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Sony Vaio L-Series 3D Edition review: Sony Vaio L-Series 3D Edition

Sony Vaio L-Series 3D Edition

Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
Expertise Smart home, Windows PCs, cooking (sometimes), woodworking tools (getting there...)
Rich Brown
7 min read

Sony's Vaio L-Series 3D Edition represents either a failure or unfounded optimism by Sony's computing division in terms of the price of this system according to the rest of the desktop market. Sony asks $2,499 for this configuration, which includes a rewriteable Blu-ray burner, and a 3D display and glasses, among other features, but a competing desktop from Lenovo, with faster performance and better quality 3D imaging, sells for $1,299, almost half as much. We liked a 2D Vaio L-Series we saw earlier this year, but even in the absence of the Lenovo system, we would have a hard time justifying such a price tag for this 3D model.

Sony Vaio L-Series 3D Edition

Sony Vaio L-Series 3D Edition

The Good

The <b>Sony Vaio L-Series 3D Edition</b> offers a complete set of digital entertainment features.

The Bad

This system suffers from off-kilter pricing and subpar 3D image quality.

The Bottom Line

The drastically overpriced 3D version of Sony's Vaio L-Series all-in-one is impossible to recommend due to more affordable competition that costs almost half as much for essentially the same features.

The 3D display is a new feature to the Vaio L-Series, and that, along with a few required 3D-enabling component upgrades represent the only major configuration differences between this model and the 2D version we reviewed this past April. We awarded the 2D version a respectable 7.3 rating in our review, which at the time had no worthy Windows-based competitors. The new, well-equipped Lenovo IdeaCentre B520 complicates the rating of that 2D model now, and makes it impossible for us to recommend the 3D Vaio L-Series.

Despite its value issues, the Vaio L-Series' has some features that we like, many of which carry over from the 2D model. We admire its clean looks and white styling. We're glad that it's equipped with an HDMI input and external display and volume controls, although Lenovo actually offers a better implementation of the latter. Instead of placing them on the side where you can't see what you're pressing, as on the Vaio, the various AV controls on the Lenovo all-in-one line the bottom edge of its display. And rather than physical buttons, they're all touch-capacitive and LED backlit, which fades away when the buttons are idle, preserving the Lenovo's appearance.

Sony Vaio L-Series 3D Edition Lenovo IdeaCentre B520
Price $2,499 $1,299
Display size/resolution 24-inch, 1,920x1,080 23-inch, 1,920x1,080
CPU 3.3GHz Intel Core i7-2720QM 3.4.GHz Intel Core i7 2600
Memory 8GB 1,33MHz DDR3 SDRAM 8GB 1,333MHZ DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 540M 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 555M
Hard drives 3TB, 5,400 rpm 2TB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive Blu-ray RW burner Blu-ray/DVD burner combo drive
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)

Comparing the specifications of the two systems proves damning for the Vaio. For essentially half the cost, the Lenovo all-in-one provides a faster processor and a more robust graphics card than the Vaio L-Series. Sony can claim a larger, if slower, hard drive, a slightly larger display, and a rewriteable Blu-ray burner, where the Lenovo has only a Blu-ray player/ DVD burner combo drive, but those features are hardly make up for what the Sony system lacks in its other components, much less account for the price difference.

We don't list features like I/O ports, touch screens, Webcams, or other more secondary components in our side-by-side comparison above, but the Sony and the Lenovo systems are remarkably similar in those aspects as well. You'll find each system has an HDMI input, a separate HDMI output, a TV tuner, a Webcam, a touch screen and accompanying touch-specific applications.

Sony can claim a pair of USB 3.0 jacks and a mini FireWire 400 input, where the Lenovo has only USB 2.0 ports. The Vaio L-Series also has some additional touch input points along its bezel with some navigation command for zooming and scrolling through your Web history, although we find them neither as intuitive nor as responsive as we'd like.

As for 3D output, both Sony and Lenovo rely on Nvidia's 3D Vision glasses, the emitter for which is built directly into the bezel of each computer, but we found the 3D experience much better on the Lenovo IdeaCentre B520. Games and movies on the L-Series had distracting ghosting artifacts in many scenes. We're not overly bullish on 3D in general, but the fact that it just didn't look right on the Sony hurts this system's recommendation even beyond its poor value equation.

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

Adobe Photoshop CS5 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)

The Sony's comparatively slow performance to that of other higher-end all-in-ones adds another nail to this PC's uncompetitive coffin. It lags behind the Lenovo system on every test, making the discussion rather straightforward. We don't recommend this system from a value or digital entertainment perspective, and its subpar performance for its price gives us no reason to vary that opinion for its productivity outlook.

Cinebench 11.5
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Sony Vaio L-Series 3D Edition

Far Cry 2
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,080 (3D mode)  
1,920x1,080 (2D Mode)  
1,440x900 (3D Mode)  
1,440x900 (2D Mode)  
Lenovo IdeaCentre B520
Sony Vaio L-Series 3D Edition

The gaming picture for 3D all-in-ones is interesting. We like the all-in-one platform for 3D gaming, since the built-in 3D emitter and included display take a lot of the work out of tracking down the necessary components you must endure for setting up 3D PC gaming on a standalone desktop. But the closed all-in-one chassis means that graphics chips tend to be slower in all-in-ones than in tower PC, to account for the thermal restrictions, which means that even non-3D gaming can be a shaky prospect in terms of frame rates. Turn on 3D, and an already low frame rate is cut in half.

While the Sony is again slower than the Lenovo system, we can't wholeheartedly recommend the IdeaCentre B520 for gaming, 3D or otherwise, given its only passable performance on our forgiving Far Cry 2 benchmark. Perhaps all-in-ones will offer a more compelling gaming experience someday, but for now we still recommend that serious PC gamers stick with dedicated tower systems.

Annual power consumption cost

Juice box
Sony Vaio L-Series 3D Edition Average watts per hour
Off (60 percent) 0.81
Sleep (10 percent) 1.82
Idle (25 percent) 30.7
Load (5 percent) 133.6
Raw kWh 157.34
EnergyStar compliant Yes
Annual energy cost $17.86

The Vaio L-Series' low power consumption appears to scale with its performance, which is all we really ask. We'd gladly trade some of that power savings for faster gaming or application processing.

Support for this system is relatively typical, although some of you might appreciate the dedicated "Assist" button on left side of the display that brings up Sony's built-in system diagnostic tools. You also get a standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty, as well as 24-7 toll-free phone support. Online you'll find live Web chat, driver downloads, and FAQ pages.

Do not interpret this review as a condemnation of Sony's entire L-Series lineup. It's only the 3D version, which requires you to select specific components in Sony's online configurator, that comes with a price beyond reason. We don't recommend even Lenovo's 3D-based IdeaCentre B520 to everyone, but if you are shopping for a 3D-capable, higher-end all-in-one as a do-it-all home entertainment center, Lenovo's system is a far better choice than the 3D Vaio L-Series.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:
Apple iMac 21.5-inch (2.5GHz, Summer 2011)
Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.7; 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 2400; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB AMD Radeon HD 6750 graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive

Apple iMac 27-inch (3.1GHz, Summer 2011)
Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.7; 3.1GHz Intel Core i5 2500; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 6970M graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Lenovo IdeaCentre B520
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 3.4GHz Intel Core i7 2600; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 555 graphics card; 2TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Sony Vaio L-Series 3D Signature Edition
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (SP1); 3.3GHz Intel Core i7 2720QM; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 540 graphics card; 3TB 5,400rpm hard drive

Sony Vaio L-Series 3D Edition

Sony Vaio L-Series 3D Edition

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 4Performance 4Support 7