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Sony Vaio VPCJ21L0E review: Sony Vaio VPCJ21L0E

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The Good Responsive optical multi-touch display; Excellent build quality and design; Surprisingly good sound; Good support software and tools; Quiet.

The Bad Expensive for the specification; Keyboard is unpleasant to use; Not much bundled software; No TV tuner; Small hard disk.

The Bottom Line A well-made, well-designed and compact all-in-one with good sound and an excellent optical multi-touch display. The Sony Vaio VPCJ21L0E isn't cheap though.

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8.3 Overall

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The latest addition to Sony's range of all-in-one PCs is the Vaio J series. At the moment there are two identically priced models, the VPCJ21L0E reviewed here, and the VPCJ21L8E. The only differences are the size of the hard disk (500GB in the J21L0E reviewed here, 1TB in the J21L8E) and amount of RAM (6GB in the J21L0E, 4GB in the J21L8E). The J21L0E is currently on sale for £800 at PC World, or £900 direct from Sony.

Sony Vaio VPCJ21L0E top
The J21L0E is much thinner than its all-in-one PC competitors.

Multi-touch screen

Both models use a 21-inch optical multi-touch screen, an unusual choice that works using two optical detectors positioned inside the frame at the top corners of the display. This technology has been around a while, and its main benefit is that, unlike capacitive screens, you can use any kind of pointing device, such as a finger or stylus. But unlike resistive screens, there's no circuitry or special coatings on the screen itself. Like most Windows 7 touchscreen systems, you only get two-point multi-touch.

The system works pretty well, and because it's not a pressure-sensitive system you don't have to jab the screen to get a response. The downside is hovering your finger a couple of millimetres over an icon can be enough to launch it. Another problem is that the sensors need quite a deeply recessed screen, which makes working at the extreme edges of the display a bit fiddly.

Sony Vaio VPCJ21L0E power button
Next to the display button is a dedicated button for launching the Web browser. We don't really know why -- you still have to boot up Windows to use it.

Style and substance

It's a good-looking PC, although surely it's time for a change from glossy piano-black paint jobs? A robust kickstand at the rear has plenty of friction to let you adjust the tilt of the screen, and the display sits at a fairly low height on the full-width foot to give a decent ergonomic setup. It certainly feels like a quality product, and it's surprisingly slim compared to models we've reviewed recently, such as the Acer Z5763 and Packard Bell oneTwo.

At the left side are two USB ports, a memory card reader, headphone/mic sockets and an assist button that starts the Vaio Care troubleshooting software. On top of the screen frame are the power button, a handy button for turning off just the display, and a Web button that launches the browser. Networking is either via the Gigabit Ethernet port at the rear or using the 150Mbps single-stream 802.11n wireless connection. There's also integrated Bluetooth.

Sony Vaio VPCJ21L0E front
The bundled mouse and keyboard aren't amazing but they'll do you fine.

One pleasant surprise was the quality of the audio from the speakers situated under the screen -- although there's not much bass, it's very clear, adequately loud and not at all tinny. A decent quality wireless keyboard and mouse set is supplied, although we're not big fans of the flat 'chiclet' keycaps. Although there's a webcam, there's no TV tuner or Blu-ray drive, which is a shame -- just a Super Multi DVD burner at the right edge of the screen.

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