TV, we’re pretty sure we’d love this feature, but given this is a full-blown computer it seems a little superfluous. It may be that this feature was designed to satisfy the needs of a Japanese market, where smaller homes dictate that screens perform a dual function.
There’s also no remote, which is an oversight for a device designed to look like a TV, and with ambitions of blending computing with entertainment. Plug in a PS3, for example, and you need to approach the Vaio, switch to the HDMI input and adjust the volume manually. We’re also surprised that there’s no inbuilt TV tuner either.
The Vaio’s image quality was disappointing, too, especially in light of Sony’s credibility in display technology. Images appeared soft, even from Blu-ray, and colours tended to be oversaturated.