Sony's latest take on an all-in-one PC looks remarkably like something. It's just that the something in question isn't an all-in-one PC, but rather a small Bravia TV. That's undoubtedly a deliberate design decision and as with most all-in-one PCs, the point isn't pure grunt as much as looking good in a non-PC environment. The VPCL118FG/B does via stealth, as without a mouse and keyboard evident, you wouldn't pick that it was a PC.
The VPCL118FG/B can even be used sans keyboard and mouse, as it comes with a touchscreen panel installed. Unlike some touchscreen units, you're not left bereft of mouse or keyboard, but the examples shipped with the VPCL118FG/B aren't the most stunning looking creatures, with the boxy mouse in particular being a design lowlight. Perhaps it's a rule with all-in-one computers, be they PC or Mac, that they have to come with rather ordinary peripherals? At least on the plus side, the included Windows remote doesn't look quite so boring.
Behind the screen, Sony throws in an Intel Core 2 Duo E7500 (2.93GHz) processor, 4GB of RAM and a 512MB Nvidia GeForce G210M graphics processor. A 500GB hard drive is provided, which is a touch on the low side for a multimedia machine. On the optical front, the comparisons with TV continue, with a Blu-ray disc combo drive and integrated digital TV tuner. The display panel, besides being touch capable, is also full HD capable, which pinpoints this as a home AV machine.
On the software side, the VPCL118FG/B ships with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit and a whole raft of software: Vaio Movie Story, Adobe Premiere Elements 7, WinDVD BD for Vaio, Click to Disc, Click to Disc Editor, PMB (Picture Motion Browser), Adobe Photoshop Elements 7, Vaio Media plus, Roxio Easy Media Creator, Vaio Gate, Vaio Control Center, WebCam Message Board, WebCam Companion, Magic-i Visual Effects, Vaio Recovery Center, Vaio Update, Vaio Transfer Support and Vaio Data Restore Tool. On the trial side of the fence, you also get a 60-day trial version of Microsoft Office Professional 2007, a 30-day trial of McAfee PC SecurityCenter, a 60-day trial of Norton Online Backup and finally a 60-day free trial of Webroot Spy Sweeper. That's a lot of trial security software from different companies to stack together.
Those after an all-in-one that does everything could be rather satisfied with the VPCL118FG/B, even if they haven't got a hope of pronouncing it properly without prompting. As with most touchscreens, we've yet to see a really compelling usage scenario that consumers will latch onto, but in the meantime the combination of touch and Windows 7 works fairly well. If you have to, it's not too tough to select files, launch applications and scroll around, even if most applications aren't really optimised for that kind of usage. Frankly, the better scenario for the VPCL118FG/B is as a home media centre, given its TV and Blu-ray playback options, with the option to then bring out mouse and keyboard as required.
On the pure performance front, the VPCL118FG/B showed itself to be more of a pure performance machine than a gaming powerhouse, with a PCMark05 score of 6248 and 3DMark06 score of 3228. That's mostly down to the mid-range Nvidia chipset on board. It'll certainly handle most games, but not the most up-to-date graphically punishing ones at full resolution.
At AU$2999, the VPCL118FG/B isn't exactly a machine you'll pick up for pocket change, but it is a machine with a lot of appeal to a particular market that's willing to pay for the convenience it offers. Beyond the current novelty of touchscreens on full PCs, like Apple's similar iMac lines, there's a lot to like here, if you can afford it.