Sony Vaio L117FX (Core 2 Quad Q8400s 2.66GHz review: Sony Vaio L117FX (Core 2 Quad Q8400s 2.66GHz

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MSRP: $1,999.99

The Good Strong performance among Windows-based all-in-ones; picture-in-picture support; wall-mountable; Blu-ray drive and TV tuner make it a relatively complete home media hub; touch input.

The Bad The 27-inch iMac costs $300 less; lower-cost HP all-in-one has comparable digital media features.

The Bottom Line Earlier this year Sony was the unquestioned king of all-in-ones designed for home entertainment. The new Vaio L117FX retains and improves on many of the features we liked about older models, but revamped all-in-ones from its competition make the new Vaio seem a touch overpriced.

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7.2 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Support 7

Had Apple not introduced a 27-inch iMac for $1,699, we'd have fewer reservations about Sony asking $1,999 for its new 24-inch Vaio L117FX. Yes, HP's TouchSmart 600 expanded on some of Sony's innovations from its previous generation all-in-ones. Sony also doesn't even attempt to match HP's creative multitouch software. But the guts of the Vaio L117FX are more robust than HP's, and thus Sony offers the most potent combination of home entertainment and computing capability among high-end Windows-based all-in-ones. Were it not for the 27-inch, aluminum gorilla on the store shelf, Sony would earn a stronger recommendation. Instead, for all of the Vaio L117FX's strengths, we can't help but feel that its price needs some trimming.

The Vaio L117FX's design is an interesting hybrid between Sony's last-generation cnet:link int="">JS and LV series. It retains the same size, wall-mounting capability, and HDMI input as the LV, but it also features the JS series' softer chassis design, complete with the rounded frame-style front support. The new design will work fine on a desktop, but if you mount the system on the wall, the front support becomes superfluous. Unlike the feet on HP's TouchSmart 600, there's no way to remove the front support from the Vaio. The support does no real functional harm, but it would make the Vaio look awkward mounted on the wall.

In addition to the new look, Sony includes the features we've come to appreciate in its all-in-ones, chief among them the HDMI input. Apple, Asus, and HP have all borrowed Sony's idea (Apple via its Mini DisplayPort input), which we first saw in the Vaio LV180J at the end of 2008. To distinguish itself from its recent imitators, Sony has added picture-in-picture capability to the Vaio L117FX's HDMI input. That means you can connect any HDMI-based video source to the Vaio, from a game console to a cable box, and either switch between screens or, now, watch them both at the same time. You still can't record from the HDMI input to the Vaio's hard drive (that's what the TV tuner is for), but the convenience of watching live sports in a small window while getting PC-based work done, for example, has obvious appeal.

Being a Windows 7-based all-in-one, the Vaio L117FX also comes with multitouch support. For traditional desktop use, the appeal of touch is minimal, but we can see an argument for touch if you mounted the Vaio on a wall or set it up in a kitchen. Sony joins Acer/Gateway and HP in introducing a multitouch-capable all-in-one this fall. With this Vaio you get the basic Microsoft Surface applications (some games, a 3D globe, and a few others), and Sony's Media Gallery for navigating digital media files, but there's no major innovation like we saw with HP's TouchSmart. With so many underwhelming touch-specific programs so far, we can't say we were looking forward to another half-baked note-taking program or redundant media browser. Thus, we don't really blame Sony for mostly including touch support as a situational convenience in the Vaio. If third-party touch software takes off, perhaps touch will become more useful.

  Sony Vaio L117FX Apple iMac 27-inch
Price $1,999 $1,699
Display size/resolution 24-inches, 1,920x1,080 27-inches, 2,560x1,440
CPU 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400S 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7200
Memory 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 4GB 1,067MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 240M 256MB ATI Radeon HD 4670
Hard drives 1TB, 7,200rpm 1TB 7,200rpm
Optical drive Blu-ray burner Dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet. 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n, Bluetooth
TV Tuner Yes No
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.1

Stack up as many new features in the Sony as you'd like, and you'll still have trouble reconciling it with the new 27-inch iMac. No, the iMac doesn't have touch support, nor does it have a TV tuner, a built-in Blu-ray player, or even a quad-core CPU. But the iMac's 27-inch screen, its price, and its performance (below), give Sony a substantial obstacle. The Sony's well-rounded specs make it a decent performance system as well as a digital media hub, but next to the iMac the Sony loses the battle for general speed. We also can't say the HP isn't a competitive system as a wall-mounted entertainment PC. If you want the Vaio's particular blend of performance and media-friendliness you'll be satisfied, but we can't give it an all-purpose recommendation with such stiff competition.

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  
Sony Vaio L117FX
Gateway ZX6810-01
HP TouchSmart 600

Among Windows all-in-ones, the Vaio L117FX is a respectable performer, largely thanks to a fast Intel Core 2 Quad CPU. It rockets past the HP, and maintains a slight edge over the $1,400 23.5-inch Gateway One ZX6810-01, although given the price difference we wish the Sony had a more commanding lead over the Gateway. The obvious problem is the iMac. Both the $1,199 and $1,699 default iMac models (21.5 inches and 27 inches, respectively) outperform the Vaio on almost every test. The Sony will perform any mainstream task with reasonable speed for its price, but even among all-in-ones, you can find better ratios of price to performance in several other systems.

Unreal Tournament 3 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920 x 1,080  
Sony Vaio L117FX

We're starting to see more robust graphics chips in all-in-ones lately, and the Vaio's GeForce GT 240M chip is no exception. We have no Unreal Tournament 3 test for the iMacs, but among the Windows all-in-ones, the Sony falls in the middle. For more recent games you'd likely need to dial the resolution and image quality settings down to achieve playable frame rates, but for less forgiving games like the Sims 3, World of Warcraft, and others, the Vaio shouldn't have much trouble.

The HDMI output is the standout feature among the Vaio L117FX's connectivity options, but Sony has done a good job filling out the rest of the ports. Alongside the HDMI port you also get composite video inputs, and there's a separate optical S/PDIF digital audio output on the back of the system. The system also comes with a TV tuner input and three USB 2.0 jacks on the back. The left side features a media card reader, analog audio jacks, a mini FireWire 400 input, and another pair of USB inputs.

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