Sony VAIO J114FX (21.5 inch) review: Sony VAIO J114FX (21.5 inch)

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MSRP: $1,029.99

The Good Pleasing design.

The Bad Small screen, slow performance, and weak features for its price; no HDMI-input.

The Bottom Line We like the idea of a Blu-ray-equipped all-in-one with a small footprint for home entertainment, but Sony badly missed the mark with the Vaio J114FX. In trying to make this system focused, Sony cut too many features. The result is that this PC is a terrible value relative to other all-in-ones in its price range.

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5.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 4
  • Performance 4
  • Support 7

We can't muster much enthusiasm for Sony's underpowered, underequipped $969 Vaio J114FX all-in-one. Sony wants you to find its combination of a 21.5-inch, touch-sensitive display and a Blu-ray drive worthy for home entertainment, but for just $30 more you can get a more broadly capable all-in-one from Gateway with Blu-ray and a larger screen. We're also frustrated that Sony has left off an HDMI input, a revolutionary feature it pioneered on its previous generation all-in-ones. Sony's last few all-in-one desktop efforts have been impressive, but this one is uncompetitive. Skip it.

We have no problems with the overall design of the Vaio J114FX, and in fact it's a far more polished-looking all-in-one than any of Gateway or Acer's recent efforts. Where competing all-in-ones have opted for chrome and plastic accents, Sony's all-black review is understated with graceful curves. We can think of few places where you couldn't put this system on prominent display.

Although we like the look of this system, there's no getting around the fact that the Vaio J114FX has a small screen for its price. Sony isn't alone in looking stingy next to the 23-inch Gateway and Acer systems in this price range, but at least Apple and HP have either robust internal components or a lower price to make up for their smaller display sizes. True, neither Apple's $1,199 iMac nor HP's $899 Touchsmart 300-1120 have Blu-ray drives. Unfortunately for Sony, Gateway's ZX6900-01e, a 23-inch all-in-one for $999, does.

Sony Vaio J114FX Gateway One ZX6900-01e
Price $969 $999
Display size/resolution 21.5-inch, 1,920x1,080 23-inch, 1,920x1,080
CPU 1.86GHz Intel Pentium P6000 2.93GHz Intel Core i3 530
Memory 4GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 4500 integrated graphics chip 64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip
Hard drives 500B, 7,200rpm 640GB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive Blu-ray/DVD-burner combo Blu-ray/DVD-burner combo
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

Compare the Gateway side by side with this Vaio and you'll see a fairly large value discrepancy. The Gateway features a larger display, a Blu-ray drive, a significantly faster CPU, and a larger hard drive. Worse, we've seen the Gateway for $899, making it an even better deal, depending on the retailer. We suppose we can see an argument for the Sony if you want an all-in-one with a smaller footprint, but that still leaves the Vaio J114FX with underwhelming components for its price.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Acer Aspire Z5700-U2112
Gateway One ZX6900-01e
HP TouchSmart 300-1120
Sony Vaio J114FX

Damningly, the Vaio J114FX comes in last on each of our performance benchmarks. Considering it's more expensive than the $899 HP TouchSmart 300-1120, this is a particularly bad show from Sony. This system is most definitely not meant for productivity.

We also found that the Vaio J114FX is not very well suited to playing HD video online. Its Blu-ray disc quality was fine. It also handled HD content from NetFlix well enough, and had no trouble with 1080p movie trailers in QuickTime. Even after we updated Flash to 10.1, though, the Vaio could only muster choppy playback in 1080p YouTube streams. Frankly, that's unacceptable for a $1,000 computer, especially one with home entertainment as its lone worthwhile purpose.

Hopefully by outing the Vaio's subpar components and slow performance we've given you enough reason to stay away from this desktop. If you need more convincing, we'd point to its connectivity options, which are among the weakest we've ever seen in an all-in-one. You get a four USB 2.0 jacks, two analog audio jacks, and an Ethernet port on this PC. That's it. There's no video-in or -out, no digital audio or alternate data ports. The lack of an HDMI input is particularly hard to fathom given that Sony included this feature on its higher-end all-in-one, and you can now find HDMI inputs on even some budget all-in-ones. You do get an SD Card slot, as well as a slot for Sony's copy-protected MagicGate cards, but we'd gladly trade both of those for HDMI input.

Lastly, it seems almost silly to mention, but this PC does indeed have touch input. It works well enough, and though Sony's touch-specific programs aren't anything special, the requisite media organization and playback software behave as expected.

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