Desktop computers are commodity devices, in case you didn't get the memo. Vizio does nothing to dispel this impression: in fact, the company seems to embrace it. Like TVs, you get what you pay for.
The Vizio all-in-ones that debuted last year look like TVs, come with dual HDMI inputs, and have their own IR remotes. Late last year the desktops added touch screens. On the eve of newer Intel processors coming out, we looked at the latest iteration of the Vizio 27-inch, the CA27T-B1, a PC in a somewhat crowded landscape.
Here's what you get: for $1,549, there's a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (third-gen), 8GB of RAM, a 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive, and a bright, big 1,920x1,080-pixel 27-inch touch display.
That price falls in the middle of the pack for all-in-ones: it's definitely less expensive than a 27-inch iMac, for instance, but this Vizio lacks a higher-resolution display and any dedicated Nvidia/AMD graphics. It's very similarly priced to our favorite Dell XPS One 27. The closest configuration ($1,599) of the One has a slower Core i5 CPU and only 6GB of RAM, but a higher-res display and a faster hard drive.
|Vizio CA27T-B1||Asus Transformer AIO||Vizio CA24T-B0||Apple iMac 27-inch||Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon|
|Display size/resolution||27-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen||18.4-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen||24-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen||27-inch 2,560 x 1,440||27-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen|
|PC CPU||Intel Core i7 3630QM||3.1GHz Intel Core i5-3350P||2.3GHz AMD AM10 4600M||3.4GHz Intel Core i7-3770||1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3427U|
|PC memory||8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,333MHZ DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,600MHZ DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,600MHZ DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||32MB Intel HD Graphics 4000||2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 730M||AMD Radeon HD 7660G||2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 680MX||2GB Nvidia GeForce GT620M|
|Storage||1TB, 5,400rpm hard drive||1TB, 7,200rpm hard drive||1TB, 7,200rpm hard drive||128GB Apple SSD+ 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive||1TB, 5,400rpm hard drive|
|Optical drive||None||Dual-layer DVD burner||None||None||None|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Windows 8 (64-bit)||Windows 8 (64-bit)||Windows 8 (64-bit)||OSX Mountain Lion 10.8.2||Windows 8 (64-bit)|
Of all the current Vizios on sale (24 and 27 inches), however, this model is our top pick: it feels like a better buy than the 24-inch Vizio models, which aren't much less expensive at $1,279 and $1,439 (the former with a slower AMD processor, the latter with the same Core i7 CPU).
However, Vizio's latest 27-inch is significantly more expensive than last year's more budget-targeted models. Granted, now you get a better processor and some higher-end features like faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
Just keep in mind: Intel's newest fourth-gen processors are here, so it might be worth waiting a bit and seeing if updated models appear soon. Don't say we didn't tell you.
If you care about making your PC a TV, the extra HDMI inputs, clean design, and included remote will be appreciated, and can help this double as a dorm-room or den set to connect a cable box or game console to. But be forewarned: the construction quality feels cheaper than average (largely thanks to a screen that wobbles a bit when touched), and there's a big, annoying subwoofer box that doubles as a power brick, which does enhance sound but has to find a place to sit on your desk.
Again, just remember that updated processors are bound to start appearing in PCs sooner than later.
Design: Hello, 2012
Don't expect a revolution here. This Vizio doesn't bend into a pretzel or have a detachable screen. It won't blow your mind. This is a PC from the new old world: a screen bonded to a flat base. It feels like a monitor, or a TV. It's a clean, attractive design, and looks better from a distance.
Ports ring the base, offering up a bunch of useful options: USB 3.0, 2 HDMI inputs, eSATA. The feel of this Vizio, much like last year's debut model, is clean efficiency. But a lot's changed in just a year; the landscape has become even more affordable, and many companies are dabbling in more experimental tabletop PCs or at the very least all-in-ones with more limber screen flexibility. Some tabletop-convertible all-in-ones like the Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon 27 are pretty much in the same price range ($1,699), offering another direction at not much more cost.
The Vizio design now comes off as a tiny bit old-fashioned for the Windows world of 2013, but nevertheless functional...unless you plan on touching the screen a lot. But, at least you're getting a fair deal under the hood: the specs of this top-end Vizio desktop match up favorably against equivalent competition.
The screen sits in a way that produces a fair bit of wobble. I would have loved a more rigid, ungiving feel...but if you use the included wireless touch pad and keyboard, you won't notice.
The 1,920x1,080-pixel display does look crisp and bright, at least, and it's better-looking to my eyes than the 24-inch Vizio CA24T-A0's display. Sure, it's not as ultra-high-res as many PCs in this territory, but most apps and especially videos look very good. Higher-detail text and photos will suffer, as will any attempts to expand screen real estate.
As far as sound quality, here's the problem: the Vizio CA27T-B1 cheats the solution by making you use a little tabletop subwoofer that doubles as a power brick. Sure, it's nice to have extra audio oomph, but the AC cable literally plugs into and out of it, making it a necessary part of the Vizio's setup equation. It's a way of hiding the power brick, but it also makes for just a little more clutter (of course, many will probably just keep it somewhere under their desk). I'd prefer a simple integrated solution. Does it make everything sound better? Yeah, a little...but not as impressively as you'd hope.
The little IR remote has its own battery and works...but the buttons feel cheap, and the controls are pretty much limited to display on/off, volume, HDMI input switching, and some picture/sound settings, just like a TV. It won't control playback. However, the included wireless touch pad has an advantage of being lap-friendly. You could take the touch pad and the remote to the sofa and function adequately.
Much like the remote, the touch pad has a plastic feel, as does the compact wireless keyboard. They're fine as freebies but hardly system-sellers.
|iTunes and Handbrake|
Performance: Above the middle of the pack
The included 2.4 GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM CPU is a third-gen (not one of the upcoming fourth-gen "Haswell" processors), and it's a speedier, more powerful processor than what most touch-screen all-in-ones in this price range have. Benchmarks put this Vizio's performance at the upper end, based on this level of configuration. Of course, $2,000 PCs are out there that can do better.
One thing this Vizio does lack, besides an optical drive, is the inclusion of any sort of dedicated gaming graphics. No midrange Nvidia or AMD graphics here; just Intel HD 4000 integrated. That's common for many all-in-ones, but it would have been a nice feature to push it over the edge. Nevertheless, most everyday performance seemed very fast and capable, largely because of the quad-core Core i7 processor.
Conclusion: A fair deal, but no revolution
So, yes, the Vizio CA27T-B1 is a fine enough all-in-one, but its real value comes when used as a TV alternative. Not having more powerful graphics or a higher-res screen isn't the end of the world, but it certainly doesn't make this PC a premium product, either. Vizio's approach to its 2013 desktops was to take the 2012 formula and repeat. That works for most purposes...but don't expect anything surprising. Then again, solid and unsurprising might be exactly what you're looking for.
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7 3630QM; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 32MB Intel HD Graphics; HD1 32GB SSD, HD2 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive
Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon
Windows 8 (64-bit) 1.8 GHz; Intel Core i5-3427U; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT620M graphics card; 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive
Apple iMac 27-inch (December 2012)
Apple OS X Mountain Lion 10.8; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-3770; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive, 128GB solid-state hard drive
Asus Transformer AIO
Microsoft Windows 8 (64-bit); 3.1GHz Intel Core i5-3350P; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 730M graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive
Microsoft Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.3GHz AMD AM10 4600M; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 7660G graphics card; 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive
Dell XPS One 27
Microsoft Windows 8 Pro 64-bit; 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-3770S; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics card; 2TB 7,200rpm hard drive