Sony Vaio Tap 20 review:

Crazy enough to work

Despite its low-power CPU, the Tap 20 gives respectable performance running standard Windows applications. It even trades wins with the slightly more expensive Windows 7-powered Vizio CA21-A1 and its full-powered Core i5 CPU.

In a first for our desktop benchmarking regimen, we also ran our battery drain test on the Vaio Tap 20. It posted 3 hours, 42 minutes of battery life in our video-focused battery drain test, giving you plenty of time to watch a movie. Expect more time if you're just browsing around, less for 3D gaming. But since you're not meant to take the Tap 20 too far afield, chances are the power cord will be nearby if you end up needing a recharge.

Should you ever want to change the battery, Sony was smart enough to make it user-replaceable. A plastic panel on the back of the case pops off easily to reveal the battery compartment.

For its gaming capabilities, I found the Tap 20 was able to play the forgiving Torchlight II with no problems at maximum detail settings. I dialed the image quality down to low in Borderlands 2 and XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and while neither game was completely smooth, both were still reasonably playable. As noted earlier, touch gaming can be awkward for games like Air Hockey that require sustained contact with the screen due to occasional drag, but it works fine for games and other programs that rely on tap-based input.

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio Tap 20 (Core i5-3317U, October 2012)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio Tap 20 (Core i5-3317U, October 2012)

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio Tap 20 (Core i5-3317U, October 2012)

Cinebench score
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Sony Vaio Tap 20 (Core i5-3317U, October 2012)

I'm not sure about the level of demand for large, mobile touch-screen PCs, but a Lenovo product manager told me that his company is working on a design similar to the Vaio Tap 20. If that Lenovo product emerges, it suggests that Sony isn't the only vendor that sees some value in these hybrid desktop-tablet waters. If there is demand, one has to ask: if you can build an ultrabook with a long-lasting battery, a fast CPU, and a high-resolution screen, why not a desktop equivalent that's sleeker than Sony's design?

Which is not to say that the Vaio Tap 20 is unattractive or that its design is flawed. Sony's rounded plastic chassis practically invites you to grab it, and it's sturdy enough that you feel confident lifting it up and and moving it around. This PC is also fast enough, and generally capable enough that I can recommend the Vaio Tap 20 to those who are willing to experiment with its unique mobile possibilities.

If this concept does catch on, it's tempting to explore how it might improve. It's almost as if this battery-equipped all-in-one desktop is showing that the PC industry still has room for innovation.

Performance and battery testing conducted by Joseph Kaminski. Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

Comparison systems:

HP Pavilion 23-1000z
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 3.6GHz AMD A-6 5400K; 4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB AMD Radeon HD 7540D embedded graphics chip; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Vizio CA21-A1
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Sony Vaio Tap 20
Microsoft Windows 8 64-bit; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; Intel HD Graphics 4000 embedded graphics chip; 750GB 5,400rpm hard drive

What you'll pay

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