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Sony Vaio LV180J review: Sony Vaio LV180J

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The Good TV-style input swapping lets you switch between Windows and HDMI components; 24-inch LCD; Blu-ray burner; wall-mountable; more connectivity options than other all-in-ones.

The Bad Puny hard drive for the price; not a great multitasker.

The Bottom Line Sony's Vaio LV180J updates its digital-media-oriented all-in-one with a larger LCD, more powerful hardware, and an exceedingly smart method for switching between the Windows desktop and other components connected via the unique HDMI input. No other all-in-one can make as strong a claim as this one as a command center for your digital media.

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8.1 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 7
  • Support 7

By its updated chassis, it's tempting to think of the $1,999 Sony Vaio LV180J as a more productivity-oriented PC than Sony's previous all-in-one efforts. Supported by a pedestal stand, the LV180J no longer looks like a screen suspended in air, as was the case with the older

With its 24-inch LCD, the Vaio LV180J joins Apple, Dell, and HP in the large screen all-in-one club. HP's TouchSmart is the largest of the group, with a 25.5-inch display, and its touch-based input remains unique in the category. If the Vaio can't compete on screen size or touch input, we find its overall utility unmatched among its peers. Yes, the LV180J is a powerful computer, and we'd be disappointed if Sony skimped on the core hardware. It also strikes the best balance between day-to-day computing and advanced home entertainment features.

We'll deal with its computing side first. With its Blu-ray drive and desktop processor, the Product Red edition of Dell's new XPS One 24 makes the best comparison with the Vaio.

  Sony Vaio LV180J Dell XPS One 24 Product Red
Price $1,999 $2,199
CPU 3.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200
Memory 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 256MB Nvidia Geforce 9300M GS (integrated) 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT graphics card
Hard drives 320GB, 7,200 rpm 750GB, 7,200 rpm
Optical drive Blu-ray burner Blu-ray burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet; 802.11n wireless Gigabit Ethernet; 802.11n wireless
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit)

Based purely on specs, the Dell XPS One 24 looks more impressive than the Sony system. The Dell has more than twice as much hard-drive space, a more powerful graphics card, and a quad-core CPU, which pays off on multitasking and other kinds of software, even if it has a slower clock speed than the Sony's dual-core chip. That large hard drive in particular gives the Dell the edge in our minds for traditional computing capabilities. Sony lets you replace the hard drive yourself, a useful capability in case you want to replace or expand your drive storage. It's also an advantage over Dell, whose XPS One 24 case is locked down.

The Sony's user-accessible hard drive lets you upgrade or replace the drive yourself.

The Sony also has an advantage with its 64-bit version of Windows Vista, which likely works to its benefit on a few of our tests below. We don't expect you'd use either of these PCs for serious digital media editing, gaming, or other tasks that truly demand the larger amount of addressable memory afforded by a 64-bit operating system. The Sony also doesn't come with enough system memory to truly put 64-bit Vista to work.

We found during testing that even if it wouldn't make the best all-around work computer, the Vaio LV180J will provide you with some impressive single-core application performance. We include the Dell Studio XPS simply to demonstrate how these systems stack up against a traditional desktop, so don't get too caught up in those scores if you're dead set on an all-in-one. Also note that the quad-core Dell XPS One 24's multitasking edge favors how most people actually use their PCs during a workday, with lots of programs open at the same time.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sony Vaio LV180J
Dell XPS One

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iMac
Dell XPS One
Sony Vaio LV180J

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Dell Studio XPS
Dell XPS One
Sony Vaio LV180J
Apple iMac
HP TouchSmart IQ816t

For single-minded tasks, such as editing a photo or converting a batch of MP3 files, the Sony is the best in its category. You might not want a standard PC that's only good at doing one thing at a time, but in a secondary, less work-minded computer, we appreciate that when you do call on it to accomplish a task, the Vaio LV180J will do so with great efficiency.

Unreal Tournament 3 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920 x 1,200  
Sony Vaio LV180J

You'll note that none of these all-in-ones has decent 3D frame rates. You should be able to play most games on them, but be prepared to sacrifice image quality for smooth gameplay. We don't normally expect fast 3D performance from an all-in-one, but we can also give the Sony a bit of a reprieve here thanks to one of its most unique features, an HMDI input.

Many standard desktops these days have an HDMI output for connecting to a television, but the Vaio LV180J is the only one we know of with an HDMI in. This lets you transmit video to the PC from any HDMI-equipped device, from a game console to an HD camcorder. Sony was also wise enough to require no special software setup to display that content. Instead, you simply press an HDMI Select button on the side of the screen to change the input signal, just as you would on a television. The transition is seamless, and the HDMI picture quality is just as good as in its standard computer mode, which is to say, outstanding. No other desktop, all-in-one, or otherwise offers this feature, and it opens up all kinds of possibilities for using the Sony as a digital entertainment hub.

No other PC that we know of has an HDMI in.

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