Vizio CA27 review: Vizio CA27

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MSRP: $1,539.99

The Good The Vizio CA27-A1 offers a 27-inch all-in-one and a bold, mostly compelling set of home entertainment features for a reasonable price.

The Bad A few risks, like swapping in a touch pad for a mouse, don't pay off, and some quality shortcuts take away from the overall polish.

The Bottom Line Forgive its quirks, and people looking for a big-screen all-in-one to serve as a small-room entertainment hub will find the Vizio CA27-A1 a price-competitive possibility.

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6.5 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 5
  • Support 7

Editors' note: Despite multiple different attempts and methodologies, we were unable to install the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on this desktop. We are thus unable to report on our experience with the track pad in Windows 8.

Vizio's first attempt at a desktop PC is a consumer-friendly effort that succeeds almost in spite of itself. You'll admire the CA27-A1's large, thin display, its clean Windows installation, and a generally tidy take on the PC as home entertainment device. An imprecise touch pad and a few nagging design issues are the main complaints, but it's hard to argue against the overall value of this $1,149 desktop, one of the most affordable with a 27-inch screen. Wait a few weeks to see what other PCs emerge in the run-up to Windows 8, but Vizio has a respectable claim thus far to making an affordable, big-screen all-in-one that we can recommend.

From first glance it's apparent that Vizio has put significant effort into the shelf appeal of its new PCs. The thin 27-inch screen, port-obscuring base unit, and sleek, all-wireless input devices collectively give this PC an anti-computer vibe. Yes, this is a standard Intel-based Windows PC, it seems to say, but only because it has to be. Forget all that, try out the touch pad, then use the remote to access your non-PC content via one of the two HDMI inputs. You did connect your cable box to the system, didn't you?

Vizio's approach dovetails nicely with that of Microsoft with Windows 8. Both companies want to compel even desktop users to embrace a touch-driven future. However you feel about that particular shift, you will want an input device other than Vizio's laggy touch pad. Even a coming software update, slated to include Windows 8-specific gestures, won't likely redeem the touch pad due to the mechanical mushiness of its click functions.

You can solve the input problem easily enough with a $20 mouse, but it hints at an overall sense of corner-cutting about this PC. Both the screen and the base unit are remarkably thin, but you get the impression that it's because Vizio has scrimped on certain features. When you tilt the display, for example, it wobbles. On the one hand, so what, a little jitter never hurt anyone. On the other, it's hard to imagine an iMac or a premium Dell or HP all-in-one going out with such a wimpy monitor support joint.

Vizio has also played a bit of a shell game with the internal components. The base unit is thin because Vizio has stripped out the PC power supply and bundled it in with the external subwoofer. Depending on your tolerance for peripheral hardware, that design decision is either genius or maddening. Either way, and unlike with the Asus ET2700I and its standalone sub, you must keep the Vizio's subwoofer connected to the PC, since it's required to plug the system into the wall.

Despite those generally minor issues, the Vizio CA27-A1 is still the most affordable all-in-one PC with a 27-inch screen, and for that alone it deserves some attention.

Vizio CA27-A1 HP Omni 27 Quad Asus ET2700I
Price $1,149 $1,249 $1,399
Display size/resolution 27-inch, 1,920x1,080 pixels 27-inch, 1,920x1,080 pixels 27-inch, 1,920x1,080 pixels
CPU 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2400S 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-2600S
Graphics 1GB Nvidia Geforce GT 640M LE 64MB Intel HD Graphics 1000 (embedded) 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 540M
Hard drives 1TB, 7,200rpm 1TB, 7,200rpm 1TB, 7,200rpm
Optical drive None Blu-ray player/dual-layer DVD burner combo Blu-ray player/dual-layer DVD burner combo
Networking Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)

As the middle member of the Vizio CA27 line, the A1 is not the cheapest. That would be the $999 CA27-A0. Technically, HP offers a discounted version of its Omni 27 all-in-one for the same price, but that unit has a generation-old Intel CPU, and there's no guarantee the discount will stay in place. Falling down the pricing rabbit hole doesn't really help anyone (what about eBay? What about refurbished units?), so based on starting price, I'm sticking with Vizio as maker of the most affordable 27-inchers.

Even this midprice unit compares reasonably well against units from competing vendors. Looking at a $1,249 HP Omni 27 I reviewed back in March, the Vizio has a more recent Intel CPU and a discrete Nvidia graphics card to the HP's embedded Intel graphics core. The absent optical drive and a stingy 4GB of memory to 8GB in the HP prevent the Vizio from a clean features sweep. In all, and given the $100 price difference, Vizio has a fairly priced offering in this PC.

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)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  

Sacrificing memory has its consequences, of course, and evidence of the Vizio's smaller RAM allotment turned up across our performance tests. From new and older versions of Photoshop, to iTunes MP3 processing, to our homemade multimedia multitasking test, the Vizio system came in at or near the bottom of the pack on every test. That's not unreasonable given that the Vizio is the most affordable of any other system in our charts, but particularly on our Photoshop CS5 charts, you'll see the huge gap in performance between the 8GB Lenovo and the 4GB Vizio, which use the same Intel Core i5 chip.

If you like the Vizio otherwise, the Photoshop scores for this model might compel you to consider the $1,349 CA27-A2, which has 8GB of memory and a Core i7 CPU. Upgrading the RAM on this unit is an option, but you'll need a small Torx screw to open up the underside plate.