It might lack a touch interface, and it's certainly not a Nettop, but nonetheless, Sony's $1,099 20-inch Vaio JS250J reignites our enthusiasm for Sony's line of Windows Vista-based all-in-one desktops. No other Windows vendor offers an all-in-one with as many features for a comparable price, and although it can't surpass the raw performance of Apple's 20-inch iMac, we'd pick the Vaio for its versatility thanks to strong-enough benchmark scores and a Blu-ray drive, a rarity in all-in-ones at this price. The compromises to performance and expandability in buying an all-in-one instead of a traditional desktop remain for those hoping to replace an old midtower. Thanks to its multipurpose appeal, the Vaio JS250J makes those trade-offs the least painful of the systems in its all-in-one cohort.
The Vaio JS250J is the second iteration of Sony's Vaio JS all-in-one series. We reviewed the last model in September 2008, and we liked it so much we gave it an Editors' Choice award. We're not as enthusiastic about this new model because of its performance relative to its competition, but that's our only hang-up. We're also willing to bet that if you're shopping for an all-in-one PC, performance is not your first priority.
With no design changes to the JS250J from the old JS100-series, we'll only skim its appearance. You get all the basics of an all-in-one in Sony's design, which also comes in a few colors. A Webcam dots the top edge, the adjustable foot on the back lets you tailor the viewing angle within a reasonable range of motion, and though it lacks a slot-loading optical drive like several other all-in-ones, we'll gladly settled for the tray-based Blu-ray drive that pops out from the right side of the chassis.
|Sony Vaio JS250J||Apple iMac (20-inch, 2.66GHz)|
|Display size||20 inches (1,680x1,050)||20 inches (1,680x1,050)|
|CPU||2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E5200||2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo|
|Memory||4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM||2GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS integrated graphics chip||256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9400M|
|Hard drives||500GB, 7,200rpm||320GB, 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray/dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n wireless||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 n, Bluetooth|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)||Apple Mac OS X 10.5.6|
We can think of a number of PCs that compete directly with the Vaio JS250J. HP's TouchSmart starts at $1,149 for a 22-inch model, and Dell's Studio One 19 has configuration options that can get its price tag up above $1,200 as well, despite its $699 starting price (our review unit for that system was a $1,024 configuration, for example). But regardless of the touch-input capabilities of some all-in-ones in this price range, we still find that screen size provides the best matchup in price and functionality. That leads us to Apple's 20-inch iMac, which starts at $1,199, just $100 more than the Sony.
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
The Sony has a few advantages over the iMac, namely its Blu-ray drive and a slightly larger hard drive. Apple maintains a dramatic performance edge on multitasking, largely, we suspect, because of the Mac OS X's low operating overhead compared with Vista. We also suspect that the Sony lags on Cinebench because it has only a 2.5GHz Core 2 Duo chip; the iMac has a 2.66GHz chip, which is enough to give it the minor boost reflected on that chart. In general, we suspect most of you will be satisfied with the Sony as a productivity tool at home, and the Blu-ray drive sets it apart as a small-space entertainment device. Apple lacks Blu-ray capability altogether, but if you need an all-in-one for pure performance, the iMac's edge over the Sony is clear.
Unlike Sony's higher-end all-in-one, the Vaio LV series, the JS is relatively straightforward with its inputs and outputs. Between the rear panel and the left side of the Vaio JS250J you get five USB 2.0 ports, a single FireWire input, headphone, microphone, and analog out jacks, as well as an optical S/PDIF output and an Ethernet jack. All standard stuff, and although professional image editors might miss the FireWire 800 port you find on every Mac, consumer photo enthusiasts will appreciate the SD Card and MemoryStick Pro media card slots.
Sony throws a wired keyboard and too-small mouse in with the JS250J. All but the most petite-of-grip will want to replace the mouse quickly, but the "chicklet" keyboard is a well-designed knockoff of the Apple keyboard. Upgrade options include easy memory access via a removable door on the rear panel, and more complicated access to the system's guts if you pry off the numerous rubber screw caps on the back of the system and get busy with a screwdriver.
We won't bother to compare the Vaio JS250J's power consumption relative to the 20-inch iMac, mostly because Apple's 24-inch all-in-one uses less power than this Sony. The Vaio is still within the EnergyStar threshold, so it could be worse, but unlike the 24-inch Vaio LV250B, the JS250J doesn't even have a discrete graphics card to excuse its extra power draw.
|Sony Vaio JS250J|
|Raw (annual kWh)||174.0043|
|Annual energy cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$19.75|