Withjust around the corner, every computer maker is desperately trying to come up with a fresh take on touchscreen computing to take advantage of .
Desperate is the operative word here. Not content with just offering its sliding tablet-laptop hybrid the, Sony's trying to blur the line between tablet and desktop too, with the Vaio Tap 20. It's a 20-inch desktop all-in-one PC with a touchscreen and -- to my bafflement -- battery operation, letting you haul it all over the house.
It's due to go on sale at the end of October from around £1,000. I got my hands on the Tap 20 at a recent Sony event -- check back soon for the full review.
The Tap 20 is simply an enormous tablet. It's a huge rectangle dominated by an all-glass front, with the Windows home button positioned neatly at the bottom. The 20-inch display dwarfsevery tablet ever made.
To make it seem even more like a giant slate, it packs a battery, letting you heave it away from your dusty old study and sit with it crushing your lap while you swipe through its pretty Windows 8 tiles. Weighing a ridiculous 5kg, you're not likely to take it on the bus, but it's at least portable enough to lug into the garden. Sony reckons you can get around three hours of battery life out of it too.
It's not really a tablet, of course -- around the back you'll find a stand to stick it on your table to act as a more normal all-in-one desktop, along with an included wireless mouse and keyboard. The stand is a slim, metal affair that allows the screen to be upright as normal or tilted down to lie flat on the table.
While that might not seem the most comfortable way to use your computer, bear in mind the Tap 20 is aimed at (extremely rich) families. Pop it down flat and Little Lord Fauntleroy can spend endless hours scrawling away in its painting apps. It's also big enough to let you enjoy a family game of Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit when these games are (eventually) released on the Windows 8 app store.
The Tap 20 offers a resolution of 1,600x900 pixels. That falls short of being Full HD, which is rather disappointing, given the size of the thing. Sony explains it opted for a lesser resolution to keep the final price down, but with a starting price of around £1,000 it's hardly what you'd call cheap anyway.
The display is bright at least and seemed deliciously bold in my hands-on time, making the Windows 8 tiles look as colourful as ever. Viewing angles also seemed pretty good and the touchscreen was at least adequately responsive.
Build quality seemed generally fairly high, with no noticeable creaking from the plastic casing. The only negative thing I could find was that lifting it up into an upright position from flat was very awkward as you have to pull the rather stiff stand out. It's stiff for a reason -- it stops it from folding down under the pressure of your meaty digits swiping around on-screen, so it's probably a fair balance. I'll make sure to put it through a thorough testing in the full review.
Windows 8 touch experience
The Tap 20 will ship with Microsoft's latest Windows 8 software on board. It's the full-fat version too, rather than the stripped-down RT version for tablets. Windows 8 is designed for touch input as it relies heavily on various gestures -- its big tiles in the new desktop are best navigated with swipes and pokes.
It's a very different experience from any other version of Windows, so it'll take some getting used to. But it offers a load of great features that make it more user-friendly and, dare I say it, more fun than Windows 7.
It has its own app store for easy software downloads, but you can still install standard desktop software such as Adobe Photoshop, VLC Player or iTunes.
Head over to our Windows 8 how-to guides if you fancy getting to grips with it ahead of launch.to see what it's all about and check out our
The Tap 20 is running on an Intel Core i5 processor with 6GB of RAM. Unlike much of Sony's range, however, you won't be able to select different configurations when you go to buy it. If you were hoping for a specced-out model with a top-end Core i7 processor and 8GB or even 16GB of RAM, you're out of luck.
I wasn't able to perform any of my usual benchmark tests, so I'll have to leave the final verdict on its power for the full review but it certainly seemed usable at least. Swiping through the Windows 8 home screen was swift and opening apps was immediate and free of any noticeable lag.
The only game I was able to try was Fruit Ninja, which isn't much of a test, considering it will play fine on even low-end Android phones. When it's in the office, I'll be challenging it to tackle more demanding titles to see how it copes. It doesn't come with a dedicated graphics card though, so I don't expect it handle much more than casual gaming.
With its 20-inch touchscreen and battery operation, the Tap 20 is a ludicrous proposition. With full Windows 8 on board and reasonably powerful components inside, Sony seems to think it would be ideal for keeping kids entertained. If only it didn't cost over £1,000. You could probably get a puppy and make some rice crispy cakes for way less than that.
Nevertheless, if it can handle some photo editing and movies look good on that big screen, it might end up being a capable all in one PC. Stay tuned for a full review soon.