Finally, a Windows-based all-in-one computer earns our admiration. We've seen new all-in-one PCs from Hewlett-Packard and Averatec this year, and Apple also refreshed its popular iMac. None of them deliver as much in the way of features and performance as Sony's new, $1,499 Vaio JS190J. A full-size desktop processor helps make the Vaio JS190J faster than comparable standard desktops (as well as the fastest all-in-one), and its combination of a 20-inch LCD and a Blu-ray drive deliver on the promise of the all-in-one desktop as a self-contained secondary home entertainment system. Throw in a refreshing lack of bloatware (yes, from Sony), and it becomes easy for us to recommend the Vaio JS190J to anyone looking for a powerful, midrange PC for work or for playing digital media.
The Vaio JS190J starts at $999, but the Blu-ray drive and other upgrades kick the price of our review unit up to $1,499. We're happy that someone is finally offering a sub-$1,000 all-in-one PC, but we also think our review unit is perhaps the best deal going in all-in-one PCs. You'll find the Vaio JS190 in black, silver, and light pink variants, and the box also includes a wired mouse and keyboard set, but no remote control.
In general, the Vaio JS190J looks like a typical all-in-one PC. It has a Webcam lens built into its top edge, an adjustable foot on the back, and the Blu-ray drive opens out from the side. Sony's spare new keyboard design even borrows its looks (heavily) from Apple's revamped iMac keyboard. The unit itself measures 16 inches high by 19.1 inches wide by approximately 2.1 inches deep, not counting the stand, which makes it about 2 inches shorter than the iMac. And while it's certainly not as attractive as Apple's all-in-one, the Vaio JS190J holds its own design-wise with any of its Windows-based competition.
And if the Windows all-in-ones haven't overtaken Apple on looks, both HP's and Averatec's new all-in-ones have trumped the lower-end iMac's 20-inch display with their 22-inch LCDs. Arguably then, the Sony's 20-inch LCD is a step backward, especially if you want to use the Vaio JS190J and its Blu-ray drive as a home theater system in a den or a dorm room. In the Sony's favor, its screen and those 22-inch models all share the 1,680x1,050-pixel screen resolution, as well as the fact that neither HP nor Averatec offer Blu-ray in the first place.
If you're still lamenting the loss of two diagonal screen inches, we suspect the Vaio JS190J's features and performance will help offset your concerns. We'll make a direct comparison with Apple's iMac, as it's the perennial all-in-one to beat, but be sure to keep an eye on the Sony's performance relative to the Vista systems when we get to the charts.
|Sony Vaio JS190J||Apple iMac|
|CPU||3.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400||2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700|
|Memory||4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM||2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||128MB (shared) Intel GMA 4500HD integrated graphics chip||128MB ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT|
|Hard drives||500GB 7,200rpm||250GB 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray drive/dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet; 802.1b/g/n Wi-Fi; Bluetooth||Gigabit Ethernet; 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi; Bluetooth|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)||OS X 10.5.4|
You'll see that the Vaio JS190 has all of the features you expect to find in an all-in-one, including 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi capability as well as a built-in Bluetooth receiver. And as with virtually every Windows desktop above even $450, this system also comes with 64-bit Windows Vista. And because that operating system will let you take advantage of it, you also get 4GB of RAM.
You'll notice a $300 price gap between the iMac and the JS190J, but the Sony's advantages in its larger hard drive and its Blu-ray drive are apparent. Based on its performance below, which is independent of the Blu-ray drive, the Vaio JS190J looks like a hell of a deal either with the drive or without it.
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
Compared with other all-in-ones, the Vaio simply cleans house. The iMac outperforms it only on our multimedia multitasking test, but on all other benchmarks the Vaio JS190J is remarkably faster than its competition. We're also impressed that it outpaces the $1,150 quad-core Gateway FX4710 midtower on our iTunes test. We'll attribute these performance wins to the Sony's desktop CPU. The other all-in-ones all use slower laptop chips. Its integrated graphics chip holds it back from playing advanced 3D games, but for all other tasks, no other all-in-one desktop can match the performance of the Vaio JS190J. If you need an all-in-one PC for productivity of any kind, we recommend this system without hesitation.
We keep harping on the Blu-ray drive in this system, and for good reason. Simply, no other vendor offers Blu-ray capability for this price. In fact, the only other vendor to offer Blu-ray in an all-in-one is Dell, who will sell you its outdated XPS One with a Blu-ray option for $1,749, or $250 more. With no separate video output on the Vaio JS190J, you're stuck with the 20-inch screen, although we found the HD video playback smooth and of acceptable quality. The audio output doesn't quite get loud enough to fill a room, but fortunately the system comes with an S/PDIF output to route the sound through a digital receiver.
Other ports on the system include five USB 2.0 jacks, a Gigabit Ethernet port, analog ports for headphones and a mic, as well as SD Card and MemoryStick Pro inputs. You only get a single FireWire 400 port on the rear, which means no speedy FireWire 800 or eSATA external hard drives like you get on the iMac. Similar to Apple, however, you can access the Vaio's internal memory through a small panel on the back. A series of glued-down rubber pads also dot the rear panel, and underneath the one we lifted we found a screw. We didn't pry all of them up, but we suspect that if you have more time than we have you'll be rewarded with access to the hard drives and other components should you explore further.
We mentioned earlier that Sony minimized the bloatware on this system. We mean that in the sense that the desktop screen is blessedly free from advertising icons and it has only one lightweight system diagnostic application running on start-up. We should still point out, however, that Sony includes 23 extra applications with this system, from a gimmicky effects program for the Webcam to a tool for sharing content across your network. Some of them are useful, and with cleaner interfaces than we've seen from Sony in the past (the Sony wireless connection manager, in particular). Others need consolidating, for example, the Vaio Recovery Center and the Vaio Data Restore Tool.
As for Sony's new keyboard, it's clear that it used the new Apple keyboard as its primary inspiration, and we suppose that's fine. The Sony version is also made of brushed aluminum and rubber-feeling keys. It's not quite as sturdy as the original, but it's responsive and works well enough. We don't understand the puny mouse that came with the Vaio JS190J, though. It feels like a barely adequate laptop mouse, rather than a work-ready desktop tool.
For support, Sony backs the Vaio JS190J with its standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty. You get the usual array of online support tools, driver downloads, and the like, as well as a 24-7 toll-free phone line. And as stated previously, the system also comes with an array of useful restore, recovery, and diagnostic applications.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Apple OS X; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E4600; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 8400M GS graphics chip; 320GB, 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300; 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GT graphics card; 640GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
HP TouchSmart IQ506
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5850; 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS integrated graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.
Sony Vaio JS190J
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500HD integrated graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.