Sony Vaio LV250B review: Sony Vaio LV250B

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MSRP: $1,899.99

The Good VESA wall mount compatible out of the box; dedicated HDMI input lets you input video from other devices; strong application performance.

The Bad Not a great multitasker.

The Bottom Line You can find more-cost-effective large-screen all-in-ones for general productivity, but Sony's Vaio LV250B is our favorite for home entertainment. Loaded with unique features geared toward digital media convenience, this system will meet the needs of anyone looking for a PC to use as an entertainment hub.

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

Sony's new Vaio LV250B all-in-one remains just as feature-rich and versatile as the debut version, the LV100 series. This new model features a new CPU, generally better specs, and a lower price than the LV180J we reviewed back in September, all of which is great. Even better, Sony stays true to the original's formula, which combines a powerful all-in-one PC with a unique array of home entertainment capabilities. You do pay a premium for the extra features on this system, and if all you need is a fast all-in-one with a large screen, an iMac is a more cost-effective bet. But for those who want to use a computer as a full-fledged home entertainment system, no other vendor offers a PC this well-suited to the task.

The Vaio LV250B has a number of features that recommend it for home entertainment duty. Yes, its basic design looks like that of any all-in-one. Look closer and you'll find a number of design tweaks that help it stand out.

First, Sony is the only all-in-one we know that can work out of the box with a VESA-compatible wall mount. It's also the only all-in-one we've seen with an HDMI input. A dedicated button lets you switch the display signal between the computer and whatever HDMI device you may have connected, and the transition is seamless with no loss in picture quality. That feature in particular opens the Vaio LV250B up to connecting HD video cameras, video game consoles, and other devices with unmatched ease.

The HDMI Select button lets you change the video display to any connected HDMI video source.

By working just like an HDMI-equipped video monitor, the Vaio LV250B makes up for what it might lack compared with other all-in-ones. HP's TouchSmart in particular has a larger 25.5-inch display, that series' hallmark touch-screen capability, and offers a similar core configuration for about the same price as this Sony, including a Blu-ray drive. We can see an argument for choosing the HP in favor of the Sony because of the TouchSmart's larger screen, not to mention its touch-based input. For our money, we'd trade a bit of screen size for the raw functionality provided by the Sony's HDMI input.

  Sony Vaio LV250B Apple iMac (24-inch, 2.66GHz)
Price $1,899 $1,499
Display size 24-inches 24-inches
CPU 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E
Memory 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 4GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9400M
Hard drives 500GB, 7,200 rpm 640GB, 7,200 rpm
Optical drive Blu-ray drive/dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 n, Bluetooth Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11 n, Bluetooth
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP2, 64-bit Apple Mac OS X 10.5.6

If the HP TouchSmart competes with the Vaio LV250B in its screen size and home entertainment features, Apple's 24-inch iMac makes a much better comparison for computing. The two are actually very close in core features. Apple has a larger hard drive, but Sony's CPU, graphics chip, and Blu-ray drive are all more robust. We'd argue that those advantages, as well as the Sony's HDMI input capability, more or less account for the Vaio's $400 price premium.

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  
Gateway FX6800-01e
Dell XPS One 24
Sony Vaio LV250B
HP TouchSmart IQ816

Sony also distinguishes its all-in-one by opting for a desktop CPU, where most of its competitors use slower mobile chips. Dell's Core 2 Quad-based XPS One 24 is an exception. Our results show that chip serves the Dell well enough compared with the Sony and its other Windows-based competition on our multitasking test, but Apple has a firm grip on the crown for multitasking overall.

Otherwise, the Sony's fast dual-core chip serves it well on applications that are particularly sensitive to core processing speed. That actually makes plenty of sense for a PC designed primarily for media consumption. You might convert a large batch of files from one format to another on this PC, and for that the fast CPU is welcome. For more general productivity oriented tasks, especially when you're switching between many applications, either the quad-core-based Dell or the hyper-efficient iMac are better bets.

We won't spend a lot of time here going over the Vaio's various ports and inputs, not least because those features haven't changed between this model and the old one. The short of it is that you get a lot of them. Sony included both digital and analog TV tuner inputs, making this a viable ad hoc DVR. An analog AV input and a separate S-Video input expand your peripheral options beyond those equipped with an HDMI out. You also get the obligatory array of USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 ports, although we hope to see Windows all-in-ones vendors make eSATA a standard feature for faster external data transfers.

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